Almost every small business owner knows that marketing their business and understanding the costs and return on their marketing activities is something that should be prioritized. Many might even say it’s their #1 priority. Unfortunately, so is working on closing more deals, interviewing and hiring the right staff, shopping for new equipment, and the ever-elusive task of spending more time with friends and family. They’re all top priorities, which means none of them truly are.
An excellent case can be made for why each of those items, and the various others you surely have competing for your time, deserve some dedicated “quality” time to make sure they’re properly addressed. I’m going to present a few reasons why your marketing is my nominee for top priority, not only because it’s my strong suit, but because it’s one area where a lack of attention not only leads to stagnation, but also financial loss.
I want to clarify that I do not propose you turn from CEO of your business to CMO and neglect the other extremely important activities. Rather, I want to encourage you to be your CMO once a week for a few hours. Even AN hour a week. The more the better, but at least start somewhere.
Here’s what I mean about marketing causing loss if ignored:
Presumably, you have at least one or two marketing channels active. Maybe you have a small ad in a local paper. Maybe you have an AdWords campaign you set up last year and haven’t really thought about since. Maybe your niece helps you out after school by posting to your social media pages. Each of these can be great ways to market your business, and each can come back to bite you if you’re not paying attention.
That ad in the paper… what results have you seen from it? What results did you expect to see from it? How confident are you that you know what results you’ve seen? Print advertising can be quite tricky to track. Take a minute to look at your last ad. Where did it appear? What did you instruct readers to do? (Call you? Email you? Follow you on Facebook?) Did you see an uptick in this activity once the ad ran? Has it tapered off since?
Okay, I’ll stop bombarding you with questions, but these are the types of things you should be considering with print ads. It’s hard to know how they’ll do the first time you run them, but it’s a little easier the second time if you’ve been paying attention to the response. I’ve personally experienced a print ad run that resulted in literally zero responses. No one called or visited our website. This could be viewed as a failure (it certainly wasn’t a success), but what’s important is that we noticed this right away and scrapped any plans to run the ad again.
Some ad sales reps are great at selling you on the success of other clients and the idea that you need to run ads over a longer period to really observe their performance. That’s a decision you can make, but don’t just take their word for it. Know how your ads are doing before re-upping and spending more money on something that doesn’t work.
Let’s talk about that AdWords campaign you set up. I can say a lot of the same things here that I just said about your print ads. However, AdWords (and any kind of pay-per-click ads) can quietly waste a LOT of money on an ongoing basis if you’re not tuned into them. In fact, I’ve often seen campaigns start out doing very well, bringing in business at a cost that makes it easily worth the investment. Then, whoever set it up leaves in on auto-pilot. Six months or a year later, it turns out the campaign took a turn for the worse four weeks in and has been a money drain since.
One tip I always give non-marketers about AdWords is to take advantage of negative keywords. These are words and phrases you can tell Google “don’t show my ad if someone types this in, even if it seems relevant to my other keywords.” Here’s an example: let’s say you sell glassware. Two of your items might be shot glasses and coffee mugs. Your keywords might include those exact phrases as well as some variations, like “tea mugs” or “tall shot glasses.”
Depending on how your campaign is set up, Google may be using it’s best judgment to decide when to show your ad, and USUALLY it’s pretty smart about it. A user searching for “fun coffee cups” or “glasses for vodka shots” may very well see your ad. However, someone searching for “mug shots” may also see your ad. And when you have enough of those non-relevant searches pulling up your ad, you’ll invariably start getting some clicks from those users, each one costing you a bit of your budget, which can quickly add up.
To summarize, if you sell glassware, make “mug shots” a negative keyword. And whether you glassware or not, consider what terms that are not relevant may trigger your ad (and check our your Search Query report for help as well) and make them negative keywords to stop leaking budget on people who are highly unlikely to buy anything from you.
Social media is an outstanding marketing tool for many companies. And still, for many marketers and business owners, it can feel like a time-suck, an annoyance, and a low-yield medium. The problem faced by companies is that neglecting social media doesn’t just mean missing out on Likes and Follows. It can also mean that you’re not there to keep your current customers engaged or stay aware of what some of your dissatisfied customers or other detractors are saying.
By having and maintaining a presence on the major platforms (FaceBook, Twitter, InstaGram, etc.), you centralize much of the discussion about your brand, whether the content is generated by you or by others. The comments, reviews, and messages you receive through each site can provide valuable insight into what’s bringing customers in and what’s turning them away.
On top of that, social platforms are becoming more and more like search engines in that they’re how users find your location, hours, products/services offered, and promotions. It is well worth it to have these profiles maintained and actively posting, and it’s a great job to give an intern or family member looking to help out with the business.
To circle back to my original point, marketing can be a full time job in most business, and you certainly don’t have 40+ hours as a small business owner to spend on it. But much like exercise, even if you can’t put in the ideal amount of time (or even come close, right?), some is better than none. And if you really just don’t have the time to spare at all, consider bringing in a part time employee or consultant to focus on it. Though you’ll spend money to do so, you’ll be wasting a lot less and most likely filling up your sales pipeline a little faster!