For new entrepreneurs, the desire to save money by eschewing a paid-marketing plan can be very tempting. The digital age has enabled a new era of owned and earned marketing opportunities with an almost limitless number of outlets, and companies can reach huge audiences through social media. Promoting content through owned and earned channels certainly is an important part of any marketing strategy. It offers the possibility to engage with consumers creatively as well as the chance to build brand loyalty. But leaving paid marketing techniques on the table does a disservice to your small business.
You can accomplish paid marketing inexpensively and measure results precisely. Even better, correctly employing these tactics translates to tangible revenue gains. Successfully implementing a paid-marketing plan isn’t voodoo. You can drive real marketing ROI by following simple guidelines to create a foundational strategy and building it up over time.
1. Establish achievable goals and consistently raise the bar.
Before you start the engine, you need to know where you're going. The first step in any paid-marketing strategy should be defining what you expect to gain. Many people uninitiated to digital marketing think this means website traffic or “likes” on your Facebook page, but these goals ideally should be tied to your business' core functions. Relate these goals to revenue or subscriptions gained if your business model incorporates them. Paid marketing obviously carries a cost commitment, so it's crucial to demonstrate how you anticipate these costs to pay off in the future.
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Your goals should be ambitious, yet achievable. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate them if you find you're significantly over- or under-shooting your targets. You already should be meeting with your sales and finance teams on at least a quarterly basis. Use this existing check-in to discuss any possible changes to marketing-strategy goals. They needn't be written in stone, but you can’t survive without them.
2. Bake paid media into your overall marketing strategy.
Your paid, owned and earned marketing strategies should work symbiotically, and they all should represent your brand identity. Paid and owned media should feed and inform each other. If they then organically lead to earned media, even better for you. Have you created a particularly engaging piece of content for your company’s blog? Then use it in a promoted tweet to try to get as many eyeballs on the piece as possible.
3. Quantify your results and meticulously track your progress.
Every successful paid-marketing campaign has metrics at its core. If you don’t keep track of exactly how much you're spending on this project, there's no point in putting in the work. You need to track how much revenue it's generating, how many website hits you're getting and how many of those hits are converted into sales.
At its essence, marketing ROI is a simple concept: How much money are you spending to acquire a customer? Subtract this from the revenue you expect a customer to bring over her or his lifetime, and you've found your paid-marketing ROI. Of course, numerous data points go into determining these figures, but paying close attention to results will give you a solid reference point to gauge your program's effectiveness.
If this seems like a daunting amount of data to track, a marketing agency can do all the legwork for you -- at a price. If your budget is a little tighter, invest the upfront time to create detailed spreadsheet formats and record data from tools such as Google AdWords. You’d be surprised how thorough you can be, and how quickly you'll see patterns emerge.
4. Invest in intent-driven keywords.
Social media's ubiquitousness has led many marketing professionals to ignore one-time foundational aspects of the business, such as pay-per-click campaigns. Their view boils down to, “Why waste time on staid search results when you can do all these cool things with Snapchat?” In reality, paid-search marketing remains incredibly important for small businesses, and it’s possible to see significant gains without exceeding your marketing budget. For all Google's forays into technology frontiers, it still makes most of its money on good old-fashioned ads.
Routine keyword research is one of the best strategies to help you develop a robust paid-search campaign. It's an effective way to get inside your potential customers' mindset and understand what drives them to search for a service or business in the first place. Researching keywords also can be useful to gain insight into your competitors' strengths and weaknesses. You'll learn which words or messages their strategy emphasizes to rank them higher in the search-engine food chain.
However, paid search does require a time investment. You must refine your process over weeks, months and years as both your industry and your customer base evolves. It's worth it. The benefits for your company are potentially huge. As a bonus, pay-per-click campaigns are easy to track and can be modified with a few simple clicks.
5. Convert paid clicks into email leads.
Despite all the talk about email marketing's diminished role, I bet you’ve clicked on at least one promotional email today. I know I have. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you bought something. But correctly targeting your audience with the appropriate email content -- according to position in the buying funnel -- still works.
As Gmail and other providers began to integrate separate folders for filtering promotional emails, many marketers worried consumers would ignore their efforts, wholesale. I would argue this development has been somewhat beneficial. In fact, it's conditioned us to look in our promotions folder specifically to learn about deals.
Brands can boost their paid-media ROI by capturing leads who are not yet ready to complete a purchase and then engaging those contacts through promotional email campaigns. Done right, it might convince them to hop back onto your website and place an order.