Once is Not a Marketing Campaign

July 26, 2010

If I had a dollar for the number of times that a business owner told me they tried marketing once and it didn’t work for them, I would be driving a much nicer car.

Marketing is not like lima beans, you can’t try them once and make a decision on the spot that it doesn’t work for you. Yet I continue to run into businesses who use that excuse when I suggest that better or more targeting marketing efforts might improve their bottom line. I try to give the benefit of the doubt when meeting a new biz owner and assume that they are at least doing something — thus the suggestion that there might be room for improvement — but that isn’t always the case.

One direct mail campaign, one e-mail blast or one display ad is, for a great many, a waste of money. There are lots of rules about the number of impressions required before your audience recognizes and reacts to your offer — with somewhere between 3 and 7 as the rule of thumb — but the general idea here is that you have to keep plugging along.

The first time your audience sees your message they may not even recognize it. The second time it may trigger some kind of awareness of the product category or offering. Hopefully by the third time they’ll remember your name.

The key is not only awareness and recognition but being in the right place at the right time: when your best prospect is ready to make a purchase decision. Sure, once in a while those single wave campaigns actually land in the lap of a prospect at the right time and they get the business. But this is pure luck that rides on the back of a competitor that already established awareness and education for the product category.

When I worked for a direct marketing firm, we typically planned all campaigns in 3 waves. Today we encourage clients who want to see the greatest ROI to invest only in programs that they can sustain for a full year.


Choice of Venue Makes a Difference

May 21, 2010

I still get the opportunity to help clients with seminars periodically thought not as often as when I was with Microsoft. One of the interesting lessons learned has to do with site selection. All business owners are looking to cut corners and so the idea of free is always appealing with cheap being a second runner up. Free meeting space and cheap room rentals unfortuantely doesn’t always create the desired experience for your guests or outcome for your events. Several of our clients have the good fortune of access to free meeting space through partnering arrangements and association memberships. Some of this meeting space is in Class-A office space at visually attractive locations.

So why aren’t these a plus for my client? Because they aren’t interesting.  The entire reason companies host events at entertainment venues like the GA Aquarium or in a suite at Turner Field is because of the innovative venue. While you don’t have to go to the lengths of booking an entertainment location for your next event, sometimes a nice restaurant can make a big difference.

The same idea holds true for individual meetings as well as events. Next time you’re trying to secure a prospect for a lunch, consider bumping up your investment a bit from an $8 sandwich place to a $14 plated lunch with white table cloth service. You’ll see a measurable difference in the outcome of even that 1:1 event.

Deal or No Deal: How Would You Spend the Banker’s Money?

January 11, 2010

Admittedly prime time television must have soured in mid-December when I found myself repeatedly watching the Small Business Owner edition of Deal or No Deal on Wednesday evenings. Unlike the original version of the show, this one features no lovely, leggy ladies with briefcases. Instead the contestants as well as the briefcase models are all real business owners. At the beginning of the show, one lucky business owner gets to compete while the others cheer him or her on.

If you’ve seen the original edition of the show, you know how the rest works. But this little twist is what held my interest.

Each business owner would talk about their dreams and aspiration for investing their winnings in their business. Of course every one wanted the million dollar suitcase but even the $25,000 case had the ability to significantly impact their business.

Smartly HP tagged on as a show sponsor for a $5k briefcase, recognizing the value of this very targeted audience. As a marketer, I started thinking of other sponsors that would benefit from a similar involvement — Staples, Kinko’s, Capital One — but it is the exercise of deciding how to spend the winnings that merits further discussion here and has generated fodder among my clients.

If a million dollar prize would allow you to double your payroll, would you take the gamble and see if you could get and maintain the incremental sales required to pay their salaries in year 2? Would a half million dollar prize allow you to purchase that new office condo you’ve dreamed of? Could $250,000 allow you to take a gamble on a new product line? Would $100,000 allow you plow all of your revenues back into the business for a year instead of taking a salary? Might $50,000 afford you the training you need to increase your rates? With $10,000 could you hire the patent attorney you need to protect your design?

The hypotheticals could of course go on and on. The importance of this exercise is having the confidence and the creativity to dream. While it is unlikely that you’ll ever be presented with the banker’s briefcase, any day could bring you the opportunity to spend a similar windfall if you’re prepared to ask for it.

Change Your Marketing Mix Not How Much You Spend for Different Results

December 10, 2009

The results of a new study published by email marketer StrongMail and promoted by The eMarketer Daily show that 90% of business executives plan to spend the same or more on marketing next year. No kidding! Business executives who cut their marketing budgets are likely the same ones that closed their doors last year. Marketing can’t be treated as a discretionary expense like going out to dinner or the movies. Without marketing there are no sales. Without sales there is no revenue. Without revenue you have no business.

So why do so many businesses consider marketing expendable and cut their promotional spend when things get tight? Because they are myopic. If your current marketing spend isn’t generating the results that you need, change your mix, change your message, change your team but don’t reduce your spend. Or next year you’ll be changing jobs.

For some ideas on how marketers are changing their spend for 2010, check out the rest of the StrongMail survey results. It should come as no surprise that 69% report a planned increase in email marketing.

Using Stock Photography: A Cautionary Tale

October 26, 2009

The growing popularity and widespread availability of stock photography sites like istockphoto.com and fotolia.com has put the likes of Getty Images and Tony Stone on their ears right along with a great many high quality independent professionals. You can’t blame it all on the stock photo sites. The issue has been compounded by camera phones and flip cameras: everyone things they can take pictures. Right along with the proliferation of images has come a lowering of standards in what viewers will accept as quality. 75 DPI and even blurry images are sometimes acceptable, for the right use.

But once you leave Facebook, businesses still demand professional-like quality but for a beer budget price and that is how we all landed on istockphoto.com. Don’t get me wrong: I use istockphoto.com and several other inexpensive stock photo sites. But it is truly a buyer beware scenario. The risk is that EVERYONE else is using istockphoto.com, too, and thus you’re all using the same images. Case in point: the istockphoto.com guy.


the istockphoto dude

Now be honest: how many different times have you seen and/or used this image? I swear he is everywhere. And as we all know, he can’t possibly work for everyone so now folks have to confess: they used stock photography. 

Stock photos are great but if you’re picking images for the home page of your website (or any other highly trafficked or read location) do you really want an image that everyone else is using? Absolutely not. This is your brand and you need to treat it as such.

So if your web designer talks you into the idea of “faces” on your home page because “viewers are drawn to faces,” do me a favor: check the download popularity of the recommended image and at least try not to select ones that thousands of other users have already picked.

Alternatively, try to break away from the idea of faces on your website. Amazingly stock images of products, locations and the like aren’t nearly as recognizable as stock.

But if you really must have those faces: consider budgeting for original photography. Once you get past the sticker shock, you’ll come to appreciate the value in images that you and only you own. And that way when you put them on your trade show booth, you won’t have to worry about seeing the same image on a booth down the aisle, like I did at a show last night. I think it was this one.


1400 downloads and counting


What does it say when UK advertisers spend more on web than TV?

October 2, 2009

The WSJ reported yesterday that the percent of UK advertising dollars spent on internet advertising has surpassed those spent on TV advertising. Surprised? I was. That’s a huge difference from the US where reportedly internet advertising still captures only 13% of f all advertising dollars.

So what does that say about their marketing efforts? Is it a result of the mediocre quality and limited opportunities to advertise during UK television programming? Or is it just because their advertisers have become savvier about their spend?

Internet advertising represents a much more targeted opportunity to pursue eyeballs. While you may get several hundred television stations from your cable or satellite provider, that same fat line is bringing you jillions of internet advertising opportunities. The question is how accurate and successful you can be with those internet ad dollars.

For reaching mainstream consumers, Yahoo, Google and Bing do a good job of allowing you to buy search sensitive advertising opportunities as well ads within their contextual network. Facebook is quickly gaining in this playground, too, but what about the other seemingly limitless advertising opportunities alongside non search related sites where display ad opps are available by the month or the click?

Some of these are fantastic (and cheap) opps for reaching a difficult to target market but the effort is still significantly less sophisticated that the decision making model developed by the big agencies for TV. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow the ways of English advertisers. Heck, be a pioneer. I’m sure by this time next year that 13% will have ramped up significantly. But be wary. The science behind it is still developing and you don’t want to find that you’ve bought a big ticket campaign and wasted your previous advertising dollars on something that isn’t bringing the promised results.

Increase in Advertising Spending = Recovering Economy or Desperation?

August 11, 2009

About six months ago I started encouraging clients to take advantage of the pull back in advertising spend to make their dollar go further by taking advantage of greatly reduced rates. My clients don’t do a lot of display but the same mantra held true for most of the available media at the time.

Over the summer I noticed an uptick in marketing spend in my business serving the SMB space and subsequently confirmed the same was true with my counterparts serving the medium enterprise and global corporation space. Conjecture might say this signals a turn in the economy, but is that true?

The WSJ reported this morning that the dental market is seeing a 10% drop on average in patient billings largely due to unemployment rate. People without dental insurance stop going and those high brow vanity treatments don’t seem as important when we’re counting our pennies. The article goes on to describe how dentists are having to get creative with their marketing efforts and spend less time seeing patience and more time recruiting them. The old reminder postcards aren’t bringing patients in as fast and thus dentists are trying the same tricks as everyone else: email campaigns and twitter.

So perhaps the increase in marketing spend is just a sign that business are finally having to do what we marketing folks have told them all along: focus on your best prospects, show love to your best clients, identify to your competitive advantage and then promote it in more ways than buying one ValPak envelope a year and putting your initials on the door?

I think what in fact what is happening is that certain businesses are preparing to thrive. They’re establishing a robust infrastructure, staking their claim on their space and working harder to protect their brand. It’s not just a marketing investment that will help them succeed. It’s their overall investment in their business from people to technology that is helping them ramp up and prepare to take market share from the competition who instead of investing has squeezed every available dime out of their business and hidden it under the mattress.