“Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.”
– John Wannamaker
This is one of my favorite quotes because it concisely captures the essence of a conundrum that all businesses face; you can’t sell what you don’t market, but if it costs too much to market, it’s not worth the sale.
For the budding small business, I think it’s apt to discuss why many owners find it difficult to invest in marketing and highlight some simple concepts that anyone can employ to make marketing more effective.
Marketing can be costly. And what’s worse, there’s always a chance your efforts won’t be rewarded. In fact, it’s generally understood that most of the prospects targeted in a campaign will take no action in response. How many other services come with that kind of stellar guarantee? What if your mechanic told you he’s not sure the new brakes will take, but he’ll track them closely to see what kind of return you’ll get?
When small business owners do decide to market, the decision of how to do so is becoming overwhelming. While traditional outbound marketing tactics like television commercials and direct mail campaigns are still highly effective mediums, new forms of inbound marketing like email, content, and social media marketing are not just emerging, they have taken root. Modern marketers are changing the way companies and brands interact with their consumers, and savvy business owners are seeing substantial returns by enabling a conversation with their customers rather than shouting at them.
The link between a blog article and an enterprise agreement may seem tenuous at times, but it’s there. And the good news is this is great news for small business. Inbound tactics that rely on the internet give massive marketing reach to messages from firms large and small. This can make inbound marketing considerably less expensive per lead than older outbound methods, and much more accessible with limited resources.
Still, picking an outlet for your message is only half the battle. Armed with new tactics and increased opportunity to reach gobs of prospects at bargain basement prices, small business owners are still faced with the question of what to say. What good is a podium if you don’t have a speech?
Fortunately, even if you’re unsure of exactly what magic combination of words will turn your prospects to customers, or even where or how to chant that magical phrase, there are a couple of straightforward strategies you can employ to help guide your marketing investments. Don’t worry, they’re trite. I’m not about to reveal the Secret of Nihm. There is no magic marketing bullet, but employing these concepts will make your marketing efforts more effective. And even if you’ve heard these concepts before, it’s good to be reminded. I remind myself regularly.
I know, it’s a buzzword. I regurgitated a buzzword. But this buzz could be the single most important concept in marketing in the 21st century.
Today’s consumers have unprecedented access to information about the products and services they desire, and it’s no longer necessary to tolerate intrusive advertising to learn. We are eager and willing to educate ourselves on features, pricing, and comparative solutions, usually long before we engage a salesperson. To be successful, you must understand how, and in what context, you can help your customers learn why your widget cleaning service is the best widget cleaning service on the block.
- Educates prospects with relevant and meaningful content. Think about what your prospects would like to know at each stage of your buying cycle and focus your marketing on making it easy for them to learn.
- Informs without interrupting. Context is important. Think about where and how your prospects are most comfortable learning about your business.
- Attracts and intrigues. Potent marketing can be funny, dramatic, or thought-provoking, but it must be engaging to your prospects. If your humble blogger was less amusing, would you still be reading this?
Have a Clear Call to Action
Again, not rocket science. Not even paper-plane science. It’s clear that effective marketing needs a call to action, which is why it’s puzzling when the call to action is unclear.
Before investing in any marketing activity, make sure you understand exactly what you’d like your audience to do. This can be as simple as “visit my website” or “give us call “, but it’s important to understand the specific action you’ll count as a win, or “conversion” for your campaign. Tracking the conversion rates for your marketing efforts will help you understand which Call to Action is most successful and what context is most appropriate for your best prospects.
So, yes. 50% of your marketing budget may be wasted on ungrateful prospects. But while you can’t be sure exactly which half of Ben Franklin’s face is failing you, these simple concepts should help the other half of the bill work harder to pick up the slack.