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Where to Spend Your Budget for the Best Digital Marketing ROI

What are the newest digital marketing challenges and opportunities for SMBs (small-to-mid-size businesses)? And what can business owners do to ensure a healthy digital marketing ROI, what are the best investment opportunities for digital marketing?

The budget for marketing remains a major challenge for SMBs. But with the right focus on ROI marketing strategies, a digital marketing budget is an investment, not a cost. Smart marketing campaigns choose the right online and social media channels at the right time to make the most of their budgets. They attract a target audience of high-value prospects, and drive quality leads through appealing content. Lastly, the most successful campaigns recognize and utilize the latest technology.

There is no single formula for a successful digital marketing campaign. That’s because no two businesses or their goals are the same and need different approaches to find success. But all successful marketing plans take knowledge, expertise, and lots of testing and tweaking. This piece looks at today’s top digital strategies and how to best spend your online marketing budget for the best ROI.

Why SMBs Should Center on Digital Marketing ROI

Internet-based marketing offers multiple advantages for SMBs. It helps you build brand awareness, reputation, and trust in your targeted audience. When done well, you increase the volume and quality of leads, improving marketing ROI, and offers more opportunity for business growth than traditional advertising methods. 

At Bold Entity, we believe every SMB can boost sales and increase growth by embracing online marketing strategies. The trick is to ensure your efforts are measurable so you can track the success of your marketing and the ROI of its different vehicles.

Digital Vs Traditional Marketing—Which Is Better?

Traditional (offline) marketing still has a place in many marketing plans, especially for reaching an older audience. It also has the added benefit of leaving a longer impression on prospects. However, digital strategies offer better audience targeting and are far more cost-effective when done well. Many SMBs use a combination of both approaches, depending on their business model, ideal target audience, and growth goals.

Baby Boomers spend twice as much time watching TV and reading printed media than Gen Xers and Millennials.[1].

This table summarizes some of the most common digital and traditional marketing media.

Traditional Marketing MediaDigital Marketing Media
Out-of-Home (billboards, transit)Broadcast/OTB (radio, TV, streaming)Print (newspapers, magazines)Direct Mail (bulk mail, targeted mail)Telemarketing (call, text messages)Canvassing (flyers, business cards)Event (tradeshows, conferences)Social Media MarketingInfluencer MarketingInbound Marketing (blogs, forums)Website & Search Engine OptimizationPay-Per-Click Ads (search, social media)Email Marketing Display Advertising (website banners)

Pros and Cons of Traditional Marketing

The pros of traditional marketing are that it can be impactful, permanent, and more memorable than digital campaigns. The main disadvantage is that it’s expensive, hard to measure, and offers no direct interaction for your target audience to take and marketers to measure.

Pros and Cons of Digital Marketing

The standout advantages are better targeting, the ability to use pull marketing techniques, and better control/measurement of marketing spend ROI. But, the reduced cost barrier to entry means digital marketing is highly competitive and requires high expertise to rise above the noise. Also, people have a low tolerance for outbound digital advertising and many use ad blocking techniques to avoid ads completely.

And lastly, online marketing is constantly evolving, keeping up with technology and trends is essential to continued success.

Free Tools Every Digital Marketer Must Have

SMB marketers use local search marketing strategies to target audiences within a set geographical area. Commonly this is known as geofencing. 

For a successful SMB, a free Google Business Profile account is vital. Even if you are marketing physical business campaigns. Around one-third of searches done on mobile devices are location-specific. In 2021, 99% of consumers used the internet to discover local businesses. An online presence isn’t just for online-only ventures trying to rank in internet searches to draw target customers [2] [3]. 

Around 78% of local searches on mobile devices result in an offline purchase[4].

Google Map Pack

Getting brick-and-mortar SMBs onto the Google Map Pack makes perfect sense. These are the three businesses that feature at the top of Google’s search engine results pages or SERPs. This example shows the results when searching for the best pizzas in Dallas.

Google Maps Results for Best Pizzas in Dallas, TX - Bold Entity

Google Map Pack gives your company free exposure in local searches. Best of all, you can personalize it from your Google Business Profile account.

Other benefits of the Google Map Pack SEO include:

  • Significant competitive advantage over rivals
  • More organic (free) traffic to your website
  • Drive more local traffic to your real-world business
  • Increase mobile search exposure and physical location traffic
  • More calls from internet search prospects

Unlike most traditional marketing, a winning digital marketing strategy is not a simple case of set-up and leave. Instead, the most successful strategies with the highest ROI use continuous monitoring of data analytics to measure performance and make small changes as necessary to ensure continued performance. 

Successful online marketing spends the majority of time in the maintenance of an ongoing campaign, not its setup. And that takes time and expertise. Which is why many SMBs understand the best ROI of their digital marketing budget is to engage a skilled marketing agency partner.

Digital Marketing Agency or In-house Marketing?

Digital Marketing ROI breakdown between agency and in-house teams

For in-house marketing to work, you need an internal team of experts who can fully dedicate their time and skill to increasing ROI for digital marketing. These people know your brand inside out, understand how to analyze data, and what changes to make to improve your marketing success.

Pros and Cons of In-House Marketing

An in-house team is always onsite, so everyone is there and accessible during business hours. You may even get away with a single, generalist marketer if your company and campaigns are small. But the evolving landscape of internet marketing works best with one or more teams who pool together specialized skills to be more than the sum of their parts. For example, high-performance digital marketing teams include experts in the fields of SEO, PPC, social media, video marketing, website design, content creation, graphic design, etc.

The downside of an in-house marketing team is your company has to source, hire, train, and retain its talent. That’s not including the cost for officing, equipment, and software needs. Some excellent free tools are available, but they only do so much. That’s why professional marketers invest in paid digital tools, programs, and resources to help manage and boost their campaigns. The significant operating costs of an in-house marketing department or team is why most small-to-medium-sized organizations choose instead to hire a digital marketing agency. Hiring an agency offers much of the same benefits to in-house marketing but at a sliver of the operational expenditure. 

Digital Marketing Agency Pros

Partnering with a digital marketing agency can be a wise investment. They have teams of professional marketers with lots of experience and proven track records. Agency teams already know what works and what doesn’t, and how to tailor marketing needs for different industries. Moreover, they invest in the latest, most powerful marketing resources and tools.

You don’t have to hire or train agency experts, so you only pay for people and processes you need, as you need them. With a good agency, you get an attractive digital marketing ROI. So, depending on your marketing needs, choosing an agency partner of an in-house setup can easily save organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Digital Marketing Agency Cons

A professional internet marketing agency may not be familiar with your brand, so it takes time and input from your end to help an agency understand your business and get up-to-speed on how to accurately portray your brand. This process does require some time and money, but is well worth the effort to help your agency create marketing the looks, sounds, and feels like your organization.

The second most common marketing agency issue is communication. Differing locations, time zones, and communication types all play a part in communication difficulties. And it’s a two-way street. When you and your team are busy with the priority of running your business, your agency can miss getting the input or approval they need to move forward with your marketing, creating less-than-stellar marketing or a stoppage in your marketing until they receive a reply.

Another common concern with hiring a digital marketing agency partner is the loss of a degree of control over your marketing. And this can go poorly if there are failings in the previous issues. Losing control of marketing done by a team that doesn’t understand your brand/business and struggles to get input and approval on its work is a recipe for poor marketing and failure of the partnership.

The Agency/In-House Arrangement

A compromise is to have your in-house marketing staff do some jobs, and coordinate with your agency on other tasks. You could, for example, rely on the tools, resources, and expertise of an digital marketing research agency to do in-depth data analysis. And the in-house teams could run and maintain data-driven campaigns based on agency’s data scrutiny and suggestions.

Data-driven marketing has become critical, say 64% of marketing executives[5].

An Overview of Major Web Marketing Channels

Online marketing channels are continuously evolving. However, platforms new and old allow marketers a better opportunity to connect, engage, and track targeted audiences compared to traditional channels. The digital marketing channels listed below can help you expand your reach, drive more traffic, and deepen engagement. These are things every marketing campaign needs to generate new leads and increase marketing ROI.

#1 Content Marketing

Content marketing is the creation and sharing of free and useful material online. Examples are blogs, videos, social media posts, and more. As the foundation of Inbound Marketing methodology, content doesn’t blatantly promote brands or sell services. Instead, content “pulls” the user’s interest to your goods or services by providing helpful information and solutions to problems.

In a recent B2B survey, 67% of marketers said content marketing is an effective way to generate leads. And 72% agree that content marketing helps educate an audience[6].

Content marketing offers some of the best digital marketing ROI due to its long tail. While ads come and go with every web click, content marketing lives on the web forever, for free. Quality, evergreen content can continue to capture prospects and convert leads for years after its creation.

#2 Display Advertising

Display advertising is a form of inexpensive online marketing. Digital marketers use images, text banners, and other visual formats to advertise on social media, websites, and apps. But banner blindness and ad blocking has weakened its effect in recent years. Even so, display advertising remains a cost-effective channel with a high digital marketing ROI when used correctly.

#3 Email Marketing

As digital marketers say, “the money’s in the list.” Direct email marketing remains one of the best channels to reach a target audience and boost growth. An opt-in email list comprised of customers and interested prospects lets you inform them of new products, promotions, discounts, and other services. All it takes is quality, relevant content, and a single click of the send button.

The predicted death of business-related email never materialized. In fact, email communication is on the rise, as seen and forecasted in this global study.

Daily Email Activity in Billions (2017–2025)

Daily email activity in billions over the years, Digital Marketing ROI by Bold Entity
Data source: Statista

#4 Influencer Marketing


This is primarily a form of social media marketing where a social media influencer endorses your brand, products, or services to their followers. Similarly to the traditional media idea of a celebrity sponsorship, it can be an incredibly effective ROI channel if you can match the right offering to the right influencer and audience. That’s because an influencer’s following sees them as a trustworthy source of information and a person who holds opinions their audience resonate with. 

The influencer marketing industry was worth close to $14 billion in 2021 and is expected to exceed $16 billion in 2023 [8].

#5 Mobile Marketing

This is a multi-channel marketing technique used by SMB digital marketers. It targets users on internet-connected mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Typical marketing methods are ads delivered by SMS, MMS, social media, email, and apps. A T-Mobile study found that mobile ads are 30x more effective than web ads [9].

#6 Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

PPC is an online advertising model primarily incorporated into search engines and social media platforms where you only pay when someone clicks the displayed ads. PPC ads typically display in a manner similar to organic content on the platform (posts, search results) and are used to drive real-time traffic to a target web page. PPC is an effective way for digital experts to control marketing spend and targeting. Effective PPC campaigns get users to take some form of action. As of 2019, over 50% of PPC was mobile traffic [10].

PPC 2019-2020 Report | 74% of brands said PPC was a huge driver for business[11].

#7 Referral Marketing

This digital marketing strategy encourages satisfied customers to refer products or services to others. These are your willing brand advocates. Spreading the word can be done online or offline. For example, leaving positive reviews, interacting on social media platforms, and using real-world word of mouth. Making personal recommendations to family members, friends, and colleagues have the most influence on customer loyalty.

Nielsen Report | 92% of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends[12].

#8 Search Engine Optimization(SEO)

Digital marketers use SEO to improve the quality and quantity of free, organic traffic. You optimize your SMB website using on and off-page SEO best practices. The focus is to optimize your website pages to rank high on search engine results pages (SERPS) for the specific search terms most-related to your business. But it’s slippery at the top, so SEO is a continuous marketing activity you need to follow for the best ROI. 

Effective SEO marketing delivers over 12x return on investment(ROI)[13].

Combining SEO practices with content marketing on your website is a high-ROI synergy. Hosting more in-depth content on your website related to your offerings increases your website’s authority on the subject while adding SEO practices to your content marketing helps each piece bring more volume and better-focused prospect traffic to your website.

#9 Social Media Marketing (SMM)

SMM is where digital marketers use one or multiple social media platforms to interact with existing customers and prospects. It’s an effective way to build brands, boost sales, and drive targeted traffic to a website or page. The secret to this type of marketing is interaction. These campaigns work by posting relevant content and engaging with relevant posts on your and other industry leaders’ profiles.

Treating social media as a bullhorn solely to promote your business while adding nothing to the larger conversation of the related space is a surefire way to annoy followers and damage your brand.

The number of social media users in the US is predicted to reach 257M by the end of 2023[14].

#10 Video Marketing

Internet users love video, so video marketing is a great way to promote your brand, company products, or services. It’s an emotionally engaging means of advertising to connect with customers and prospects. 

A 2022 survey revealed that 86% of US businesses now use video as an effective marketing tool. Indeed, 86% of digital marketers agree that video has helped generate quality leads [15].

Bold Entity Holistic Digital Marketing Services

Is your SMB short of time, resources, or people to run ongoing, successful marketing campaigns? Bold Entity’s digital marketing experts can boost your digital presence and marketing ROI. We help businesses like yours reach the next level of scale through our results-driven approach.

See How Our Data-Driven Digital Marketing Strategies Can Help Your Business Grow 

Digital Marketing Strategies and Planning

Effective web marketing strategies and planning can be tricky for the inexperienced. Also, it can go to waste if your company is short on time, people, or resources to track and tweak active campaigns. So, knowing how to build on the basics will save time, money, and improve your digital marketing ROI.

Marketing Strategy Basics

Online promotional strategies are well-thought-out plans for achieving marketing goals. They are highly focused and realistic objectives created from data analysis. Data is critical for crafting initial projects and tweaking existing ones. Once you see what works and what doesn’t, you can fine-tune your online marketing efforts.

A basic ROI digital marketing strategy combines planning, processes, and technology:

  1. Objectives: take stock and set goals based on what you need to achieve
  2. Know your audience: who do you need to reach and where they are
  3. Technology: supports the plan, execution, optimization, and reporting 

Before creating your marketing campaign, you need to know your target audience and where to find them. Therefore, your template should include your ideal customer profile. Data analysis is at the heart of your research, planning, and execution. And for that, you need marketing technology (MarTech).

MarTech includes powerful software and various tools that make sense of otherwise complex data. The most successful campaigns are the result of data-driven technology decisions.

Importance of Digital Marketing Metrics

Successful online marketing campaigns use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure a campaign’s performance. And metrics are marketing tools that measure the processes or activities used to achieve specific goals. There is no other quantifiable way to gauge campaign performance. What metrics you track depends on the campaign and its objectives. But one metric all marketers will want to follow is the digital marketing ROI.

Assessing your Digital Marketing ROI

Digital Marketing ROI is a measure of the profit generated by your campaigns. Several metrics are used to show whether you’re allocating your marketing spend to the best effect. Any SMB that ignores measuring ROI is working blind. But gauging ROI can be challenging and time-consuming, especially if you’re running multiple campaigns.

ROI digital marketing metrics include some or all of the following:

  • Unique monthly visitors
  • Traffic generated by channel
  • Cost per lead (CPL)
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Conversion rates
  • Return on ad spend
  • Landing page performance metrics
  • Keyword average ranking

Working with KPIs and marketing metrics helps you optimize your active marketing strategies and plan for future campaigns.

Bold Entity’s Digital Marketing Services for SMBs

Bold Entity is an award-winning marketing agency. Our integrated marketing strategies deliver top-of-the-line results for US businesses across industries. Our team of experts offers digital solutions backed by proprietary data-based research methods. Moreover, the average ROI for our digital marketing clients in the past 12 months is 300%.

Learn More on How Partnering with Bold Entity Makes Perfect Business Sense

Closing Comments

Successful digital marketing is the result of a carefully created plan. It has a finite end date and is meticulously monitored and fine-tuned throughout its run. As a result, effective multi-channel marketing has become critical for SMB survival. And that needs a competent, dedicated in-house team, a professional agency, or a combination of both.

  1. https://www.globenewswire.com/traditional-marketing-and-baby-boomers/
  2. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/1-in-3-searches-for-local-businesses/
  3. https://www.brightlocal.com/99%-consumers-use-internet-to-find-local-firms/ 
  4. https://searchengineland.com/local-searches-and-offline-purchases/
  5. https://www.invespcro.com/blog/data-driven-marketing/
  6. https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/b2b-content-marketing/
  7. https://blog.hubspot.com//email-marketing-ROI/
  8. https://www.statista.com/global-influencer-market-size/
  9. https://www.t-press.cz/mobile-ads-is-30x–more-effective-than-web-ads/
  10. https://lunio.ai/52%-of-ppc-ads-from-mobile/
  11. https://www.acquisio.com/the-state-of-ppc-explained/
  12. https://www.nielsen.com/insights/consumer-trust/
  13. https://terakeet.com/blog/seo-roi/
  14. https://www.statista.com/statistics/us-population-with-a-SM-profile/
  15. https://www.wyzowl.com/video-marketing-statistics/
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