Whether we are planning for a trip or establishing a personal brand, we are often met with times when our resources (e.g. money or time) are insufficient to cover what we aim to do. In other words, we are running on a shoestring budget that can hardly afford every part of our plan. The term, shoestring budget, isn’t something I had just made up; it actually has its origin.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED, for short), as early as 1882, the Century Magazine published an article using shoestring to describe poker players earning the greatest fortune with only a small sum of money. Another saying for the first use of shoestring budget derives from early merchants. These vendors from the past travelled around places selling fabrics, embroidery materials, shoelaces, and other daily necessities. They never made a fortune through the small shoelace business, yet they were able to sustain their families with it, so goes the saying “shoestring budget’ (Merriam-Webster, n.d.).
Speaking of which, you are probably wondering, “If we all just had shoestring budgets, would we make it to ever accomplish the goals we set?” If that’s the case, how should we manage to benefit the biggest return from our shoestring budget just like the poker player did? In today’s article, I am going to share some views widely adopted by marketing experts worldwide as well as some personal experiences in this field so far. Seems like we don’t have much time to waste, let’s get right on to it now!
Reviewing Current Marketing and Advertising Market
Before we can get to the strategic parts of marketing plans, we need to spend some time reviewing current trends in the marketing and advertising market in the hope that our marketing budgets are distributed properly, and then we can talk about getting our products, visions, or even dreams across our audiences. Data reveals that the money spent by corporations as well as personal users worldwide on marketing and advertisements will reach 560 billion US dollars at the end of 2019 (Guttmann, 2019). Recently, following the development of computer technology and smartphones, more and more enterprises are replacing their traditional marketing platform (i.e. print media) with the new digital platform. It is estimated that the global marketing expenses on digital marketing will exceed 333 billion US dollars this year which accounts for about 60% of the total marketing and advertising spending. The opportunities lying ahead of this high-tech economy is certainly discernible. Meanwhile, it also signifies the growing importance for businesses to sale and advertise through digital channels. The earlier you start using these tech tools, the earlier you get ahead from others.
Figure 1. Guttmann, A. (2019). Global advertising spending from 2010 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars). Statista. Web. 14 October 2019. & Enberg, J. (2019). Digital ad spending worldwide, 2018-2023. eMarketer. Web. 14 October 2019.
Once we have gained an overall understanding of the current marketing and advertising market, we need to begin our market research collecting information regarding our target audience. We need to try to answer the following questions ourselves:
- Who’s our primary competitor at this point? (It’s better to consider those taking the lead in your specific industry.)
- How do these competitors market their brands on the various media channels? Which is their primary marketing channel?
- What are the topic focus and keywords used by your competitors?
- Identify 3 to 5 copywritings by your competitors that attract you most.
Answers to these questions might leave us in the dust, but from the other side, they give us a clue on what to do and what not to do. In saying this, however, I do not mean to simply copy and paste whatever your competitor(s) do. Since we are startups marketing on shoestring budgets, it is crucial for us to optimize our every penny. The reason for us to learn what others are doing is to actually help us continually reevaluate and readjust our current marketing plans. We need to cut our spendings on unnecessary advertisements and use more copywritings that appeal to our target groups (Note: Popular keywords purchased may take about $0.3 to $0.5 per click. Understanding the preferences of our target audience before we set these keywords will prevent our shoestring budgets from running out fleetingly.) So, what are the ways that accomplish our marketing goals while saving our budget? Honestly speaking, there are just tons of ways to do this, but I will here focus on some of the widely acknowledged methods.
Step 1. Choosing Your Marketing Channel
There are currently various kinds of free social media and channels on the market, some of which are probably used frequently by you (e.g. Facebook, LINE, Twitter, Instagram, Blogger, WordPress, Youtube, and etc.). Judging on the type of your contents, compatible social media should be used. For instance, you may be a gourmet who loves taking beautiful photos for different cuisines; then, the visual story teller, Instagram, may be a perfect fit for you. Or perhaps, you are a bookworm who is endeavored to share your reading path; then, free blogs such as Blogger and WordPress seems to be the perfect tool to use.
Step 2. Posting High Quality Contents Regularly
Many website owner thought that once the website or social profile is set, people would actively come and visit the page. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Even if the stranger is happy enough to pay you a visit, still you must let him/her know first about your existence. Therefore, to increase your media exposure, you have to regularly update new information. Moreover, the content you update on your website must be of high-quality with a clear focus on specific topics (Garst, 2015). Suppose I always post new contents whenever I feel like it and the copywritings are poor in quality, would you feel like visiting my blog? It is certainly great to add in the keywords used by your competitors into your contents, but do remember that this should only be done when the keywords are truly relevant to your post.
Step 3. Fairly Distributing Marketing Budgets
Despite the fact that all we have is a shoestring budget, we still need to distribute a fair proportion of our entire business budget on advertising and marketing high-quality contents. WordStream, the U.S.-based digital marketing firm, revealed in their summary report the average estimate cost on marketing spent by different companies worldwide. Accordingly, for newly organized businesses, it is suggested that an approximately 12-20% of the total company budget is devoted to advertisements and marketing plans, while a 6-12% of the total budget is enough for a well-established firm unless it is planning for further market expansion (WordStream, 2018).
Figure 2. WordStream (2019). Suggested marketing percentage. WordStream. Web. 14 October 2019.
Step 4. Maintaining Quality while Waiting Patiently for Growth
This is one of the easiest and yet hardest steps in business marketing. Oftentimes, we are prone to expect an immediate upgrowth in business once we enter the marketing industry, but that is just not how it normally is. Always bear in mind that there are those early birds who came before us for the worm(s). So, rather than daydreaming about a surge in sales right after we launch our digital marketing or advertising projects, why not take each step seriously and wait patiently for all the efforts to bear fruit?
- Enberg, J. (28 Mar. 2019). Digital ad spending: 2019 global. eMarketer. Retrieved from https://www.emarketer.com/content/global-digital-ad-spending-2019
- Garst, K. (18 June 2015). Operating on a shoestring? 20 inexpensive ways to market your business. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247299
- Guttmann, A. (9 Aug. 2019). Global advertising spending 2010-2019. Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/236943/global-advertising-spending/
- Randazza-Pade, J. (31 Oct. 2018). Boost your brand awareness on a shoestring budget. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jessicarandazzapade/2018/10/31/boost-your-brand-awareness-on-a-shoestring-budget/#2aab2fb93e05
- "shoe-string | shoestring, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2019, www.oed.com/view/Entry/178452. Accessed 13 October 2019.
- “shoestring.” Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster Dictionaries, n.d., www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shoestring. Accessed 13 October 2019.
- WordStream (27 Apr. 2018). How to calculate your marketing budget [Infographic]. WordStream. Retrieved from https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/10/26/marketing-budget