Setting a marketing budget can be a challenge for any type of business, large or small. It can be even more difficult when you are operating a small business, because you often have to make these decisions on your own, without a team of experts to advise you or back you up.

As we look forward to 2017, here are some things to avoid when you’re setting your marketing budget for the year:

Don’t spread yourself too thin
As each year dawns, there are more and more advertising venues to choose from—and that is even more evident in the digital marketing arena. Social platforms that started out as free apps now offer advertising and those that have long used it—like Facebook and Twitter—have more refined methods.

Rather than sample them all, however, it’s a good idea to stick with what has worked for you in the past. Pay close attention to your analytics. Social media viewing trends aren’t likely to change that much next year. For the majority of our customers, concentrating on Google Adwords and Facebook advertising is very effective—it does not always get the message to the largest group of people, but it gets the message to the people most likely to use it. Also it’s easier to keep track of.

That being said, since most markets are likely to increase marginally, save a small portion of your budget to experiment with new platforms. A look at your competitors or a quick Q&A in your shop or marketing email will help tell you where to experiment.

Be flexible!
Business expenses vary from month to month, and your marketing budget may, too. If you set a budget that’s too strict you won’t be able to adapt to the slings and arrows of fortune that everybody has to deal with every year.

Set your budget, but don’t forget about it. You have to view it as a living document, the way municipal leaders do. Review it regularly, and tweak it as necessary to keep up with—or ahead of—the trends you’re seeing throughout the year. If something no longer works, you need to be able to adapt quickly to avoid wasting time and money.

Also, keeping an eye on your marketing expenses will help you staying on track all year long. You’ll be more likely to notice if and when you can save money or where spending would be more effective.

Remember, you will have to spend money on your digital marketing in 2017. The platforms you use may be free, but using them effectively is not. Organic reach will continue to decline as social media channels like Facebook and Twitter realize the potential of advertisements to bolster their own finances.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy way of determining how to allocate your budget, ask yourself a quick question: do I have more time, or more money?

If you have more time than money, you can always concentrate on building your organic reach. Have a company blog and update it often, then pull material from that to populate the content on your social media feeds. You can also use both formats to increase your email marketing list and build your customer base that way. Also, make sure you regularly check review sites to mine them for opportunities to reach new customers.

If you’re short on time—and what small business owner isn’t—but have a stable marketing budget, concentrate on paid digital marketing. As we mentioned before, Google Adwords and paid Facebook advertisements or boosted posts can be very effective and are relatively inexpensive.

If you don’t have either, consider farming it out. The professionals will take all the guesswork out and usually have a plan to fit any budget.

Do you have any other advice? Let us know in the comments!