Knowing when and where to spend your small business marketing budget can seem overwhelming, especially in the digital age. Here are some tips to maximize the bang for your marketing buck.

The prospect of creating a marketing budget for your small business can be overwhelming. The process of deciding to spend how much, at what time, and in what marketing channel is complex to be sure. But with a few best practices to guide your efforts, you can maximize your bang for your marketing buck.

Here are the 4 steps to help small business owners chart their marketing budget:

1. Seek customer insights.

Even though few small business owners have the resources to invest in marketing or consumer research, don’t let that stop you from being smart about what channels you pursue. Your current customers can be valuable tools so make a point of asking 20, 10 or even just a handful of them how they’d like to hear from you. You’d be surprise at the insights you’ll be able to glean.

2. Resist the urge to jump straight toward advertising.

Advertising is great, but there may be other tools that reach your customer base more effectively. For instance, email marketing is one of the most effective marketing toolsaround in terms of return on investment, with a median ROI of 122 percent, according to Data & Marketing Association and Demand Metric.

3. Take advantage of automation

to let the marketing you execute work harder for you. Automation isn’t just for businesses with big budgets, and it can actually save you money. If you’re applying it to email marketing, automation can help send Thank You, Welcome and Follow-up emails to people who perhaps left unpurchased items in their online shopping cart – all things that can have a big impact on your business results, without you having to do any of the heavy lifting.

4. Finally, don’t neglect “free” opportunities

to better market your business. Content is a great example. The content you choose to use to promote your business, from your website landing page and Twitter profile image to your in-store signage and local TV advertisement, says a lot about your business. Make sure that the choices you make all tell the same story about your business and what it’s about.