Marketing Return on Investment
One of the things that I see in small business is our fear of marketing and spending money on marketing… In fact, I have written a few blogs about some of my opinions of marketing and whether or not your marketing initiatives are giving you what you need which is a ROI (Return on Investment).
However, it has been my experience that sometimes Marketing ROI is extremely hard to track (not impossible and there certainly are ways), but an investment in a marketing initiative can take an extreme amount of time to produce an ROI. An example of this could be a networking group.
Depending on what your small business is, it could take a fair amount of time to build up the trust necessary to produce on going and trackable referrals. A good part of your first two years in networking could be doing something like, proving yourself, establishing relationships and demonstrating your value. Does that mean that networking is ineffective? Actually no it’s not… word of mouth referral is some of the most powerful marketing out there in existence! But it shouldn’t be your only initiative and it may not produce the immediate results you want, however long term, it can produce incredible results.
The Cost of Not Marketing
Many small business owners that I meet brag about how they never market and therefore never see the VALUE of marketing and marketing effectively…. Guess what! I was one of those small business owners initially (yes I’m fessing up in the spirit of transparency and authenticity)…. I didn’t need to advertise, I was the hottest thing coming down the pike in my local market and I knew it! Clients came in droves and I just became cockier as time went on! But guess what! Not everyone was the right client for my firm, big projects don’t last forever (in fact that is the outcome we wanted in my firm) and while waiting for the next project, work would (sometimes only for a while) dry up and I started to wonder where our next job would come from. When this happens, naturally, cash flow starts to run out and a big reason was because I didn’t need to market. (Ya um, ok!)
My next lesson after grasping the fact that yes indeed marketing was important was that I had no clue on how to market. The struggle in implementing marketing initiatives was really learning where to put that marketing dollar, when to use it and how to use it.
I tried the “Spray and Pray” method (not recommended although sometimes necessary for learning outcomes)… let me just spray my brand all over the place and pray that it comes back with the right people for my firm (nope)! However, it does not mean that we don’t try something before determining whether or not it works for our practice and consistent marketing (again in my experience) is key to the health and wealth of a business. You could be really busy at one moment and then all of your projects dry up and where are you left (scraping the bottom of the barrel unfortunately).
Now the question is. How do I market effectively and with the impact that I want? What do I need to do in order to achieve the best results in marketing strategies?
Before you can build a strategy around your marketing, you need to decipher who your target market is and where they are. (And by the way, this was not easy really all that simple either, especially for me in the Accounting Field that can assist many different people in multiple businesses.) In order for me to be effective in building my marketing plan and tailoring my services, I needed to establish an Avatar.
Once that exercise has been completed, the next question you ask is where does my client hang out? What do they read? What do they do for fun? What can you do to get their attention? If you already have some of your target market clients… cheap way to find out…. Ask them!
Something I discovered about my target market spends very little to no time on the internet unless they are looking for something specific. In fact, they have very little time in their day. My target market avatar is a Growth Oriented Contracting Firm. Generally, my market, works from early in the morning and gets home later on in the evening, they are strapped for time with their family. So for me to spend all of my marketing dollars on online initiatives is not the best strategic move for me (although still necessary).
Now at the same time, my best clients have come from my website, so to not spend any money on online marketing initiatives, is also not a good plan, it’s just not where I spend the majority of my dollars. In fact, I want to be at the top of the list on Google for Contractor’s Accounting/Bookkeeping Services in Barrie, Ontario, so I need to invest money in that.
Other great places for me to spend my business marketing dollars would be on Contractor’s trade shows, printed materials (rack cards, brochures) for contractors and what we are able to specifically do for them, perhaps an FBZ Banner for the tradeshow, business cards obviously, Contractor’s Association Groups, Ads at sports bars (hangouts), ads in association magazines or offerings of article writing, Contractor’s networking groups, Contractor Oriented talks and Seminars. The information presented also has to deal really specifically with what their needs, wants, desires are and how I can help them achieve them. Now, I can actually see potential and growth in my small business as I am hitting the right places and doing the right things with my marketing dollars!
Marketing Risk Mitigation
But I Have No Money for Marketing… I need More Clients, What do I do?
As I mentioned above, if you don’t invest money in your marketing initiatives even on a small level, it’s unfortunate to say the work will dry up and especially if you have been on a growth track, you’re going to have some major cash flow issues (no cash, you can’t do anything and will likely have increased expenses) and you will find your small business in a desperate, even scary position. This is where a lot of small business owners finally get the Value of Marketing!!
So Now What Do I DO?
Cash flow is tight to nil, you could potentially owe money to other if not multiple sources and the thought of opening up that pocket book or finding that money to invest in a marketing initiative is very scary and may not feel doable.
Well now you are left with two scenarios, give up and let the business go, pray and hope without action, OR find the cash to do something about it (sometimes it mean really deciding which bills to pay, expenses to let go of or habits that can be changed). Now that you are fully committed, you need a really solid plan.
Some considerations to make are
- How am I going to reach my target market with this initiative in the fastest way with the most positive impact (new client added income?)
- What marketing materials do I need in order to prepare for these essential meetings (think about getting in front of your market directly or meeting face to face you need to focus on building relationships with the right people)?
- What will I do in order to follow up with the client (again with marketing materials or planning) in order to again seal the deal?
- What continued marketing will I have in order to create additional touch points with my target market in order that the work does not dry up in future?
- How do I maximize through my own efforts, my marketing initiatives (i.e. developing online plans so you aren’t wasting time on social media sites, ensuring blogs go up on a regular basis, using home equipment for YouTube videos, vista print to create rack cards, post cards, brochures);
- How much of my own time do I give to marketing initiatives?
To summarize, I’m simply telling you, that truly, you need to develop a strategic marketing plan that you can follow step by step and the point is that you really need to think about this. I would also advise, if you do have the funds at least for a paid consultation (please do not expect professionals to give free advice in initial consultations, that’s not what those are for). Consider meeting with your proposed plan with a marketing expert in order to make sure that your strategy is well thought out and makes sense, both financially and strategically. At the very least, if you don’t have those funds, do the research!
Be flexible… not everything is going to pay off at once; you need to be smart…. Do you continually try it? Do you change your strategy, an attitude, an approach? Do you let it go? If you need something immediate, then you need to look for that immediate, impactful marketing strategy to lead with and carefully experiment with the others.
My friends, at the end of the day, if you’re in business, marketing is important and funds must be allocated to this or the final risk is losing everything that you worked so hard to do and that impacts your bottom line and success.