Do you have a marketing budget?

Even if you are in a small business you should have money set aside for advertising and marketing. Make sure you include business cards, brochures, websites, signage, branded items, networking groups, industry membership fees etc in your budget.

Sometimes when you add all these up you can be surprised at the amount you spend before you have even looked at actual advertising. Like anything in business having a plan (with numbers attached) and working to it will give better results than "winging it".

So how much should I spend?

The answer to this depends very much on your business but as a general rule (and looking at statistics) you should budget between 6 -12% of your turnover for marketing.

This is of course for an established business, start-ups will need to invest a much higher percentage to "get off the ground" and establish a brand.

Smaller business generally need to spend a higher percentage than corporates due to the economies of scale.

So once I have an established budget where should I spend my money this year?

There have been some good studies released at the end of 2010 that show a continued shift from paper based advertising to online. With the growing mobile, tablet, PDA market coupled with wireless technology this is a smart move - from coffee shops to buses, more connectivity to the internet means more time online and therefore a better return for your marketing dollar.

A Marketing Sherpa study showed that only 10% of businesses felt that money spent on print advertising had been "very effective" compared to 50% believing money spent on their website had been "very effective". Only 7% felt money spent on their website was "not effective"

Social media has also taken off and more and more businesses are allocating budget towards it. Although slightly skeptical of the return on investment if you have a strong website and online strategy it certainly doesn't hurt to allow some time and resources to social media.

So conclude this is what we recommend:
1) Run the numbers and establish a budget.
2) Make sure you are properly branded in all your business material - consistency is key.
3) Review your website and online strategy. Once you are happy with your website consider email newsletters, social media or google adwords to drive traffic to your website.
4) Once satisfied you have the above covered explore newspaper, magazines, radio or tv that is relevant to your core market.