Marketing on a Budget: How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

Marketing on a Budget: How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck
  • How should you use your marketing budget? And should we prioritise virtual or physical availability of your products and services?
  • Growing the mental and physical availability of your brand to your market. As consumers, we need to notice something and then relate it to something we already know - that’s how we learn about and remember a brand.
  • Fortunately, there's a science behind branding. Once we understand it, we can begin to budget and market much more strategically. Read on to learn more.

“We’ve set aside a marketing budget, but we’re not sure how to best use it…” is a common problem my clients face when looking to grow their brand.

Once upon a time, there were a limited amount of ways to invest marketing dollars - there was TV, radio, print titles and outdoor advertising.

That was about it.

But that was a long time ago and since then there have been a growing number of avenues for us to invest our marketing dollars.

It is overwhelming and paralysing - we don’t want to do the “the wrong thing” with our precious marketing dollars…and so we end up doing well, not much at all!

In fact, no matter what you do, there is going to be a bunch of “experts” saying you spent the money wisely, whilst others proclaim that you should have used those dollars elsewhere (and yes, the option they advise will usually do a better job of lining their pockets!).

Thankfully, the myriad of options we now have for increasing brand exposure and visibility are accompanied by a much firmer grasp on the science of marketing.

To truly understand how to spend your marketing dollars wisely you need to first understand the scientific methodology for brand growth.

So what does the science say?

In his book “How Brands Grow”, Professor Byron Sharp and his colleagues at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute outline 11 marketing laws that must govern marketing methodology no matter what the industry or business you are in, where in the world, or the type of customer.

A key takeaway from this is that growing your business most heavily relies on market penetration - growing the mental and physical availability of your brand to your market.

Mental availability: Taking up real estate in the minds of your customers

When clients start talking to me about marketing spend I notice that they’re usually wanting to talk about campaign tactics - the content management system, the EDM schedule, the marketing channels.

In fact the first thing we need to think about is your customer - and specifically how the mind works.

One thing that I always remind my clients about when we begin working together is that human beings have poor memory and lazy brains.

We rely on a “good enough” approach to make decisions - these are not the deeply analysed and considered decisions we thought humans made back in the 1970s! (If you’re interested in finding out more about this I suggest reading “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman).

Before we can remember something, we need to notice it and then we need to relate it to something we already know - that’s how we learn. We learn new things by associating it with knowledge we’ve previously acquired and concepts we already understand.

So your brand must be salient and relevant to what is going on in the mind of your customer - your message needs to be simple, concrete, credible, memorable.

To do this we create buyer personas that tap into the mindset and motivations of your customer, looking at the mental associations that we need to be building and reinforcing with your brand assets.

Once you have a customer persona in place, then we need to invest in creating your distinct brand assets so that your brand stands out and can be recognised by your prospect, integrating with their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Physical (and virtual) availability: “We’re right here!”

If you’re not around where and when your customers need you, all the work you did to make sure you were a top contender for consideration can go no further.

That’s where physical availability comes in - making your business an easy and convenient option for your customers when they’re ready to buy.

It is also where what I like to call “virtual availability” comes in - it may not be a physical store that your customer is visiting, but a virtual one - this is where your online presence becomes key.

The fact of the matter is that it is unlikely that customers will be ready to interact with you as soon as you start marketing to them.

So we need to make sure that your business is top of mind when the customer is (perhaps days, months or even years down the track) looking to engage your services or purchase your product.

We need to be looking at when a customer will be looking to interact with your business. Where are they? What are they doing?

Is it when they’ve left it to the last minute to complete their tax and they’re scouring online at 11pm to find a quick and convenient solution? Is it when they’re ducking out of the office to look for a tasty bite to eat for lunch?

When it comes to physical availability it’s the same thing - what is going to be relevant and convenient for your customer? The more available you are - the more likely they are to engage your services or purchase your product.

Think about how fast-food chains make the most of this. McDonald's doesn’t make the best food, the healthiest food (or even the cheapest food…) but they’re on the otherwise abandoned highway at 4am ready to make your hot McMuffin and coffee to go.

How can I market my small business on a budget?

So, where should you invest your marketing budget? Here are 5 ways that science says you can market your business on a low budget.

  1. Invest in knowing your customers, create personas that help you speak to the hearts and minds of your customer and tell them a relevant story.
  2. Create distinct brand assets that are salient and therefore more likely to be remembered
  3. Build mental associations with your brand that relate to the customer’s situation - “Left your tax to the last minute again? We’re here and we can help!” “Next time you're hungry for take out, think of us!”
  4. Maintain consistency - You don’t know when your customers are going to need you to solve their problem and other brands are competing for customer attention and memory. So invest in an “Always on” content calendar in addition to larger campaign activities at key times throughout the year.
  5. Be where your customers are, go where your customers go - physically and virtually. Don’t make it hard for customers to buy what you are selling!

Lauren Kress

CEO & Founder at

Lauren Kress is a scientist, speaker and founder of the Australian marketing consulting firm Pacific Content. She helps people and businesses that care inspire change in the world providing one-on-one business and career coaching alongside larger strategy engagements with for-purpose SME's. Lauren hosts a weekly vlog and podcast series "Words and Wine" about business, books and big questions to help you #MakeYourMark.