Budget on a Budget
marketing on a budget

**Original article published in September 2017. Updated and re-published in November 2020.

Every aesthetic practice needs a marketing budget. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out, fresh out of med school with a ton of student loan debt. Marketing is an investment, not a line item cost.

That said, sometimes you’ve got to “do marketing on the cheap.” If you can’t allocate at least $10,000 for the year for marketing then you may need to re-think your business model. That’s a bare-bones budget, but, with the right tactics, you can quickly generate some ROI to increase your marketing budget generate more ROI.

*2020 Update: $10,000 for the year likely won’t cut it for aesthetic practices looking to grow. As noted above, marketing is an investment, not a cost.

Of course, there are marketing administrative “costs” that won’t net you any return. However, the majority of your marketing budget should be trackable and, if successful, scalable.

Simply put, add up your yearly costs for the software and services such as domain names, SSL, hosting, maintenance, etc. That’s bucket 1 these hard costs should not be included in your marketing investment budget.

Bucket 2 is your marketing investment, and if you’re limited to $10k, instead of breaking it out over the year, break it up over 2-3 months. Then, at the end of this period, re-invest the profits into your marketing. Rinse and repeat. This is how you scale your results and your practice’s growth. 

$10,000 breaks down to less than $1k/month ($833.33 to be exact). Before I jump into how to best invest $833.33 per month let me outline all the digital strategies and tactics your practice should be working on each month with digital marketing…

  • blogging
  • email marketing
  • social posting
  • video
  • review generation
  • advertising

*2020 Update: As noted above, I would re-think breaking this $10k up over 2-3 months rather than the entire year. If you’re working with an agency that has a track record for generating leads for the procedures you’re focused on then you’re much better off breaking this up over 2-3 months. I’d say 1 month, in a perfect world, but you need some time to gather data; make adjustments; fine-tune your bidding, ads, landing pages; and convert these leads into consultations.

If you have very little social followers or email subscribers, your reach with those tactics will be minimal. Blogging is crucial, but it takes time to build up your blog with engaging content, let alone reap the benefits of improved SEO. Same thing for video. Reviews are also crucial for any practice, but if you’re not seeing a lot of patients then you can’t expect to be generating many reviews.

That leaves us with advertising. You can see immediate results with advertising, which is why it’s your best bet if you’re marketing on a tight budget.

Let me be clear when I discuss advertising, I mean Google AdWords. Sure, you can work in some Facebook or Instagram campaigns or boosted posts, but AdWords can give your practice instant visibility among patients searching for exactly what you offer.

*2020 Update: I would actually strongly consider Facebook or native ads as part of your advertising mix, it just completely depends on what procedure you want to grow.

For example, anyone targeting Botox or filler can get much cheaper clicks and leads on Facebook. For surgical procedures, you’ll generate more qualified leads on Google. They’re more expensive, but the revenue from the procedure justifies the high cost per click, assuming you’re hitting your target CPL (cost per lead).

More on Facebook vs. Google Ads here.

Yes, you do have to pay per click, which is why this medium is commonly referred to as “PPC.” Yes, for some keywords, in a competitive market, you might need to pay $20-50 for a click. If your budget is $833.33 for the month that could easily eat up your entire daily budget in one click. What do you do about that? Research. Figure out which ultra-competitive keywords are costing you the most and do not bid on them.

I typically advise clients to allocate between $1-3k per AdWords campaign (procedure), so $833.33 is very thin, even if you’re targeting just one procedure. Still, you can make due with that budget, provided you’ve set up your campaign and landing pages well.

*2020 Update: You might not be able to “make due” on $833.33/mo budget, which again is why you should consider a shorter term investment with a higher ad budget, to give yourself enough clicks to evaluate performance.

Our rule of thumb with Google Ads budgets is simple: 

Step 1: determine your conversion rate. If you’re just starting out, aim for 3%. Write that down; you’ll need it later.

Step 2: take your daily budget and divide by avg CPC (cost per click) for your keywords and that gives you the number of clicks per day. For example, a $50/day budget with avg CPC of $2 means you’ll generate 25 clicks in a day.

Step 3: take the number of clicks you determined you can generate in a day, on average, and multiply that by your conversion rate from step 1. In this example: 25 x .03 = 0.75. This means you’d average .75 leads per day.

Step 4: assess your number from step 3. If it’s under 1, then I’d consider increasing your daily budget, or your conversion rate, if it’s really low (or both). You should aim to generate at least 1 lead per day, based on your budget, conversion rate, and average CPC.

If you’re looking to set up your own campaign I highly recommend you get Google AdWords certified first. This training is invaluable and if you try to set up your own campaigns without studying up you’ll surely blow your investment. Here are some additional tips for AdWords success.

*2020 Update: I wouldn’t mess around with trying to do this yourself. Unless you have a burning desire to be a marketing expert on top of a top-notch plastic surgeon or dermatologist or med spa owner.

Like any skill, it takes a while to get good at it and it takes eve longer to master. Do you have the time and money available to wait? Probably not, so you might as well hire the best!

It goes without saying that even if you’ve allocated 100% of your budget toward Google AdWords, you still need to allocate your time to the other marketing strategies and tactics noted above. Without the budget to invest in an agency that specializes in this work, you need to try to become the expert, which can be very challenging. After all, you didn’t go to med school to become a marketer, right?

*2020 Update: I recommend that, even if you’re really interested in digital marketing and avdertising, you pick just 1 medium/tactic (at most) to focus on – such as blogging or social media – and devote 90% your time to that endeavor and allocate the remaining 10% of your time to understanding how all your other marketing efforts are doing by evaluating data (or having someone evaluate it for you).

If you’re working with a strong partner, and you have extremely detailed internal lead scoring/tracking, you’ll be much better equipped to track ROI.

Marketing with a shoestring budget is extremely difficult, but it can be done. You just need to invest your time fully into ensuring you understand what you’re doing.

If you need help, don’t turn to the “local guy” who specializes in internet marketing for anyone and everyone. Find an agency with a track record for success in your industry. Find an aesthetic digital marketing agency that’s also a Google Partner.

Want to learn more about marketing on a budget, or how to get started with AdWords? Check out our collection of Google AdWords blog articles. You can also drop TRBO a line here, or give us a call at 877-673-7096 x2.

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