As a small business owner, your marketing budget is probably pretty limited. Wasting even a small portion of it can be detrimental. Too often, owners get sucked into marketing schemes that sound great, but turn out to be minimally effective at best — or a total scam at worst. That money down the drain often means you have very few marketing dollars left to actually reach any potential customers or clients, at least until next quarter. As difficult as marketing can be for small businesses, it’s even harder when money is being wasted. Here are just a few ways to make sure your marketing budget is being used to its fullest capacity:

1. Have Patience

When your small business is just starting out, you likely need to make money, and fast. You may have emptied your life savings for start-up, or perhaps you have investors who are now asking when they will see a return.  Regardless, everyone — including yourself — set high expectations, and now that you’re in the industry, things aren’t looking too great. So, you go all-out on a big marketing campaign, spending every dime you have to draw in new customers.  And if that campaign goes bust, you do too. Instead, take your time.  It’ll probably take a couple of years to really ramp up and get business going.

During that time, while you’re getting a foothold in your industry, focus on small marketing campaigns.  Spend a few hundred dollars on Google AdWords campaigns; buy a couple of local television ads. Spending small, set amounts of money can help you feel out what is going to work. After all, if your ads aren’t getting any traction at $500, they likely won’t fare too well with a $50,000 budget either.

2. Know Your Audience

Every business has them: the white whale. It might be the local school district you want to provide IT service for; maybe it’s the local coffee chain that you want to sell your roasted beans to. Whatever the case, it’s vital you set aside a good portion of your marketing budget to go after them. In general, the top fifth of your customers provide over half your revenue. That’s not to say you should ignore the rest of your potential audience, however. Not understanding customers to target them correctly means all that money you spent on ads may as well have just been used as a bonfire instead.

So how do you know what your audience does and doesn’t like? Track your data. There are any number of marketing tools out there, including free ones from Google, that can help you learn how to understand your audience’s engagement and desires.  If you are using online advertisements and aren’t tracking their progress, what’s the point of even having them?

3. Be Ready to Rapidly Adapt

As small business marketing shifts more and more to the digital/online platform, it is crucial for owners to understand how quickly the landscape can change.