By Stuart Ayling
Marketing can be expensive. It doesn't have to be, but sometimes you will spend more than you should. Usually you'll realise this after you've done it. But here are two tips that can save you thousands of dollars.
1- Make sure you really understand your market and your distribution channels.
Sounds simple, doesn't it! For example, one client had developed an information product for small businesses. They had some assistance from another agency to check the market and confirm how they should present the product. Based on that information they printed marketing materials and ramped up to distribute through professional advisors such as accountants.
Nine months later they came to me. Nothing was happening. Not one sale. Even worse, their distribution channel was not discussing the product with clients. Why the lack of activity?
After a few sessions with my client, and some inexpensive (but very effective) research, we came to understand two things:
1) The target audience of owners of small-medium sized businesses were not interested in using this type of product, even though they needed it.
2) The chosen distribution channel was not well placed to encourage their small business clients to be proactive and use my clients product.
Unfortunately, the 'research' conducted by the original agency was flawed. My client was not entirely happy with it at the time, and for good reason.
However, based on our fresh insights we developed more suitable approaches for my client to distribute their product.
Before you spend lots of money (and time) pursuing a particular market segment, developing new products, or simply producing new marketing material, do some homework to ensure you are on the right track.
Get reliable advice from a professional who can explain things without confusing you with jargon. Take a bit of time to really check it out. It's cheaper to do this at the start, rather than after you have invested heavily in it.
2 - Know where to find your customers, and promote your business there.
This is another so-obvious factor that is often overlooked. Most businesses want more customers or clients. Sometimes it's tempting to advertise very broadly to improve awareness of your firm. But beware! Who are you really promoting your business to?
If you have a close look at whom your customers (or prospects) are, you should be able to narrow down the most suitable ways to promote your business to them. If your customers are other businesses, maybe direct mail would be best, or advertising in a relevant trade publication, or using personal sales visits, or simply by participating in industry events and getting known. If in doubt, ask your clients and prospects where they usually go for information on new vendors.
If your customers are from the general public, then it's a bit harder to identify them individually. Print media can often provide great potential to reach prospects, but before you pay big money to advertise in a publication with broad distribution think about how you can narrow down the field.
Firstly, are you better considering a media option that is focussed on your target audience? It might cost more in terms of dollars per centimetre of space, but the results may be far higher than with a general-purpose publication. Look for publications that address your audience, and look for suitable sections or features in larger publications.
When you do this, be selective, and don't be seduced by claims of large readership or "cheap" advertising offers. Ask for a current reader profile from the publisher. Distinguish 'circulation' from 'readership'. Know who your prospects are and make sure you are reaching them with an appropriate message.
Don't forget to look at all your options. For example, have you got your web site functioning properly? Maybe that's a better tool to sharpen than simply reprinting last years brochures. Be open to different ideas.
I haven't yet seen a marketing budget that is "big enough", no matter what the actual size. So plan your expenditure carefully.
Remember to measure the results of your marketing activities, and over time you can improve your marketing choices.
Try to be rational in your choice of marketing activities. Your decision to spend money should be based on a sound assessment of your opportunities to get your message to your desired audience. Take time to make the best decision. Sometimes you may want to get an experienced 'external opinion' to help you decide on the most appropriate options.
Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart's popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at www.marketingnous.com.au