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Marketing 360® Blog

How Much Does Marketing Cost? Advice For Small Business Owners

Post By Scott Yoder | Paid Search

This is one of the most common questions we get at Marketing 360®. It’s also one of the most difficult to answer, at least in the exact way people want. But here’s our answer anyway. In this answer, you’ll also learn many fundamentals of how to approach digital marketing – even if you don’t find out (exactly) how much to write the check for.

Marketing Isn’t Transactional

This is fundamental to understanding a marketing budget.

Many business owners have the misconception that marketing is like buying leads – or buying a truck. I give you X and you give me Y in return…I give you 1k and you promise me 50 new leads.

But digital marketing is tailored to your business. What you need to invest depends on your industry, location, target market, demographics, previous marketing history, competition, channels used, search volume, what you’re selling, and goals.

For instance, a divorce lawyer in Manhattan, Kansas doesn’t need to invest as much in marketing as one in Manhattan, NYC.

An eCommerce startup selling in a commodity market will have to invest more than an established business selling a bespoke product to a niche audience.

Don’t think of marketing as a one-off transaction. Think of it as an investment where you target the highest possible ROI.

Learn more: Marketing is an Investment, Not an Expense

Your Customers Are Google’s Customers

Another twist in the “cost” question is that on paid advertising platforms like Google and Facebook, performance counts.

When you advertise your business on Google, you’re connecting with your customers. But those same people – as they use Google to find you – are also Google’s customers.

Google (and Facebook) want their customers to have a positive experience that keeps them using their services. The platforms are designed to show users relevant ads that help them find what they’re looking for.

This results in a type of favoritism. Ads – as well as ad accounts – that are relevant and useful get shown more yet cost advertisers less. You literally bid less for higher positions when your performance metrics are superior.

Google and Facebook seek advertising partners that have strong sales funnels and provide value to their users. This makes them money, which makes you money.

The better your advertising is, the less you pay each time someone clicks on your ad and visits your website.

Learn more: How Much Does Online Advertising Cost?


In marketing, time has a direct relationship to budget.

It takes a long time to walk from New York to California (small daily budget). If you want to get their faster you drive (medium daily budget). Want to get there quickly? You fly! (large daily budget). You’re covering the same amount of ground and ultimately spending a similar amount, – but budget defines how quickly you arrive.

This is analogous to marketing. If you invest more, you’ll get more exposure with more potential for growth, but also probably have more potential for sunk costs.

What’s most important is that you plan accordingly for your trip. If you’re walking across the country but you pack for a flight, you’ll soon realize you’re in a heap of trouble.

Also, keep in mind that marketing rarely works in an emergency. If your business is struggling and you need a miracle in the next few months to stay afloat, a long-term, strategic marketing plan is coming too late.

Learn more: The Digital Marketing Process

Stick It Out

If there is any tragedy in small business marketing it’s when a business starts a campaign, struggles just to the point of promise, then pulls out thinking it’s never going to work.

This happens more often than it should because businesses get nervous and change direction. They shift their strategy, alter their budget, and even change marketing services just then they should be doubling down on what they’re doing.

A marketing plan takes commitment. Stay the course and make sure you can recognize when pay dirt is around the corner. Don’t jump ship unless you know for sure it’s sinking.

Learn more: Tips on Having the Right Approach to Digital Marketing

Start With the End In Mind

A lot of this may sound vague with respect to marketing costs, and we keep it that way for a reason. Marketing budgets are not precise, and can’t be planned with the assurance of a one-off transaction.

But that doesn’t mean you’re not analyzing numbers. As best you can, you want to set targets for when you’ll be able to turn a profit and verify a return on your marketing investment.

To avoid the “tragedy” we referred to, you want to plan for what it will take to make it to ROI. Make sound estimates on how long you’ll have to market and build your business without profit. As Brandon suggests in the video, imagine the worst case scenario.

If you have to educate your customers on the value of your offer before they’ll buy, plan for it to take longer than you’d think. If you need time to really understand and overcome your competition, imagine it as a game that goes into double-overtime.

Also, recognize and plan for seasonality. Some businesses thrive at certain times of the year, but as you build your customer base, you must be prepared to ride-out slow periods.

Before you invest a cent in marketing, make sure what you’re investing will give you a solid chance for success. There are no guarantees, but solid planning will increase your chances exponentially.