Focus on Advertising and Marketing That Pays Off

Figure out what’s bringing in the business, and quit wasting time and money on things that aren’t.

Focus on Advertising and Marketing That Pays Off

istock photo

Whether you’re starting up a brand-new business or you’ve been at it for years, you probably already have the skills of your trade and the tools you need.

But how good are you, really, at advertising and marketing what you do?

Yes, some people seem to be born with the knack for selling and promoting themselves. Maybe that’s what makes advertising and marketing seem like one of those “black box” parts of a business. There’s no shortage of advice out there, but putting it to effective use and figuring out whether it really makes a difference in your business results can stymie even the smartest among us.


The Big Picture

First of all, let go of any notion that “advertising and marketing” is just an isolated specialty in your business. It really starts with your everyday appearance and actions.

“Marketing is not just about buying ads or setting up a trade show booth, it’s a part of every aspect of your business,” says Tatsuya Nakagawa, vice president for marketing and strategy at Castagra Products Inc. “Make sure your trucks are clean and your service staff is professional and courteous.”

That’s just the start, though. Every business has a brand, says David T. Scott, chief marketing officer at Lifefyre, a global marketing cloud technology company, and author of The New Rules of Lead Generation. In essence, sales and marketing is about owning, controlling and projecting your business brand to customers and potential customers.

“Take a day to think about your brand, your company’s values and what you stand for,” says Scott. Then make sure that how you see yourself and your business lines up with how your customers see them. And once you’ve got your arms around that, make sure your advertising and marketing is always consistent with your brand.

Strengthening your brand means giving quality service to the customers you already have. “It’s cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one,” Scott observes.

And that doesn’t stop at what you think of as your business. “Your business may be the best in the world at [selling firearms],” says Ben Scandlen, of The Way Company, an online marketing network. “But if your billing is off or your customer service is poor, it won’t matter.”

By now you might begin to see why it can sometimes be hard to isolate your marketing’s “true cost.” Yet if you can’t always measure the marketing benefits of good service, you can’t ignore it, either. Customers who like your work will talk you up with their friends and give you advertising you never paid for — and with a value that’s priceless.


Communicate With Customers

When it comes to measuring the cost and value, think big picture. “The true value of marketing depends on what sort of marketing you are investing in,” says Scandlen. “If you invest in marketing that has value for the customer, then the true, long-term returns will be significant.”

Scott recommends that with the growing power of consumer-review sites like Angie’s List and Yelp, you must “own your brand on the internet.” That means engaging with customers directly on review sites, praising good reviews when you get them, and targeting special offers to draw in new customers who are turning to those sites to look for the services you provide.

Scandlen advocates customer experience improvements through instruments such as customer surveys. Don’t just let survey information stay locked up in a desk drawer or on your hard drive, though. Follow through with it, following up on complaints.

And be willing to really listen to customers. That’s part of inbound marketing – or as Scandlen describes it, “a conversation you have with your prospects to help them make their decision.” That won’t always win you a customer in the short term. “Sometimes the best decision may be another solution,” he says. But you’ll also earn the prospect’s future consideration.

If you’re using traditional media, such as business newsletters delivered to an email address or posted on a Facebook page, don’t just toot your horn. “Make sure the information you share is useful and not self-serving,” Scott says.


A Focused Approach

Content marketing like this is a high-priority investment, Scandlen adds. “Content marketing done correctly underpins all of your other efforts and improves your offering to your customer.”

Besides what you communicate, there’s also the question of to whom you communicate it.

Marc Prosser of says targeted marketing is far more effective and economical, especially for the type of small, owner-operator business that a tactical retailer represents.

Reach out to prospects who don’t already have a relationship with a business in your line of work. People who just joined the local gun range or 3-gun league might not have an established relationship with a local sporting goods store.

Master the techniques that raise your profile when people search the Internet for the services you offer. Send a mailing to newly occupied addresses, or if your target market is businesses, “you can check out new member lists at local chambers of commerce and reach out to those businesses.”


Is It Working?

And how do you figure out the value and the cost of what you’re doing?

You can’t measure the cost or benefit of making sure your sales associates treat customers with respect, or the benefit of visibility. But with good marketing and advertising, as Nakagawa points out, “customers and prospects can find you even if you are busy supervising or buried in paperwork.”

But you don’t want to simply throw money at the problem. Effective marketing doesn’t require big budgets, Nakagawa says. “Do small trials and see what works for you. Once you find an effective approach, build on it and don’t get distracted by the next new and exciting marketing tactic.”

Still, there are metrics you can gather. Three that Scott of Lifefyre finds most valuable are measuring the customer acquisition cost (CAC), average contract/sale value (ACV) and return on marketing investment (RoMI).

The cost of a particular advertising channel will vary widely by the source of your traffic, notes Jan Roos, who consults for local businesses on effective Internet advertising. Roos recommends starting with a $1,000 per channel investment — and look for fast results. “The best channels can turn around customers in days to weeks,” she says.

She recommends programs like Google Adwords that bring your business up when the prospective customer does a search: “You can get in front of customers at the exact moment they need something like a drain cleaning plumber instead of throwing up a billboard and hoping they remember your number.”


Tracking Leads

To really understand the cost and value you’re getting, you’ll have to invest in systems that track your calls and emails from customers. With that you know “where customers are coming from and use this to determine which sources of advertising are bringing the most bang for your buck,” says Roos. (That works with offline advertising too, she adds.) Without good tracking, “you’re flying blind.”

Roos says lead-generation specialists can help you generate business more efficiently from your online advertising. And while free channels may have some value, don’t count on them to directly generate business. If Facebook or Twitter suck five hours a week out of your time that you would otherwise be able to bill $100 an hour for, “you’re out $2,000 a month for that channel,” Roos points out. “You might be better off throwing a $1,000 budget on paid advertising that is guaranteed to get an audience.”

One final word: Don’t treat marketing and advertising as an afterthought or a sometime thing.

“Consistency is the key,” Nakagawa says. “Doing marketing and advertising once, or only when things are slow, will not help your cause.”


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.