With all the crap filling up our inboxes and search engines, how do you pitch your brand above the white noise? Advertising used to be so easy! Figure out what last year’s costs to find new customers were and create a budget either more or less depending on whether it was a good or bad year. Then throw your budget at an ad agency that had plush seats in the waiting foyer. Theory was they would leverage their industry know-how and contacts to get you the best deals for ads in TV, radio or print. Phone directories made life even easier. Yellow Pages famously moved across countries with their light-house approach of flooding markets nationwide with sales calls and door-knockers who convinced the business that if they did not list they might as well take the year off. Everyone else is in, you don’t really have a choice. Simple and mostly effective. When we launched our own full colour tabloid in 2004 with a circulation of 35,000 we were competing with 8 other free street publications, 4 commercial TV stations, 4 commercial radio stations, the national phone directory, junk-mail and a long tail of smaller promotional opportunities such as direct mail. Life was simple! You sat with the business and determined if your own media, (in our case the world’s first newspaper written entirely by the readers with high content to advertising ratios, a real read) was the best match for their business. Every month I had to sell $25k+ just to stay in business. Today advertising costs have supposedly halved and performance metrics are just phenomenal. Marketing has never been cheaper and easier, if you know when and where to spend, what funnels to channel into what goals and how to tweak all this for better results each week. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Blogs, Press Releases, Article Directories, e-Mailouts, pods etc. are all hungry beasts that require regular feeding, which would be fine if you didn’t actually have a business to run. So you outsource it to a guy in India who has no genuine feel for your business nor a natural command of English, along with your competitors who were also convinced at some BBQ that this was a smart Do-it-Yourself approach to breaking into new media and getting ahead. Very quickly you’re just part of the new wave of white noise, hum-drumming along with the rest of your competitors, using the same “we work harder for your business” taglines and tweets. So how does a smart business today find its audience in this cacophony? Well, you look at what the very biggest, most successful companies are doing, and you copy them as far as possible within the resources you have. It’s no accident they’re succeeding.
Healthy marketing mix tips for small to medium size businesses:
Get online – that’s just obvious today, and I don’t care if you’re a local mechanic whose never touched a computer, you need a website. Over 60% of all purchases now in the Western world involve pre-purchase online research, from handbags to boats. If you don’t have a website, you better be selling door-to-door.
- If you don’t have a full-time social media staffer on board, don’t bother with the Facebook and the Twitters. Getting new ‘friends’ or a new ‘like’ is only the beginning. Have you ever tried to start an interest club, a committee… a social movement? Sure, people might show up for the free canapés at the launch, but you’ll be lucky to see 10% of them back again the following week. What percentage of your customers do you think actually consider finding your Facebook page when they get online in front of the TV that night, so that they can give you a ‘like’ for the pretty arrangement of flowers they bought from you that morning?
- Get local. Make sure Google knows where your business is and your catchment. Include local keywords in your website or any articles, unless you are serving a world market.
- Join some Linkedin groups. Members will share similar professional interests and perhaps even some solid leads. The right groups can be good fun.
- Hunt down all the local online directories or free classifieds (this includes Ebay) and list your stuff. Not only does this create ‘backlinks’ from other websites to your site, someone might actually find you and pick up the phone!
- Invest in at least minimal Search Engine Optimisation to make sure your website is clean and optimised and that you have at least a fighting chance of being found in some general searches.
- Start publishing. For the more enterprising, starting an online and even later print magazine can produce tremendous results. You don’t have to be a large accounting firm or insurance company to produce a magazine, and the credibility this marketing brings to your brand is unrivaled by any other marketing strategy.
Hook up with stakeholders, whether that is the business next door in a shopping mall or someone on the other side of the planet who makes the moulds for the boats you sell. Even businesses exactly the same as yours but servicing different territories can be invaluable ‘marketing partners’. Launch a magazine-type website that invites stakeholder contributions and articles or comments from your customers. Promote this site on all your paraphernalia, from business cards to brochures. Get your marketing partners to do the same. Augment your membership driven content with some automated RSS feeds from key industry bodies or profiles and you will quickly hit the radar of many potential customers. As traffic and interest gathers for your magazine site, you will be able to offer your partners advertising spots across the site and in your automated newsletters. Customers will tell others about you when you publish their article or feedback, because everyone likes a few minutes of fame. Newspapers and magazines have always held a prestigious position in public opinion. To run your own industry publication creates an immediate air of authority that is quite simply lacking in Facebook, Twitter and other social media marketing platforms. You will not find a stronger forum or medium to build brand than your own industry magazine. EzyMedia builds corporate magazine websites, as well as provides ad design and page layout for businesses that want to take the next step in looking and feeling like a magazine, in print or online page-flipper format only.