How to Allocate Your (Very Limited) Digital Marketing Budget as a Startup

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As a startup owner, you’re most likely plagued by countless different questions on the daily. And some of them likely revolve around that dreaded “What if this doesn’t work out?

The startup life is anything but easy – but it can be incredibly rewarding and exciting if you choose to look at things the right way.

To help you out a bit, we’re here trying to answer one of those pesky questions – namely, what to do with your digital marketing budget, and how best to stretch your pennies as far as they can go.

Do you even need digital marketing?

The short answer would be yes.

If you would like us to elaborate a bit further, we could give you two reasons that should sound compelling enough.

One, digital marketing as a whole (and the tactics we’re about to discuss more closely) is a great way to attract audiences and customers. Some of these tactics keep working for you even after you stop investing in them, so exploring them is certainly worth your time.

Two, everyone else is doing it – meaning that if you choose to miss out, you’re likely to get left behind by the competition.

Now that we’ve established that digital marketing is indeed a budget item you need to allocate funds for, let’s see where to invest:

Evaluate your revenues

Before you begin, though, you need to know how much you can afford to spend on marketing.

Establish how much cash is actually coming in and how much your overheads are, and take it from there.

You can either set up a fixed amount of money per month (in which case some months might be more difficult than others, as you have less money for other expenses), or choose to allocate a certain percentage of your revenues to digital marketing.

The latter might be the better option, but it will mean a fluctuating marketing budget – so if you can work with that, all the better.

One of the main challenges of growing a startup is knowing where your money will perform best, so before you send your money out to work, first make sure you’re clear on how much you have on hand.

Market and target research for the win

There are so many tactics in digital marketing you can choose, that you are likely completely fogged as to where to begin.

The best way to answer that question is to determine where your target audiences are.

If you’re looking to market to a crowd of senior citizens, you might not want to do it on Instagram. If you want to reach single moms, social media might be a good idea, on the other hand. And so on.

Instead of choosing a tactic (semi)randomly, you should invest some time (and money) into doing a proper market and audience research first. Base all of your decisions on the data you acquire. Then you can easily move onto actual execution, and your results are bound to be much better.

Sidenote: it would be best if you can outsource your digital marketing strategy setup to someone else, unless you have some experience in the field yourself. While executing things can be left to beginners in certain instances, it’s best to leave the actual strategic aspect to the pros.

Invest in your mothership

And by mothership, we mean your website.

This is most likely the one place every potential customer will want to check out, so ensuring that the website is user-friendly, properly optimized, and easy to find (this one will be the trickiest), is your best first step. Needless to say, a user-friendly website is a mobile-optimized one, too. 

Luckily, setting up the website is a one-time task: you’ll need to write out all the pages, set up the entire website structure, and make sure the pages are properly optimized. 

We’d also advise adding fresh blog posts every so often, just so you can keep up and stay relevant. For that, you will need a copywriter, a content writer, and an SEO expert – or you can do it yourself. Either will work well, as long as you put enough time into the process to know what keywords you need to be focusing on. 

Social media: a cost-effective plan

If your audience likes to spend time on a certain social media channel, you can start your promotional efforts there.

First of all, setting up an account won’t cost you anything. If you choose to maintain the pages yourself, you can get away with very little cost in terms of funds, but time-wise, it will prove a hefty endeavour. 

You’ll need to make sure you’re there to answer all questions and comments, engage with your audience, and keep posting. You can automate some parts of social media management with the use of post scheduling apps, but you still need to be there for the engagement part, so allocate enough time for this task.

If you’re wondering which channel to choose, here’s a little rundown:

  • Facebook is good for B2C products and services
  • Twitter is good for B2B marketing
  • Instagram only works if your product is visual
  • LinkedIn is best for B2B
  • Pinterest also only works for visual products
  • Quora is great for B2B
  • Tik Tok can be a good option if you want to be different and appeal to a young audience

Email marketing is not dead

Another cost-effective strategy with excellent ROI, email marketing can also be a great first step.

You can offer visitors to subscribe to your list via landing page you create specifically for the purpose, on your social accounts, or even in-store.

What you need to make sure of is that you provide some value to these subscribers: discounts, insider information, product updates and how-tos, blog post access – anything you can think of that is in line with the product or service you offer, but that also provides some serious value.

Treat your subscribers with care and respect – and make sure you differentiate between those who have already made a purchase and those who are still browsing. Personalization is key in email marketing, so the more you can make your subscribers feel special and valued, the better your campaigns will run.

This is another marketing channel you should initially outsource if you can, and have someone set up the campaign and lead magnets well. After that, you can take over, if you feel the need to.

Final thoughts

Ideally, all of these channels will work together to make your business stand out. However, if you can’t afford to invest in all of them at the same time, start small and very focused, and cast your net wider as you go. With a new company, the key is in gaining momentum and attracting new faces interested in your brand, who are likely to recommend you to friends and family.

Don’t expect to become an overnight success: not many startups do. Just keep your nose in your work, and, in the words of the magnificent Maya Angelou, don’t forget that nothing will work unless you do.


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