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One of the biggest challenges that startup companies face is the marketing process: how to market, where to market, and what to spend are puzzles that plague every fledgling business hoping to break into its industry. However, a haphazard marketing strategy can be just as bad as no strategy at all, leaving you not only with a failed venture, but business-related loans and debt that you may not be able to repay. Check out these marketing tips so you can avoid the common pitfalls and ensure that your company’s launch really takes off.

Calculate Your Marketing Budget

While there is no set rule to establishing your marketing budget, founder and CEO of Elevate My Brand, Laurel Mintz, recommends that startups set their initial budget to 12 to 20 percent of gross or projected revenue. This is to jumpstart your marketing campaign, which can then be scaled back to 6 to 12 percent once your sales are rolling. If, like most startups, you don’t have any revenue yet, plan on keeping your marketing expenditures to less than $1,000 per month and tie that spending to concrete, measurable deliverables.

Spend Your Budget Wisely

Generally, the less money you have upfront, the more time you’ll need to spend in its place to prime your marketing pump. However, you can still put what dollars you do have to smart use in order to gain some traction when launching your brand. Even if your budget is small, simple advertising programs like boosted social media posts or Google ads can still deliver a significant pay-off. Other cheap ideas include hosting charity events, attending conferences, emailing newsletters to your subscription list, having a well-designed website, sharing value-oriented content and seeking out heavyweight reviews and referrals.

Track Your ROI

The most straightforward way to figure out your return on investment is to track your marketing expenses for each tactic you use and compare it to the resulting revenue at the end of that campaign. It can get a little tricky to differentiate cause and effect when running multiple strategies at once, but you can also use other metrics to analyze your success based on the specific goals you’re after, such as website traffic, click-through rates, A/B testing, trending hashtags, and other measurable data.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out different approaches, so long as you don’t wander off your plan too much and blow your budget. Depending on your brand, venture and experience in the field, it may take several attempts to figure out what combination of activities will get the most eyes on your company.

Regularly Update Your Marketing Plan

As you learn, experiment and grow, continually revisit your marketing plan and adjust it to each new resource or piece of knowledge gained. Remember that making adjustments doesn’t mean that there’s no point in having a plan. You’ll need some type of road map to know which direction to head in and to keep your spending in line with your budget. However, flexibility and adaptability are key attributes for startups to employ, no matter what field you’re in. Scale your budget and your strategy according to your growth, and always ask yourself how you can be more creative and innovative in your approach.

Hire a Pro

It may sound obvious, but if and when you can afford it, it definitely pays to hire a professional. Reputable and experienced PR firms will come with market expertise in your industry, connections to power players, and the ability to knowledgeably assess and fine-tune ad campaigns to fit your brand like a glove. Take the guesswork out of your marketing strategy and leave things to the pros.

Marketing your brand or venture doesn’t need to be a confusing or overwhelming prospect. If you’re realistic about each stage of growth that your company is in and apply your marketing tools wisely, you’ll be able to build your startup into a successful and robust enterprise.

Maricel Tabalba is a freelance contributor for Credit.com who is interested in writing about personal finance advice for Millennials and college students. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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