With­out an effec­tive online mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, it’s almost impos­si­ble to attract new cus­tomers and grow your busi­ness, but there is always a risk of spend­ing time and mon­ey on a mar­ket­ing tech­nique that fails to deliv­er, espe­cial­ly for small busi­ness­es oper­at­ing on a tight bud­get. Thank­ful­ly, effec­tive online mar­ket­ing doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly require a big invest­ment, and with a bit of plan­ning and know-how, it is pos­si­ble to stretch your adver­tis­ing dol­lar and get your prod­uct or ser­vice in front of a high­ly tar­get­ed and high­ly engaged audi­ence.

Stick to One Designer

Many busi­ness­es find them­selves mov­ing from design­er to design­er as they cre­ate new ads, but you can save con­sid­er­able mon­ey in the long run by care­ful­ly choos­ing a com­pe­tent design­er that intu­itive­ly under­stands your prod­ucts or ser­vices and stick­ing with them for all of your adver­tis­ing needs. Not only does this save time, but it also saves mon­ey by avoid­ing the need for each new design­er to dupli­cate your logo and brand­ing. Many design­ers will also offer dis­count­ed rates if you agree to work with them on a long-term basis instead of as a one-and-done con­trac­tor.

Research Your Target Audience

One of the most effec­tive ways to cut down on your over­all adver­tis­ing spend­ing is to care­ful­ly research your tar­get audi­ence demo­graph­ics and their habits. Take the time to con­sid­er what your ide­al cus­tomer looks like; fac­tors such as age, income lev­el, and gen­der can help you nar­row down the best way to reach them. For instance, a busi­ness that is look­ing to draw the atten­tion of old­er, more afflu­ent women would like­ly want to adver­tise on Pin­ter­est, while that same adver­tis­ing strat­e­gy would be a waste of mon­ey for some­one look­ing to sell to col­lege-aged men. Adver­tis­ing to a very small but high­ly tar­get­ed audi­ence is a much more effec­tive and afford­able method of adver­tis­ing than tak­ing an unfo­cused and scat­ter­shot approach.

Target Audience

Get Picky About Platforms

Once you have a good pic­ture of your tar­get audi­ence, it’s worth being picky about which social media plat­forms you spend your mon­ey on. Each plat­form has dis­tinct con­tent strate­gies and user bases, and spread­ing your­self thin by try­ing to adver­tise on all of them will require an expen­sive, large-scale adver­tis­ing cam­paign and sig­nif­i­cant time and labor invest­ment, which might be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive for a small­er or self-run busi­ness. If you want to take a more col­or­ful, visu­al approach to your ads, stick to plat­forms that are high­ly image-based, such as Pin­ter­est, Snapchat, and Insta­gram. On the oth­er hand, if your ads are more infor­ma­tion-dri­ven, Twit­ter and Face­book will like­ly be a more effec­tive choice.

Set a Budget

Before you even start an adver­tis­ing cam­paign, be sure to estab­lish a bud­get before­hand. Not only should you decide on an over­all bud­get, but you should care­ful­ly con­sid­er which kind of pric­ing options you want to use. If you are adver­tis­ing on Google’s dis­play net­work, that means choos­ing between a cost-per-click (CPC) mod­el, cost-per-thou­sand-impres­sions (CPM), or cost-per-acqui­si­tion (CPA). CPC pric­ing is most effec­tive if you are sim­ply try­ing to dri­ve traf­fic to your site, while CPM ben­e­fits brand aware­ness cam­paigns and CPA is most cost-effec­tive when you are try­ing to make direct prod­uct and ser­vice sales.

Leverage Cheap Opportunities

Nev­er under­es­ti­mate the use­ful­ness of free or inex­pen­sive oppor­tu­ni­ties for pub­lic rela­tions expo­sure or col­lab­o­ra­tion. Reach­ing out to local TV and news out­lets to pro­mote upcom­ing busi­ness events, send­ing review prod­ucts out to pop­u­lar social media influ­encers in your niche, or part­ner­ing with a man­u­fac­tur­er to engage in coop­er­a­tive adver­tis­ing are all great ways to increase vis­i­bil­i­ty and brand aware­ness with­out putting a dent in your adver­tis­ing bud­get.

Encourage Word of Mouth

Stud­ies show that over 90% of online shop­pers read cus­tomer reviews, and almost 85% of them trust ver­i­fied reviews as much as they trust a per­son­al rec­om­men­da­tion from some­one they know. This means that one of the best ways to max­i­mize your adver­tis­ing bud­get is to encour­age reviews and word-of-mouth adver­tis­ing from cus­tomers. Offer­ing a dis­count code on a future pur­chase in exchange for a review is one effec­tive method of get­ting more reviews, and start­ing a refer­ral pro­gram that rewards peo­ple who dri­ve new cus­tomers to your prod­uct can also be an excel­lent adver­tis­ing tool.

Online adver­tis­ing is an essen­tial com­po­nent of any viable mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, but with­out the right approach, it can eas­i­ly result in large invest­ments with pal­try results to show for it. By apply­ing the tech­niques above, even a small busi­ness with a shoe­string adver­tis­ing bud­get can take advan­tage of the mar­ket­ing poten­tial that online plat­forms have to offer.