How to Spend Marketing Dollars Wisely

You must spend money to make money, but is your marketing budget making the right impact on your business?
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Author: Jackie Holbrook

Many business owners know marketing should be part of their model. Marketing sometimes becomes an afterthought, however, not a vital part of budgeting and planning. It should always be a priority, and include a budget that reflects your company’s goals and tracks returns on its investment.


Creating a Marketing Budget

How much money should you set aside for marketing? That can be tricky. It’s easy to determine utilities, payroll and building costs. How much you spend on marketing is up to you, but it’s essential to attract new customers.

What you allocate varies by industry, revenue, location, and years in business. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends businesses making less than $5 million allocate 7% to 8% of their revenues to marketing. That estimate is based on companies with margins of 10% to 12% after expenses. For startup businesses, the SBA recommends up to 20% because you must focus on building a brand and awareness.


What to Include

Once you set a marketing budget, divvy it up. There’s no fixed formula for what to include in a marketing plan. It depends on the company’s goals, strategies, revenues and customer base. A marketing budget for startups must include money for branding and web design. These expenses cost more upfront, but you’ll have minimal costs after they’re complete.

Most marketing plans budget for web, social-media, content creation, and market research. Gather information about your customers’ needs and preferences, which helps you determine your focus and priorities.

A marketing plan should include diverse methods for reaching customers. Spending all of your marketing budget in one spot risks missing potential customers. Here are some examples of what your plan can include:

Embed the A360 or B360 widgets onto your website for current content. Photo Credit: ATA

– Creating Content:

Content marketing means providing informative, engaging information for customers. It “lives” on your website and social-media platforms through blogs, educational articles, how-to videos, and email marketing. ATA-member retailers, for example, can use the ATA’s Archery 360 and Bowhunting 360 widgets to fill their websites with archery and bowhunting content.

The costs of creating content vary by its type and who creates it. Content can be created well in-house if you have the right person and equipment. To keep up with content marketing’s demands, many companies hire freelancers or advertising agencies at differing prices. Here are some industry averages:

– Blog Post:

Freelance writers charge $100 to $150 for a blog post or informative article. It will cost more if it’s technical or requires interviews with experts.

– Email Marketing:

A freelance writer charges about 90 cents per word (based on the Writer’s Market). If you have a skilled writer, this work can be done in-house with the right email marketing platform.

Download the ATA's social media calendar for tips on what to post on your social accounts. Photo Credit: ATA

– Social Media:

Social-media marketing is a great asset to digital-marketing plans. It helps build your brand by engaging and connecting with customers. Freelance writers charge about $10 per word or $60 to $100 per post, but some pro-shop owners or team members do this work themselves if they’re good writers. If that’s the case, the work costs only your time and effort.

If you need some help, check out the ATA’s free 12-month social-media calendar. It includes weekly messages ATA members can post on their social-media platforms. Each post encourages customers to comment online, or visit your store or website.

Log into your MyATA member dashboard and click “Download Free ATA Resources” to see the ATA’s resource website. Then click “Retail Resources” from the drop-down menu to download the social-media calendar.

Also consider a paid-marketing component for your social-media strategies. That lets you personalize your content and target audience. Paid campaigns usually cost little if you limit how many times your ad gets displayed. Track your results to ensure the ad creates conversions.

For more social-media strategies, read “Managing Social-Media.”

– Radio Advertisements:

A radio ad could run $200 to $5,000 weekly, depending on the market. The cost varies by time slot, the number of placements, and audience numbers. Radio ads in big cities cost more than those in rural areas. Most radio stations have in-house teams that can produce ads, or you can hire an advertising agency. Those costs range from $250 to $2,000 depending on the voice, music and production costs.

Run an ad in a magazine to promote your business to a large audience. Photo Credit: Archery Business

– Print Ads:

Advertisements in newspapers and magazines can target specific audiences if the publications attract archery readers.

– Direct Mail:

Flyers and postcards can create effective opportunities to reach and interact with wide audiences.

– Loyalty Rewards Program:

Create a budget that includes incentives for a refer-a-friend program.

– Additional Items:

Billboards, partnerships, donations and event sponsorships, and press releases to media outlets are just a few potential places and ways to advertise.


Hire an Agency or Freelancer vs. In-House

When creating content, you get what you pay for. It’s smart to hire someone with expertise. Many companies, however, create their own content in-house and it’s exceptional. It’s important to know your company’s assets and limitations.

To create content in-house, you must have the right skills and equipment. You’ll need time, software and video/camera equipment. Factor these costs into your marketing budget.

Freelancers are often a cheaper option than hiring an agency. You can find one by posting help-wanted ads on social-media, visiting professional sites like LinkedIn, or contacting outdoor media organizations.

When considering a marketing company, be sure you know what services and products they provide before signing a contract. If you plan to pay them to develop projects, ask if they also implement them. Define in advance everything you’re paying them to do.

Agencies usually bill hourly or per project. An agency’s hourly rates will probably range from $75 to $300. If the agency bills hourly, request an estimate on the time the project will take so you have an approximate rate.


Measure Effectiveness

Measuring your marketing strategy’s effectiveness ensures you spend wisely. One way to measure content’s effectiveness is through “conversions,” which occur when web visitors take a desired action like buying a product, clicking a link, signing up for a class, or completing a form. Social-media conversions let you track the number of web visitors to your site. Google Analytics, a free service, reveals how visitors find and use your website.


Additional Resources

The ATA worked with the Shine Unlimited team (a MyATA service provider) during ATA 2021 Online to create the session titled “Marketing Tactics for Success in 2021.” This recording will be available on MyATA Learning Center in Spring 2021. Meanwhile, watch other marketing videos in the MyATA Learning Center.

If you have questions about your marketing plan, the ATA can help. Contact the ATA’s business and membership office at (866) 266-2776 or

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