Many small business owners and entrepreneurs play around with marketing plans and tools, but few of them meet expectations and even fewer exceed them. So, let’s consider three critical questions that will help you position your marketing on the positive side of the ‘Sucks Continuum,’ which ranges from ‘Doesn’t suck at all, thank you very much,’ all the way to ‘Sucks so bad, I’m really embarrassed!’
• RELATED: The four biggest marketing mistakes you’re making as a business owner.
Question No. 1: How well does your marketing program meet defined objectives?
In order to answer this first question, you might need to consider some follow-up questions: Did your current plan or specific tools meet the metrics you set up for them at the onset? How did they relate to your definition of success? Did you get a positive ROI?
Tip: You know your marketing sucks if it didn’t produce a positive ROI, it and sucks really bad if you didn’t have any metrics to measure and evaluate success to begin with.
To help improve your marketing, you need to clearly redefine SMART goals going forward. They need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. So, think in terms of numbers:
• How many initial inquiries or site visits do you want to achieve?
• How many actual phone, in-person or email conversations should result?
• How many proposals or serious buying discussions?
• How many actual sales?
• What’s your ROI—ratio of new business revenue and profit generated (yes, they’re different numbers) to marketing program costs?
• Did you get any survey or anecdotal customer feedback about the campaign?
Question No. 2: How well do your marketing messages communicate in a customer-centric manner?
And again, the follow-up questions: Did you communicate with prospects and customers the way they like to be communicated with? Did you use their language, not yours? Did you sound like a real person who has value and cares about their needs? Were you customer-centric?
Tip: You know your marketing sucks if you weren’t communicating in a customer-centric manner, and it really sucks if you have no clue what that means.
So, go where they are. Here’s how.
• Don’t baffle them with acronyms or buzz words.
• Use words they understand in a syntax that makes you sound authentic.
• Don’t try to impress them with your lofty vocabulary. Impress them with your clarity.
• Use the Q&A format—sound like you’re responding to questions they have, or should have, about their needs and your products or services. That’s where ‘FAQs’ came from.
• Regularly let them know when you achieve a milestone, earn an award or are featured in the local—or national—media. Make it sound like you assume they all really care about you and your business. Some of them actually do. More will when you give them good reasons to care.
Question No. 3: How well does your marketing program reward customer loyalty?
Follow-up: Do you constantly seek new customers, but make existing ones still feel special? Once you ‘get them in the tent,’ what do you do to keep them there? How much time, effort and money do you spend trying to get new business from existing customers rather than trying to get new customers? Do your customer loyalty and referral programs create positive results?
• RELATED: The easy way to earn repeat and referral business.
Tip: You know your marketing sucks if you spend more time, effort and money trying to get new customers than maximizing value from existing customers, and it really sucks if you don’t have a customer loyalty or referral program.
So, embrace the time-honored marketing concept that it’s 10 times easier, faster and cheaper to get new business from existing customers than it is to get new customers. Here’s how.
• Create simple customer loyalty programs with quick rewards that give them a reason to buy from you again and again rather than from the competition.
• Find ways to reward customers for referring their friends or colleagues. Depending on your industry, consider tangible gifts, coupons for money off, freebies and even donations to non-profits.
• Analyze your customer base to determine VIPs to be rewarded differently. Think frequent flyer programs with their various tiers of rewards.
• Periodically talk to your existing customers about ways to improve your products or services. With small customer bases, call them. With larger groups, try targeted emails or a percentage each week or month.
• Consider invitation-only customer appreciation sales or events.
• You may give away cool logo SWAG at trade shows to get new customers, so why not periodically send cool stuff to your customers, especially your VIPs?
These questions should help you assess how much your marketing sucks. That’s the easy part. Putting the best practices referenced in the answers to work for your business is the hard part. So, start small and simple. Try a few strategies and evaluate the results. Network with colleagues to learn what they do. Regularly incorporate new strategies with proven worth. Keep striving to move your overall marketing as far to the positive side on the ‘Sucks Continuum’ as you can. Your bottom line will tell you how well you’re doing.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.