Many business owners ask me, “Is marketing affordable?” My answer is the always the same: First off, it’s mandatory for a successful business, and when done right, it is very affordable. The problem for most business owners is that there are so many ways to market and so many people that are trying to sell you the next, latest and greatest thing. The fact is if you don’t have a strong sense of basic marketing strategy, it can be awfully confusing out there.
The frustrated business owners I meet tell me that they can talk to people on their mobile phones with text messaging, be on the first page of Google, have their product name delivered to 10,000 homes with a mailer and that salespeople insist that their source of media is the only answer. Sometimes it’s best to take a step back and ask yourself, “Have I done the leg work to brand my business so people care who I am in the first place?”
You must realize that consumers won’t opt in to a text message, care that you show up on Google, or understand your mailer if you haven’t told them who you are in the first place. Businesses spend a lot of money trying to make these programs work for them, when they don’t have the basic building blocks of marketing needed to make the programs successful. Here are some tips on making marketing affordable for any business.
- Make sure you have a clear, identifiable logo and message. You know the Target® logo and what it represents: On target style and pricing. Does your logo say what you do or what your message is? Invest the time and money in a professional logo designed with the correct color theory, font, etc. Your brand message is paramount; it should tell someone what they can expect from interacting with you. For example, many car dealers use the cliché “One Handshake at a Time” or “Service with a smile” messages. Frankly, those are obvious things that people should get when they do business with a car dealer. Think of something different like, what pain are you fixing when you give someone a great experience buying a vehicle? Talk about that instead, when you speak to the pain they take notice. There is a process when coming up with a slogan or brand message and you can’t skip steps on that. Take the time, invest, and have a strong message.
- Use media that brand. Newspaper, television and radio are all branding media and there is a right and wrong way to use them. The most common line I hear is, “We tried it and it didn’t work!” Well, the first problem is you “tried” it. Don’t try it, DO IT! Be consistent, keep your message strong and don’t give up, it takes time. Clients have to see and hear a message in their daily life in order for it to resonate. Tell your traditional media rep that your goal is to brand your business so you can expand into other technology like texting or social. Each traditional media has its own strategy that works, so be willing to explore the differing techniques that will work for you. You cannot afford to do everything, but you can afford to do something well with a quality commercial, ad copy, logo, and brand message delivery. If you aren’t comfortable buying media, ask for help from a professional marketer.
- Combine resources. Every local media company has a website and I bet they get more visitors than your website! You must ask the right questions about the website and the traffic it receives. The numbers can be very deceiving. If a salesperson is trying to sell you on “hits” that can mean different things. For example, some websites have 50 graphics on a page, translating every visitor into 50 hits, but is only one visitor. That’s a big difference. Understanding web reporting is something that very few salespeople and business owners do well. Simply put, your salesperson should be able to repeat it back to you in language you understand. Find a trusted advisor that can help you make strong, web-based decisions.
Successful branding still takes place offline, but you should also have a plan in place to incorporate an online strategy. The businesses that will be the most successful are the ones that embrace a model that puts people – rather than technology – at the center of products, campaigns and marketing strategies. People still buy from people they like, so get out there and market your business! Once the brand is established, the “other stuff” will lead to even more success.