I’m on a mission here today, to encourage new business start ups or those starting a business from home to look at your bottom line, to pull in your belt and make that bottom look bigger! Learning to use your marketing budget more wisely when cash-flow is tight means that you will be making a trade off, of paying less in income and more in time advertising with no-cost advertising strategies.
I get people just starting out contact me for advice about how to promote themselves with little or no money to spend on advertising. I think people are often confused because they see advertising off line every day and have been brought up on a diet of bill-boards, magazine advertising, glossy brochures through the door and when they switch on their computers, they are now feeling over-whelmed with the clever targetted advertising in their email accounts, their social media platforms and not least on the search engines.
It is hard to know where to start for a business newbie. Lately, I’ve been thinking about paper based publications marketing and advertising and I wanted to share what I’ve found, about how to make your bottom line expand with some simple strategies that will help make the most of your advertising and help to keep it low or even no cost!
If you are paying for advertising already, or plan to in the future, the following also offers some basics on assessing what works and what doesn’t in advertising methods and what this can mean for your profits and advertising ROI.
Dried Mud Shows the Cracks
First off, stop any advertising that isn’t working! Obvious, right? Seriously, you would be amazed at how many business people run ads just because that’s what their business has always done, or because it’s what their competitors do. Shockingly, they don’t even really know whether the ads are working, because they never thought through why they were doing it, who they were targeting, let alone set up any results tracking, or really comparing their competitors’ strategies. It’s that old: “throw it at the wall often enough, some of it will stick” time and money wasting philosophy handed down from way back when…
If you want your bottom line to get bigger, then seriously, do not bother buying the ‘easiest cuts’, just because the guy selling ad space in a household name telephone directory, that has been around since you were knee high to a grasshopper just called you to tell you about their latest deal. Chances are the big boys are still building their experience of online advertising and to be honest, they are more concerned with numbers, rather than quality service delivery, because that is the business model they were built on.
If you are paying for entry into a local telephone directory, do not assume that for a little extra cash, their one page templated web-site will do your business any favours. It might work for some industries, but if you really want a showcase for your work, you might need an online brochure, NOT a post-card! Talk to friends about how they have set up their own websites and start doing that TODAY and commit to learning how to make it work, or outsource it, but make sure you OWN the domain and content when you do.
When Analysis Takes You Beyond Paralysis
Secondly, you won’t know whether the ads are working unless you test and measure all of your advertising. This is so important . So many businesses allocate a certain amount of money to an advertising budget, spend the money every year, with only a vague sense of whether the ads are working or not. This is not a good profit building practice! Habitual advertising without analysis of results, perhaps also shows a complete lack of understanding of this vital sales and lead generation strategy.
Do not beat yourself up over this common mistake; you are not expected to be an advertising guru, when your special skill is installing solar panels or pet-grooming and care! Many business owners are so caught up in the daily running of their business, they put faith in so-called professionals, who are often call-centre workers, chasing a commission and could not care less if your business succeeds or fails. The owner of the advertising business might care, but your daily oppo is another creature altogether.
Advertising is often trial and error; what works for one industry might not for another. If ad campaigns, such as Pey Per Click, are not working, use some other marketing strategies that can bring you a bigger return on your investments. Consider Free Ads to test your key words and find out what attracts your ideal customer. The time spent here, running split tests, where wording or order of messages are slightly different might make all the difference in hits by new customers, when having the budget for paid search advertising. A bigger ROI on your bottom line looks good from any angle; just put in the work to testing or out-source this work to someone on Fiver.com, for instance!
Live and Direct Response
Thirdly, only run ads that are going to get a response. This is known as ‘direct response advertising’. The other form of advertising is brand advertising. (This is designed to build and sustain awareness of a brand. Yes, of course your brand is important too as a small business owner…. but this is another marketing article for another day…). The point is focus on where you get the greatest impact for the least effort or budget.
Learn to earn like advertising-savvy online marketers who only pay for ads that produce a profitable response. For instance, in Pay Per Click campaigns, knowing what your conversion rates and your Cost Per Click is, tells you where to draw the line. You can work out the cost of generating a new customer, then think about the average sale revenue generated, to see if it is worth your investment. This is not always straight forward, but these are crucial cost management tools. For some small business owners, this level of analysis is out of their comfort zone. The trouble is that not being interested in this aspect of your business, can ultimately leave you demotivated as you watch your business ‘muddle along’ at best, or worse still…struggle, whilst your competitors seem to be steaming ahead.
Learn Techniques To Earn From Advertising
Your business marketing strategy is a whole skill set in itself which requires your commitment of observation, study-time and active willingness to learn. Do you (or your marketing team if you have any) know, for instance, what the cost of a sale conversion from your advertising campaign is? Who are responding to which ads? How many are buying? How is this reflected in overall costs of campaigns and product prices? If you cannot answer these questions, chances are you are losing money.
Sometimes, business people are so caught up in all other operational considerations, taking time to really analyse the success of their ‘sales lube’ gets left behind. Are you trotting out tired campaigns for convenience because of tight deadlines with other day to day, ‘bread and butter’ work? Putting in some appraisal time can really pay off. One small tweak in any off or online ad campaign can even have exponential results.
For instance, the KEY element in any pay per click advertising is the headline – the first words of your ad. Obvious, right? Sadly, not to all it seems… Focus on what you have to offer to grab peoples’ attention in the few seconds you have before they click away – use an attention grabbing message to distract them from whatever else they might otherwise be doing? You have SECONDS to do this online; it is a very immediate medium, full of seekers after immediate gratification.
Remember, you are potentially building a relationship with new customers here; first impressions count, especially online. Research says you have literally seconds to even start that process! One simple tweak to your headline can really increase your response rate. TIP: If the headline of your ad is currently the name of your company, you can almost certainly increase your ad response rate by replacing the ‘Me! Me! Me! approach to a compelling offer or an amusing or intriguing few words which appeal to your customer, who may not even know you yet. Who really cares who you are until you have built a lasting trusting relationship?! The public are tuned into W.I.F.M. daily; i.e. What’s In It For Me? Put yourself in their shoes and ask what they are looking for. Even if it’s just entertainment they are after, offer salesmanship!
The body of your ad should be a personal communication to the individual reading it. It needs to be about them and speak to that one person you are going out there in the wild west of the online world to find. It needs to address their needs, desires and fears AND it needs to constantly communicate the BENEFITS of what you are offering, not just the qualities, or features of your product(s) and service.
At the end of the ad you need a call to action. Tell people exactly what they need to do to take the next step towards you and make it easy for them to do so. If there is a bonus of some kind on offer, remind them. If you have a time-limited offer, make it obvious what the benefits are of acting NOW and what they will miss out on if they don’t act on your information!
Some other basics of the marketing masters include: Don’t advertise on a left hand page e.g. in magazines or newsletters. This has been proved over and again. When we read any publication, our eyes are drawn to the right hand side of the page. It makes sense then, that more people will see your ad if it’s on the right hand page. However, on any single page, our eyes alight on the top left and move to the right, hence the placement of sponsored ads on Google, for instance – not random, people!
Bargain hunters, remember, we are in a recession and advertisers need your business. So, NEVER pay the full rate you get quoted for ad space. You can always negotiate advertising space prices. If this is something you are not comfortable with, get some practice in with someone you trust to play hard-ball with you. If you’re a small business, be aware that large companies who use ad agencies are buying based on the readership or audience numbers, rather than the ‘rates chargeable’. Haggle and negotiate; you are not expected to be treated the same as the big boys and your custom is just as important in tough times. Think about it, paying, 20% less for your advertising can turn an unprofitable ad campaign into a really lucrative one.
Whilst still on the subject of advertising presence in publications, don’t think that just because your competitors are there, that you need to be too! Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your competitors are there because their ads are producing great results. Chances are, they are only there because their competitors are and the funny thing is that many won’t even know if their ads are getting results anyway, because they don’t really bother to measure results either! This is a mistake commonly made by newbies who are still looking around for marketing role models… I know this because I’ve done it!
Consider non-traditional advertising media to complement e.g. magazine advertising. So many businesses waste money on unproductive, restrictive advertising outlets. Other marketing strategies might be more profitable, especially if your budget permits, used jointly to underpin or mutually strengthen each other’s message with targeted audiences: Direct Mail, Telesales Marketing, Direct Sales, Email Newsletters, Internet, Referrals, Strategic Alliances, etc. The possibilities for a good marketing mix are as successful as the planning and execution you put in.
Knowing what works, above all, is the result of your actively testing and experimenting over time. This takes patience, planning time and strategic focus. The good news is it gets to be fun when you start to see the results of tightening up on your methods as you look back over the year and can link upticks in revenue to tweaks in advertising campaigns. More importantly still, advertising can become a highly profitable part of your marketing tool box when you get it right and immensely satisfying when you know that your expansive bottom line is directly resulting form feeding your campaign properly.
If you are looking to learn more about marketing effectively and have time or money to invest, I recommend checking out YouTube videos and Ehow to get you started. Think about who is going to be in charge of your campaigns and get them on board; if your ventures into advertising are still new, make sure that the type(S) of advertising you choose suit their personal styles and current time commitments, as much as your budget.
What you have to ask is whether you are happy to keep losing money from your tight profit margins, or if you would rather expend some time and energy for a while to build that healthy bottom line. The bigger the better as you get older, I think…