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What You Need To Know About: Marketing Budgets

Everyone wants the same thing from marketing - the most business/exposure for the least money/time/effort. People get confused about how to achieve this and commit resources to the wrong things, often entering into the deadly confirmation bias circle of “but I got this specific piece of business because of this” while being entirely blind to their opportunity costs. Virtually all marketing will increase your brand in some way; we are here to show you how to hit the next level instead of just maintaining your status quo.

The most common problem we encounter with established businesses is that they spend far too much money on advertising that has an extremely high cost ROI (Return on Investment), like billboards, and try to avoid spending money on things with the low cost ROI, like quality websites, or Google Adwords, usually because they don’t understand them.

The most common problem we encounter with new businesses is that they avoid marketing entirely. They take a do it yourself approach and get stuck in the same place because they refuse to commit time and resources to business growth. Your website and marketing are just as vital to your business as your office rent is. Only two things cause business growth, marketing and the economy. In a good economy everything grows, but the only way to have a legitimate successful business is with good marketing. Marketing should be 10-30% of your overall costs, depending on how aggressive you want your growth to be.

We have broken the budgets down into specific levels to let you know what you should be doing at each level. Each level includes all levels before it.

Level 1 - No Budget = Facebook page, Google Business Page.

This is the interest building phase for no budget or low budget businesses.

The first step for most businesses is to create a Facebook page. Facebook pages allow you to get your contact information published to the internet for free. This can be done here. All social media platforms have a time vs cost benefit and Facebook pages can easily be managed by people without technical skills.

Level 2 - $100/month = Entry level do it yourself website.

This is for low budget businesses that are interested in generating a profit and needs base level legitimacy.

Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and several other services allow you to build a website on your own by selecting a template and adding your own content to their prebuilt website. This is more complicated than creating a Facebook page, but does not require any actual web coding or knowledge. These websites typically charge in the range of $10-$100 a month and allow you to have a business card website. Some design companies use one of these do it yourself web builders and sell them to clients. If you do not want to spend time doing it yourself these companies are an option, but you need to know they are not the same as hiring a real developer and are not worth more than around $500. These platforms are for entry level websites only.

Another free tool every business needs to utilize is Google Business Pages, which can be found here. Creating a business page with Google is free and allows you to show up in search and on google maps. Creating a Google Business Page automatically creates a Google+ Page so fill in that information too.

Level 3 -$100 - $500 a month = Directory Listings, Custom Website.

Your website is the face of your business and needs to be done effectively. You can view our article on What You Need to Know About Websites here. There are several directory listings online that allow people to find your business.

Most of these are free, and virtually all of them help with local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) because it helps search engines validate your business as legitimate. allows you to search for your business to see where you are listed. They charge $99 a year to keep them updated for you, or you can go to each website individually and add your business information on your own.

Level 4 -$500 - $1000 a month = Minor SEO, Social Media, Facebook ads.

To gain website traffic you need to show up in search engines. Having a quality website is important, but SEO balancing is important to keep your website current to the needs of your users. Basic SEO shouldn’t cost more than $100-$200 a month, and how much this helps will depend on the level of competition. This should always be managed by the company that handles your website. We include this on all our websites.

This is the time to create other social media accounts such as Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, a LinkedIn business page, or anything else that can be useful in your industry. Each of these accounts will provide a small boost to your SEO. You either need to do this yourself or hire the company that handles your website to do this for $100-$300 a month.

Facebook ads allow you to advertise your business to get more followers, or specific posts to get exposure. Facebook ads fall under social media advertising and should be taken out of that budget.

Level 5 - $1000 - $3000 a month = Minor SEM, Intermediate SEO, Mid-Level Social Media, Monthly Newsletters, Annual Videos.

SEM, Search Engine Marketing, is paying to be in the ad spaces at the top of the search results for Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. An appropriate starting point is $500-$2000 a month. For most businesses this is the easiest way to quickly generate more phone calls or sales.

Videos can be commercials for your social media, testimonials for your company, or something educating your customers. These should be professionally shot and edited. Leave iphone videos to snapchat and facebook live. Videos cost anywhere from $500-$10,000+ each, depending on length, subject matter, and quality. They can be expensive to shoot, but they get more engagement than any other platform. Once you start shooting Videos you can create a Youtube channel and start doing video ads on Facebook and Youtube.

Email Newsletters are email campaigns that regularly send emails to your prospective client base. These can have blogs, videos, coupon codes, happy birthday or anniversary messages, as well as any other content they may find interesting. These are great for retail industries that send coupon codes and alert the user to new products, dentists that remind someone to come in for a checkup, or just sending happy birthday messages to your customers. These cost $50 a newsletter and up.

Mid-level SEO should be around $200-$500 a month and success will depend on competition.

Intermediate social media should be around $300 - $1000 a month.

Level 6 - $3,000 - $10,000 a month = Monthly Blogs, Mid-level SEM, Mid-level Social Media.

Blogs are articles published to your website and social media that help customers learn about your business or industry. Blogs give you authority in your field and help customers feel more comfortable with your business. It is imperative that blog articles are specifically written for your business and provide content people are interested in. If the content is too generic and nobody is interested in it, then it won’t provide any value. Good blog articles take time and research from people that know how to write for the web; never use discount companies that try to sell articles for $25. Blog articles should either be written internally or cost around $200-$1,000 apiece.

Mid-Level SEM is between $2,000-$5,000 a month. Google assigns a quality score to its ads based on the quality of the website it is linking to. To reduce the cost per click it is imperative you have a good web agency that is able to work with your website to increase the quality of your content and SEO to make the ads more relevant to your website.

Mid-Level social media should be $1,000-$3,000 a month.

Level 7 -$10,000 - $30,000 a month = Advanced SEO, Billboards, Advanced SEM, Advanced Social Media, Website Banner Ads.

Advanced SEO is up to around $1000 a month. This will require more attention than smaller accounts. It should focus on more keywords and be geared around helping to create content to help with the rankings.

Advanced SEM is $5,000-$20,000+ a month. It is important this is handled properly so that budgets at this level are effectively utilized. With budgets at this level you should get special attention from the company handling your account. Website banner ads are the ads you see at the top of, and side of, websites that you visit. These can work on any budget you want and get a good amount of visibility, but shouldn’t be done until this point because even with a somewhat low cost of entry are relatively ignored. You should test this at $1000 a month and go up from there.

Advanced Social Media should be around $3,000-$10,000 a month.

You should not begin to invest in billboards until you have done all of these things. Billboards do get attention, but have extremely low conversion without the rest of your marketing in place. They help generate your brand by getting your name out there, but if people can’t find you then it won’t matter. Billboards are extremely expensive and should never be more than 10% of your marketing budget. Billboard companies charge drastically difference prices for the same exposure so be sure to compare prices.

Level 8 - $30,000 -$100,000 a month = Weekly Blogs, Quarterly Videos, Weekly Newsletters, TV Commercials, High Level Social Media.

Once you have reached this point you should be inundating the market through multiple platforms. You should be doing regular blogs and videos. Your social media should have a large number of followers. Your Email Newsletters should be doing well with a large subscriber base. Your website should be exactly what you want it to be.

High Level Social Media should be $10,000-$50,000 a month.

With Netflix and other streaming services taking over, cable television channels do not get nearly as much viewership as they used to. Some stations try to charge 5-10 times as much as their competitors, so make sure you compare prices of all the possible networks before committing to anything.

Level 9 - $100,000- $1,000,000 a month = High Level SEO, High Level SEM, Monthly Videos, Custom Products.

SEO of this level is hard to quantify; the cost will be whatever it takes to make sure you are the top position for all the keywords you want to rank for. The majority of this will be generating your brand and providing the content people want. High level Google Adwords campaigns can run over $100,000 a month for large national companies. Your budget will really depend on your needs and goals.

At this level you should be producing high level videos on a regular basis. They should be creative and memorable. Videos that go viral today are not the same as 30 second commercials of the past. You need videos that make people emotional and get them talking.

Once your business reaches this size your marketing products should be custom built for you. You are past the point of worrying about budgets and need to focus on the quality of your ads.

Level 10 - $1,000,000 a month+ = Custom Everything.

Your company needs to focus on quality. You should be the leader of your industry and ahead of all new technologies. Your main goals going forward are brand reputation, product distribution, and business efficiency.

Things not included:

Specialty advertising is anything specific to your industry. These things should be relatively low cost and evaluated based on your industry. A realtor having a website that allows users to view houses on their website instead of a competitor, or utilizing 3D virtual walkthrough cameras, or drones for aerial views, are examples of specialty advertising.

Phone Books: When do you do phone book ads? Never. You never do phone book ads. Phone books are dead. They have had a difficult time being profitable for over ten years now and are a sales driven industry. They promise things that are not true and prey on people that do not understand modern marketing. To stay alive they have had to either significantly reduce service, or significantly increase prices, usually both. Even at level 10 phone books are not worth it. You should also avoid doing business with phone book companies that have started selling digital products for the same reasons. They are very good at selling, and very bad at customer service and providing quality products.

Magazine Ads: Magazine ads fall under custom products and specialty advertising. Unless you have a major brand with millions a month in marketing budgets then large magazines will never be worth it. Small local magazines usually fall under the same category as phone books and have an ROI that does not add up. If you are going to do a small local ad then the cost for a full-page ad should be less 5 cents per magazine in circulation. (if they have a circulation of 10,000 then your full-page ad should not cost more than $500. Most print companies will tell you this is ridiculous, but your goal is for you to make money, not for them to make money) You also need to be sure they put you in between content pages and not inside several pages of ads that will be skipped over by the readers. Digital products specifically target users that may be interested in your product, print products blindly target everyone. Someone viewing your digital ad often only costs fractions of a cent, so there isn’t a way to justify local magazines that charge thousands for full page ads with circulations that only exist in waiting rooms.

Radio Ads: Radio is dying, but isn’t nearly as dead as phone books are. They fall under custom or specialty, like magazine ads, but generally reach more of an audience than a print ad does. More people will turn the page or throw out a magazine without reading it than will change the channel on the radio. Radio is good for time based ads. Things like seasonal ads for a Halloween or Christmas store, or companies that come into town and only do business for a weekend like modeling conventions or farmers markets. For established businesses that are always in an area the return isn’t as good as other options, but for businesses that have time sensitive ads it can be worth it.

Mailers: With as easy as it has become to target specific geographic areas mailers are no longer worth the investment. If you have a specialty product that you feel would benefit from this, then it can count as specialty advertising, but should never be done large scale, it costs too much.

Networking: Networking is important at every level and is separate from your marketing budget.

Reputation: Reputation is also important at every level and should always be given priority to everything else.