There’s a standing joke in the industry that 50% of your advertising is wasted. The problem is identifying which 50% it is! In fact, the 50% estimate is being generous. It’s probably closer to 100% that’s wasted–and at least you know which 100% it is…it’s yours!
One of the fastest ways to waste money is on a misguided marketing effort. There are a variety of ways to market your business. But too many businesses rely on just one. Whether it’s advertising, email, or direct mail, one sole means of marketing is likely to deliver less than stellar results. The key to maximizing your marketing efforts and dollars is diversifying your marketing plan.
An important part of your marketing plan should include professional and association membership. This will put you in contact with people outside your industry who might have a need for your products and services. It’s not enough to just attend meetings. Participate in special events or join a committee. Personal contact, even in this age of high-tech, is still one of the best ways to market your business. Consider writing articles for the local or national newsletter, make a presentation at a monthly meeting or regional conference, be sure you’re listed in the association’s directory (with a photo, if possible) and link your Web site to theirs.
A regular part of your marketing plan should include reviewing your promotional materials from business cards, letterhead and envelopes to ads, promotional materials and anything that may carry your logo on it. If you haven’t had a makeover in the last five to 10 years, it’s probably time for a new look. This can be one of the most creative and fun aspects of your marketing plan, but it should not be left to amateurs. Remember your brand is the cornerstone of all your marketing. Work with a graphic designer to develop a strong logo and then be sure to include it on all your promotional pieces including advertisements, Web pages and direct mail pieces.
A frequently overlooked part of a marketing plan is charitable and community giving. Good will marketing often has the longest and most lasting impact on the people you want to attract to your business. Consider adopting a charity or offer pro bono services. You may want to donate merchandise, contribute to fundraising auctions or sponsor an event for a local non-profit. Most charities make a point to thank their sponsors publicly, in their newsletters, programs and advertisements.
Staying in touch with current customers should be a central component of a well-diversified marketing plan. You should consider an email (or direct mail) piece at least four times a year. This can include letters, tip sheets, postcards, newsletters, thank you notes, holiday cards or other informative, humorous or timely, soft-sell contact. Many point-of-sale systems are capable of accepting the name, address and phone number of a customer at the time of sale. Add to this database the vital statistics on serious prospects, vendors and sources of referral.
Make sure you include an online component to your marketing campaign. Develop a strategy to drive traffic to your website.
Don’t forget the importance of public relations in your marketing plan. Identify your company’s most newsworthy topics and write a press release for the most interesting and timely item. Commit to sending at least two press releases a year. While there is no guarantee that you’ll be included in an article, the rewards of positive news coverage are many.
Remember, marketing is an ongoing effort. Your plan should be revised at least annually.