Making the most of your online marketing dollars means careful research and might require outside help


When it comes to marketing, more isn’t always better. There are so many viable options out there today and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Traditional marketing can also be really expensive, so you have to choose wisely when spending your hard-earned dollars.

Over the years, we have tried many different forms of marketing. But the core of our marketing plan is Google advertising. This is where I invest around 75 to 80 percent of my budget. Many people head to the internet when they're in need of a good or service. My search engine of choice is Google, and 79 percent of the U.S. agrees, according to statistics published in March 2015.

Given the fact that most people are using the internet for almost everything these days, I feel that this is the best bang for my buck. As you may know, tracking your internet revenue can be really difficult. A few years ago, I hired a firm out of Long Island to take over our Google advertising. I had tried a handful of local firms over the years, but was always left frustrated by the lack of information they could give me. 

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With this firm, everything changed. They were able to tell me what keywords brought the biggest results. They also change the keywords on a daily basis if needed, so my Google dollars are never wasted. In addition, they send me a monthly report that shows me how many calls and clicks were generated by these keywords. 

But that still doesn’t show you how many web leads you were able to convert into sales, right? This took a little finessing, but I finally was able to figure out a system that worked for us. It is by no means foolproof, but it gives me enough feedback to justify the money being spent.

I currently monitor all of the emails that come into our website. When a customer is converted from those emails to a sale, I use a special code for it in our Clear Computing billing system. Then at the end of the month, I run a sales report that shows how many dollars that code brought in. I then compare that number to how much I spent this year and how much I spent last year. This really shows me if I am getting anything from this or if I am just wasting my time.

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I do recognize that Google advertising is extremely expensive. Because of these high costs, we only advertise seasonally. We generally start our advertising in February or March and end in October. You can advertise year-round, but if you have a certain period where business is slower, you might be able to save some money by pausing your advertising. 

The internet is a tricky thing to manage. For most small businesses you don’t have someone who can devote their entire day to this. In that case, I recommend that you outsource like we did. If you are capable of doing this in-house, that is fantastic. But the learning curve was too steep for us and we didn’t have the manpower to devote to it.

The most important thing I have learned over the years is interview the company you choose very wisely and make sure that you are getting feedback in return. I had to try someone in-house and two other companies before I found our current company.    

Related: Grow Your Business in a Tough Economy

About the Author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.


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