Stretching your marketing dollars is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing dollars to stretch.

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This story appears in the April 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know. 

Related: How to Determine the Perfect Marketing Budget for Your Company

Q: We’re a startup with limited cash, but we want to accelerate growth quickly. What’s the best way to spend on marketing? — Tom R., Akron

Tom, here’s a spoiler: I’m not going to make a blind recommendation for Facebook, Insta­gram, YouTube or influencer marketing. Any strategy at the mercy of an algorithm isn’t stable. You want marketing that targets an audience so you’re in control and can make adjustments as technology changes.  

Great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different. For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention. 

Related: Why You Should Treat Your Marketing Budget Like a Poker Bankroll

Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.) 

In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns. It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: Ten percent of your audience will buy, 10 percent won’t and 80 percent will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80 percent, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly. 

If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly. (This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market. 

Related: How to Scale Your Marketing Without a Marketing Budget

If you already have an audience, turn them into superfans who will bring their peers into your universe. Identify previous buyers, and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process. 

Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.


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