Timing Your Marketing Budget

There is a common problem with small business owners – and some larger ones – with regard to timing your spending on marketing activities. Many feel the need to get “awareness” out there in a way that’s not only slow and inconsistent but actually cuts into their ability to put money to better use. We’re referring to the need to buy and distribute advertising specialties like t-shirts, mugs, pens, notepads, and the like before spending on more valuable marketing efforts.

It might be cool to see your name and logo on a travel mug or t-shirt, these may not be the best way to utilize your money. This is especially true if you are tightly budgeted, as are most small businesses. It’s difficult to understand how it can be justified to spend several hundred dollars on mugs and keychains while putting almost nothing into paid, targeted advertising.

What some sales folk call “trinkets and trash” have valuable use once the name has some validity in an industry. But it won’t establish anything for a company, particularly when the company puts only a logo and no contact information on the items. For the amount of money spent a small business owner could have invested in some type of advertising.

Check out our latest “Marketing on the Move” covering this topic!

For example, let’s say Joe’s Tree Service wants to give out coffee mugs rather than buy an ad in the local newspaper (and yes, they still work).  Using an online company like 4Imprint.com, the minimum is 72, but why buy that number? The next amount allowed is 108, so he goes with that. the pricing is going to be around $125, assuming he doesn’t have to pay anyone to do some artwork – and custom artwork is a necessity if the logo is going to have other material with it – phone number, website, whatever. So throw another $100 on for that. Now he’s up to $225 and hasn’t paid to ship yet. So throw on another $20 or so for that – $245.

So he gets the cups and now what? He starts giving them to everyone he meets. He uses them as give-aways at his business networking events or makes sure his family and friends has one. Gives them to customers (this is the only practical use for it – retaining the memory of the name and service with existing customers.)

The concept is always named recognition – the hope someone will see the mug on a desk and go, “Hey, I need a tree service,” and pick up the phone. That pretty much never happens. When it does there’s an anecdote to go with it unrelated to the idea that a mug was sitting there.

The point is that these items, while helpful, have a specific time within the budget, and it’s not within the first year or two of business, usually. No small business should invest in these items until they’ve spent some money on genuine, targeted, intentional advertising. Yes, they’re part of the marketing strategy at some point, but their value is retention of existing customers, not ‘hey, who wants one of these,’ in the hope some random person will see it and call you for work. It really doesn’t work that way.