If you’re like most businesses, you likely have a set budget for marketing but aren’t sure where to spend the money. One of the most expensive things about marketing is that you often throw money at different tactics, but don’t always know where or how well that money will stick. What if you had a plan that allowed you to focus on the top 12 strategies, so you got the most bang for your buck?

1. Spend Time Networking

Networking is one of those marketing tactics that doesn’t always show immediate results, but helps you get referrals. Spend the time and money going to conferences and events. Meet other business owners through your local chamber of commerce. Exchange business cards, and be sure to follow up and remind the person what you do and how you might be able to work together in the future.

Tip: Don’t have a big budget to attend a national conference for your industry? There are plenty of local networking events for small-business owners. Go local and save a bundle.

2. Invest in Videos

Landing pages with videos on them get 800 percent more conversions. If you aren’t already adding videos to your website and social media efforts, make it a goal to use at least one video in 2018. Focus on telling a story in your videos.

AT&T’s “The Unseen — It Can Wait” video has a powerful story that captures the viewer and sends a message to not text and drive. Creating a strong story engages your audience and leaves a lasting impression. You can then use the video on your website as well as for social media marketing.

Tip: Video production costs can add up. Create what you can afford now and hire a professional when you’re able.

3. Know Your Target Audience

You’ve likely heard this one time and time again, but it bears repeating. You can’t market to your target audience effectively if you don’t know them. Take the time to dig deep into analytics and market research. Really get to know the type of person who buys your product or service, so your marketing plan centers on them.

Tip: Create a user persona that represents your typical customer. This allows you to figure out the best approach no matter what platform you’re marketing on.

4. Show the USP

What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? If it is that your product makes the consumer’s life easier, then you need to highlight that. Take the time to figure out what your USP is, and you’ll have more success in your marketing efforts.

One example of showing a USP effectively can be seen on Quincy Compressor’s site. It highlights why its product saves the consumer money and has benefits for the average person. By putting themselves into the shoes of the consumer, they’ve come up with a marketing pitch that works.

Tip: Remember that you’re competing against a lot of other businesses to gain the user’s business. Highlight why they should do business with you versus the competition.

5. Forge Partnerships With Like-Minded Businesses

You can market your product until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t be as effective as someone else promoting it for you. When getting a referral from someone they know, 92 percent of people trust that recommendation. That’s powerful. Simply by teaming up with another business, you can gain the trust of most of their customers and vice versa.

Tip: Make sure the person you team up with is trustworthy. The last thing you want to do is recommend another business only to find out they aren’t living up to their promises.

6. Encourage Reviews From Customers

Encourage your customers to add their honest reviews of your products to your website and other review sites. A simple email reminder to let people know what they thought about their experience can push them into adding a review or two. An astounding 88 percent of consumers look to reviews before purchasing online.

One site that allows reviews of its products is Lowe’s. The advantage to this is that other customers can read through the things people did and didn’t like about the product. Imagine that you’re shopping for a new refrigerator but you don’t quite know what to get. Reading through the reviews allows you to see what other people liked or hated about a particular model.

Tip: Don’t delete negative reviews, because this makes you look dishonest. However, do respond to them promptly and with excellent customer service.

7. Run a Blog

Should you invest time and money into a blog? The short answer is yes. A blog adds valuable content to your website, which drives traffic your way. However, the long answer is that the blog has to be well-maintained, with regular new content added and topics on point for your branding efforts.

Tip: Center blog posts around questions your typical target audience has. If you receive questions about something over and over, then that is a good blog post topic.

8. Utilize User-Generated Content

You can save a bit of money on your marketing and add to the depth of content by utilizing user-generated content. Not only does this keep your content fresh, but it also gives your customers a sense of ownership in the process. Anytime you can engage a customer, do so.

An excellent example of this type of technique is Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest, where it tasked fans to create a new flavor of chip. Fans competed to come up with new flavors and Lay’s got a lot of buzz out of the contest – not to mention new potato chip flavors.

Tip: Tie the contest or event into something integral to your product or service.

9. Involve Your Employees

Do your employees share information about your brand? If not, encourage them to. Statistics show that 92 percent of people trust individuals to recommend a brand over a company — this applies even when they don’t know the person. Your employee recommending your brand is much more effective than you or a marketing rep doing so.

Tip: Allow your marketing department the freedom of creating a solid plan, but ask that employees be involved in sharing marketing.

10. Retain Current Customers

On average, it costs about 5 percent more to gain a new client than to keep a customer you already have. On top of that, existing customers tend to spend more than new customers. It makes sense to put time and effort into keeping the customers you already have in your arsenal.

Tip: Focus on retaining current customers, but continue to seek new business. The way to get ahead in any industry is to continuously grow your customer base.

11. Research Your Competitor

Take the time for in-depth research into your competitor’s business. What marketing tactics is your competitor using? Figure out the differences between your business and theirs. Knowing what you bring to the table that is better than what they do allows you to convey this message to potential customers.

Tip: In addition to looking at marketing strategies, take the time to research what keywords your competitor ranks for through tools such as SEMRush.

12. Choose the Right Social Media Channels

When it comes to social media marketing, different channels attract different types of consumers. For example, if you want to reach women who have families, Pinterest is a good choice. On the other hand, if your target audience is millennials, then you need to go to the social media channels they use, such as Instagram. Take the time to research the audiences for each network and choose the ones that make the most sense for you.

Tip: In addition to choosing the right social media channels, research the best times of day to post in order to reach the users you most want to reach.

Marketing Strategy Reminders

These 12 marketing strategies will give you a nice start on your marketing plan. However, don’t be afraid to step outside the box and try new and exciting techniques to reach potential customers. You might even want to create a checklist of strategies, so you aren’t always making the same effort in the same place, but are varying your efforts. If you want your business to grow, make the effort for smarter, better marketing techniques.