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Issue: 57 - Sep 15, 2013
7 tips for Those With Small Marketing Budgets and Little Time
By: Maureen Blaney Flietner
Mavourneen LLC/MBF Communications

With small budgets and little time, business owners, office  managers or other staff members charged with handling the marketing for a small business can feel overwhelmed.

It can be difficult enough to just keep up with regular posts to the company’s social media sites, much less think about other efforts. Too often, then, marketing is squeezed in as time allows.

Yet, according to Shirah Rachel Apple, Public Information Officer with the Small Business Administration’s Wisconsin District Office, most businesses will require an ongoing marketing effort and more than one kind of tool to maintain and/or grow a client base.  In addition, Apple says a business needs to have marketing goals and outcomes by which to judge the effectiveness of its marketing efforts. It also needs to determine who it is trying to reach.

What’s a small business to do? Here are seven suggestions to consider as you think about 2014.

1. Set goals for the new year and make them specific, realistic and measurable.

While “more business” might be the obvious aspiration, make specific and realistic goals for your area. For example, a goal might be to increase the number of wellness exams scheduled. You know your target client area has x number of animals and you have two competitors. Your practice at present has x number of animals but only x get wellness exams. You decide that a goal of 15 additional exams is reasonable. Perhaps you want to introduce chiropractic as a service. Knowing your target audience, you set 30 clients as a first-year reasonable goal. Or perhaps 10 more dental cleanings a year is your reasonable goal. With a specific number in mind, you are better able to develop a plan and calendar to reach your goals.

2. Set up your marketing plan and campaign calendar.

Once you have set goals for the new year, schedule your marketing efforts. It’s easier to set up an annual plan than to scramble as a busy year is under way. Efforts can be better coordinated with business ebb and flow, staffing needs, even your community’s annual events. Don’t try to draw in new clients during your busiest times. Provide enough time between campaigns to allow for development of your efforts. Focus not only on new clients but your current clients as well. Take a few minutes to note the responses you’ve had to past efforts.

3.  Determine which marketing avenues to use and estimate a budget.

If you aren’t already asking clients and potential clients how they heard about you, start. This ever-evolving list will clue you in to the avenues your changing target audience uses. While a print ad in the local newspaper and a listing in a telephone directory worked years ago, today’s potential clients have other resources. While one clinic may find that word of mouth, a booth at a local event, a banner outside the clinic and social media works best in their area, a clinic in another area may find a website and ads in the community shopper and on the local radio station succeed for them.

When you find what works for you, estimate costs for each effort. If you have a large enough budget, expand the number of marketing avenues to test for other potential clients.

Avenues to consider might include: a banner outside your building, QR (quick response) code, website, direct mail, social media postings, radio ad or interview, television ad or feature, press release to niche media and community newspaper(s), ad in community newspaper or shopper, informational email, business cards, newsletters, brochures, on-hold or after-hours phone messages, a booth at local events.

4.  Have a call to action and track your efforts.

A marketing effort should have a simple, urgent call to action.  Let your audience know if there is a time limit on any offer. A time limit also will make your effort easier to assess.

For examples:

  • “Call today to schedule four chiropractic adjustments and get the fourth for half price*.

*Offer ends (this day)

  • “Call today* to schedule your animal’s wellness exam and get this gift.
    *Gift only available to appointments scheduled by (this day).

You also may want to use promo codes to distinguish which avenues – website, newsletter, social media, etc. -- clients used when responding to your call to action. Add your findings to your marketing data folder.

5. Assess your work.

As you near the end of your marketing year, review your efforts. Did you meet or beat your goals for the year? Congratulate yourself. If you fell short, you now have something concrete to examine. Were your goals realistic for your target audience? Do you need to do more research on the client base available to you? Was the timing of the campaign correct? What was going on in your community or the world during each campaign? What responses did new clients provide regarding your efforts? Could the message have been improved? Were the right marketing avenues used?

6. Keep a folder of resources for your campaigns.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you have a project. You may want to create a folder that lists such information as:

  • Contacts for advertising and news outlets.
  • Contacts for marketing support resources – writers, graphic designers, veterinary support businesses.
  • A template for a news release that may also spark a feature article. Check out this past ImproMed feature about how to develop one.
  • A checklist of marketing avenues you have used with costs and results for past projects. 

7. Get help.

If the whole idea of marketing your business seems too overwhelming, help is available. Apple says that the Small Business Administration works with many resource partners to help small businesses, including veterinary businesses, succeed. 

“There are over 100 free online courses on the SBA website (, including some for marketing, in addition to our counseling and training,” says Apple. “SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, and Women’s Business Centers are conveniently located around the country and can help businesses develop a marketing plan. Counselors are available for free or for minimal cost.” To locate assistance, go to, scroll down, and click on “get local assistance” in the bottom right corner.

Maureen Blaney Flietner, a former newspaper journalist, is a fulltime freelance writer, editor and designer who has crafted messages for target audiences for more than 12 years. Visit her website at