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The “B” Word
The 6-letter b-word. Though to be fair, it can often be synonymous with the 5-letter b-word. I hate to bring it up, but I fear we must. Let’s talk BUDGET.
We love working with small businesses at Honey MAP, especially in the grander scheme of building a community. We often interview local business owners to find out what they’re up to, what they’re struggling with, and what they are succeeding with. (Stay tuned- we’ll be publishing some of these interviews in an upcoming blog series)
One of the biggest conundrums we hear is ‘I know I need marketing, I know it’s crucial to my business, but I don’t have a budget/don’t know how to carve it into the budget/don’t know how to efficiently use my budget, and I’m scared of spending money on something I can’t see.’ It’s also the line item most frequently left unanswered when we receive client questionnaires back.
We get it. We are a professional marketing firm, full of marketing professionals who are experts in the field, and we still have to make scary decisions about budgets. There is a nasty rumor floating around that only small businesses struggle with budgets, and that big businesses don’t have to worry about this. I have worked for some of the largest global financial corporations in the world, and the biggest struggle, daily, was restricted budgets.
Why is this such a scary word? For myself, I hate numbers- math was my nemesis in school- and budget spreadsheets combine my hatred of math with my fear of tiny boxes. It can also feel daunting to increase the spending column, especially on unknown things like ads and promos. For business owners, we strive to save, and while we know that we have to spend money to make money, we fear spending money and not making it back. Is there a cure for this? I’m afraid not. Owning a business is in and of itself a risk. But while we can’t utilize crystal balls, we can shape our budgets smartly.
Here are a few truths we have to wrap our minds around to start:
- Marketing is not an optional line item; it is a mandatory expense. You cannot have a successful business if no one knows you exist. That said, you do not have to break the bank. This leads us to our second truth.
- Budgets work best when they are intentionally planned. Unfortunately many of us believe that budgeting is simply taking inventory of red and black at month’s end. True budgeting is reviewing ahead of time, blocking out funds for specific purposes, then evaluating at month’s end what can stay and what needs an adjustment. To effectively budget, you need a plan.
- Research is the best way to know whether you can count on a good ROI (return on investment). Take inventory of your current expenses and profits. Who are your clients? Where are they spending money? Are there areas of your business that attract more attention than others? Start with a focus on what’s already working for you.
- It is better to spend a lot in one area than a little in several. There are a few marketing tools we insist every business have. A solidified brand with logo and culture, an online presence, and a business plan. From there, the opportunities are endless. Print, Digital, Social Media, Radio, TV, Outdoor, Events… there is literally an option for every price point that you can make work for you.
- Time is money. It’s important to evaluate how much your time is worth. If you have an excess of time, you can potentially save money by doing a lot of the marketing yourself; however, any time you spend marketing is time you are not spending in your business. You may actually save more money by hiring a professional. Think about whether your learning curve justifies the cost. Sometimes letting other people do what they know how to do can free you to better do what you know how to do.
Creating and managing a budget can seem daunting, but once it’s in place, it is a huge relief. Like a giant security blanket ensuring that you remain aware of what is coming in and out of your business. Why do we ask about budgets up front? Because we want to help you market within your means. Though it can seem at first an awkward dance of who will name a number first, having a budget helps us scope our work within a frame and evaluate how you can get the best ROI. We pride ourselves on offering marketing education as well as services so that business owners can be empowered to manage as much or as little of their marketing as they want. In other words, we want to be your BFF, but not in a clingy way.