Many Web sites don’t spend a dime to market themselves. A small percentage grow large audiences if they have been around for many years, have a unique attraction or just work extremely hard at building eyeballs.
But even a small marketing budget can make a difference if it is developed carefully.
First, it is important to distinguish between a launch budget and a maintenance budget.
A launch budget is a separate amount of money dedicated to making the public or target audience aware of the new site. The marketing campaign usually begins on the day of the launch and continues for a matter of days or weeks.
The maintenance budget takes over after the end of the launch budget. Its goals include creating awareness for the site with audiences that weren’t reached with the launch campaign. More advanced elements of the budget target specific sections, features or audiences.
Second, we have to note the difference between discretionary versus non-discretionary expenses.
Marketing people would love to see the promotional budget treated as a necessary or non-discretionary expense. In reality, the promotional budget is one of the first items to be cut when profit and revenue misses start to loom.
Marketing Budget Tips
Online budgets often have about 30 to 35 percent of revenue dedicated to sales and marketing. Look up the financial reports for major online companies to see their pattern.
A site that relies heavily on advertising revenue will have a larger portion of the sales and marketing budget devoted to sales. The biggest piece of that pie will go to the salaries and commissions of salespeople and managers.
As a general rule, a promotional budget at 5 percent of total expenses has been enough to grow an online audience at a healthy pace for an existing content-rich Web site. That number also has some downside cushion in case of budget cuts. Even if the cut takes it down to 1 percent, the money can still be well spent if it targets features or audiences with a high return on investment.
The money is best spent in the spring and fall. Avoid the summer in particular when school is out, people go on vacation and site traffic tends to get soft.
Limiting or avoiding expenses in January and February have the benefit of saving the money in case revenue misses later in the year. It protects the more important profit margin as well as protecting the job security of the manager responsible for the budget. However, those two months tend to have online ad rates discounted more.
Another tip about January and February: Some business see a plunge in revenue during those months because retailers cut back on advertising after having spent a lot leading up to Christmas. Others may actually see an increase, such as travel to warm destinations for people wanting to escape northern winters. Caribbean travel guides are a good example of this trend.
Finally, when you do spend it, spend intensively over multiple channels with the widest possible reach and an ideal frequency of three to six impressions per person. We have always found that a single large campaign gets a better response than several smaller ones that use the same amount of money.
Look at the results, judge the best return on investment and revise the budget according to those numbers. It’s also a good opportunity to review tactics to see which ones are falling short and whether revisions are needed.