Could your marketing strategy benefit from an outside audit?

Drew’s note ~ Here’s some practical advice from the folks at Simple Machines Marketing and we couldn’t agree more.  We often start our engagements with new clients with an audit like Charlie describes:

As a marketing strategist who works directly with clients, I’m very familiar with the frustration businesses feel when it comes to marketing. The common theme in a lot of the frustration has to do with uncertainty. When a client is responsible for making projections and they’re forced to deal with the probabilities and estimates of a new marketing channel, that’s frustrating.

The fact is that even businesses with a healthy revenue stream and an active marketing operation are often frustrated by uncertainties in marketing. Is there still a good amount of revenue out there that could be claimed with a sharper strategy? If you doubled down on your advertising budget, would that mean doubling your profits? Or, could you be spending less and seeing the same results? Maybe everything is perfect the way it is now?

The Objectivity Problem

Assessing your own marketing plan is trickier than it sounds. While you might think that you’re looking at your strategy objectively, there are factors that make this extremely difficult.

For example, there’s a strong tendency to do things the way they’ve been done before—it’s just human nature.  We’re already comfortable doing things a certain way, and who’s to say that changing them now will make much of a difference? Plus, there’s the person who came up with this plan, and we don’t want to make her feel bad by changing it up for no good reason, right?

An Unbiased Perspective

With an outside marketing audit, businesses can benefit from a totally unbiased perspective on their marketing opportunities—free of any favoritism, precedent, or attachment that might be obscuring a clear picture of the situation.

To illustrate how the audit can play out, I thought I would share a couple of my own experiences with this process:

  • AdWords Overspending. Last year, we started working with a client who had already been advertising using Google’s AdWords for several months. They were spending a lot of money on all kinds of clicks; to them, that was a normal and predictable amount to spend every month. When we performed an audit of their PPC campaign, we discovered that by focusing on more targeted keywords and revisiting the copy, we could significantly lower their CPC and spend level while driving more targeted traffic at a higher conversion rate. The surplus budget from AdWords was recently put towards a telemarketing test – which has turned out to be a promising new lead generator.
  • In-store Marketing Overload: A different client recently asked a couple of us come out and visit his store for our marketing kickoff meeting. When we walked in the door, we noticed something right away: there was way too much in-store marketing. His store was crowded with signs, posters and displays—so many things all competing for our attention that we didn’t know where to look. When we brought this up to him, he told us that these advertisements had all been added gradually by his vendors; for him, the sensory overload wasn’t something he ever really noticed or thought about. An outside audit helped him to realize that in order for any of these advertisements to be effective, he needed to slim things down a lot.

These are just a couple examples, but they both illustrate why the marketing audit is a powerful and time-tested tool. Whether it’s your brand, your marketing channels, your ad budget, or the number of signs in your store, an audit can ensure that your plan is on the right track and that you’re not missing opportunities to improve.

Has your business ever had an outside audit? What was the result?

Charlie Nadler is the Marketing Strategist for Simple Machines Marketing, a Chicago marketing firm. Simple Machines works with a variety of small businesses in their area.

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The magic is in the media mix

The other day I got a direct mail solicitation from Google.  Yes, that Google.

It was a good reminder me (and now to you too) that none of us can afford to get lazy when it comes to media mix.

If the King of Online recognizes the power of a printed piece, then we should probably pay attention too.

We know that people need to hear our message on average 8-13 times before they even notice we’re talking to them. But, in this age of being fascinated with all things digital — we need to remember to keep focused on creating a media mix — and that means adding some offline efforts into your overall marketing plan.

In fact, some are arguing that the hottest “new media” in terms of performance is direct mail.  We’ve all rushed away from printing anything.  Which means the mailbox is a lot less cluttered than an email inbox these days.

Best of all, by mixing your media, you can use one to point to the other.  Your direct mail can drive traffic to your website.  Your blog or FB page can encourage people to request a product sheet or attend a meet up at a trade show.  (Oh…you’d forgotten that face to face is a media too, didn’t you?)

As you plan your next campaign, consider these “old school” off line tactics and see how you can blend them into your media mix — and connect them to your shiny new digital efforts.

  • PR placed article in a trade pub — driving online trials
  • Face to face meetings that result from an email invite
  • Direct mail, driving them to an online video
  • Voicemail message, inviting them to a webinar
  • Radio spots inviting listeners to download a podcast
  • Hard copy white paper/article which introduces them to your online library of content

I’m not suggesting that you always need to cross promote between on and offline.  I just wanted to show you what’s possible.  And how going old school with your media mix should be part of your plan.  I don’t care how hip and cool what you sell may be.

 

 

 

 

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Have you built a marketing megaphone?

I spent a few days in Vegas recently and the 24/7 chaos was overwhelming. It’s pure overload for all your senses – tons of people everywhere, driving billboards, TVs in the restrooms, a wide array of smells, and a cacophony of sounds at full volume.

It’s a little like how we’re assaulted by marketing messages every day. Over 5,000 messages a day – aimed at all of our senses, pretty much 24/7.

As consumers — it feels like an attack we have to guard against.  As marketers — it’s like a mountain we have to scale.

But somehow our message needs to fight its way to the top and actually be heard. How do we make that happen?

We need a marketing megaphone. (Download 8.5 x 11 version by clicking here) Something that amplifies our message so it gets right where it needs to be.

But that megaphone has to be built in the right order and contain the right elements.  Otherwise, it’s just more noise.

Here’s how to construct a marketing megaphone that actually works.

It starts with you: To break through the clutter – you need to be crystal clear about your core messaging. You need to completely understand how you’re different from your competitors, why you matter to your customers and how you can improve their world.

Imagine your voice in the din of over 5,000 messages. You’re whispering and counting on the next layers in the marketing megaphone to magnify your message. So it sure better be the exact right words/sentiment.

Once you know yourself, you need a plan: Marketing doesn’t happen by accident. You need a clear-cut vision for how you’re going to get out the word. Over 90% of businesses operate without a marketing plan and yet they wonder why they have to work so hard for new sales.

A marketing plan eliminates stutter (you hurry up to market when you’re slow and then stop when you get busy, losing all momentum along the way) or inconsistent marketing.

Your inside advantage: One of the most costly mistakes made by companies is that they forget how vital their employees are to their marketing efforts. A team that’s left in the dark can’t possibly help amp up your message. In most cases, they have the contact with your customers and prospects. So why wouldn’t you want them to be completely plugged into your core messaging and your marketing plan for spreading the word?

Be worth bragging about: Another way to turn up the volume in your marketing megaphone is to give your current customers something to talk about. If you delight them or are the kind of organization they’re proud to be associated with – they’ll shout it to the world via their social networks, their in person networks and through referrals.

All too often, we forget to romance them once we actually get the sale. But, by making them feel wanted and special – you not only create recurring revenue at a lower cost of acquisition but you create a legion of cheerleaders, all out there, putting some oomph into that megaphone.

The exact right prospects: One of the key benefits of truly understanding your brand is that you learn who your perfect customers are. You will identify who really needs what you offer and who would be elated to buy it from you. When you have a profile of exactly who that is – you can aim your marketing megaphone right at their ear and not worry about the rest of the world.

Getting heard isn’t easy but with the help of a properly built megaphone, your message can rise above the din and get to the right audience every time.

Want a full-sized jpg for your own? Click here to download one.

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Let’s talk business, social and joy!

I’m fortunate that I am invited to guest blog in some of the most prominent and cool spots on the web.

Every once in awhile, those opportunities converge and it’s raining Drew‘s thinking everywhere you turn.

Come join in these conversations around the web:

Marketing Profs Daily Fix: In this post, I suggest that many business owners would be smart to think differently about how size matters.  By staying focused on your organization’s sweet spot — you can actually get smaller while your profits, reputation and opportunities get bigger.

Come read what I had to say and join in the conversation by clicking here.

Marketing Executive’s Networking Group’s Blend: In the social media space, we sure seem fascinated with toy talk.  Pinterest is our latest obsession.  But we often lose sight of the most important social media tool of all.  Do you have it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Click here to read/share.

IowaBiz:  Some companies just exude a cultural joy that makes you want to do business with them.  And guess what — that doesn’t come from some company manual or marketing plan.  It comes from letting the employees share their genuine joy.

Come see a very real example of this sort of joy and tell us where else you’ve see it by clicking here.

I’d love it if you wanted to jump into any or all of these conversations!

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The 5 things that will derail your marketing in 2012

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but the truth is — most organizations’ marketing efforts stink.  And they stink for reasons well within the marketing department’s control.

If you’re worried that your own efforts might fall short — beware of these five danger zones that can derail you in a blink!

Inconsistency:  Does your monthly newsletter go out 5 times a year?  Does your copy tone/style fluctuate between somber and casual?  Are your weekly sales calls happening every week?

Inconsistency not only waters down your results but it also waters down your brand. If you can’t get your newsletter out on time — why in the world would I, a prospective customer, think you can deliver what you want to sell me on time?

Not having a plan:  One contributing factor to inconsistency is the wishy washiness that comes from winging it.  Without a document that maps out where you are going…in the rush of the day, you end up on detours you never intended.  Or worse, you end up on the sidelines trying to figure out your next move, rather than moving forward.

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be a leather bound edition, but it does need to be in writing and it needs to be something you reference at your weekly/regular marketing meetings.

Trying to do too much:  I want to hear a collective sigh of relief as you read this.  You simply cannot do it all.  So stop trying.  You are far better off to do a few things consistently and well, than try to manage too many marketing tactics.

The average sized organization can only successfully produce and monitor a handful of initiatives at once.  So plan it out carefully so you can deliver consistency and quality.  Every time.  That will be far more impressive than doing more every once in awhile.

Not matching your budget with your appetite:  I see this happen all the time.  A big company is stingy with their marketing dollars and does so little, they don’t even show up on the radar screen.  Or the flip side — a small company saves up all their pennies and launches a huge splash but can only sustain it for 60 days and then goes quiet.

Marketing is for the long haul.  You need to know you can sustain your efforts or their effect will be fleeting.

You.  Yup, I said it.  You’re actually the biggest risk to the marketing efforts.  Why? Because you know when you’re doing something that isn’t going to work.  You know what you can and can’t pull off.  You know that you talk about yourself too and don’t talk with the audience  about the stuff they care about enough. You know you should spend/do more and be more consistent.  Maybe you even know you can’t do it by yourself but you’re too cheap to hire some help (either staff or an agency).

So what are you going to do to get out of your own way?

What do you think?  Would you have a different set of obstacles?  Want to add any to my list?

Stock photograph courtesy of Big Stock Photo

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How much should you spend on marketing?

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How much should you spend on marketing?

I know I need to do some marketing but how much should I spend?  How much do other companies my size spend?

This is probably one of the most asked questions of marketing agencies and consultants.  If you google the phrase, there are 17+ million results.  And yet, we keep asking.  So let me see if I can drill down to the heart of it.

One of the reasons why it’s on everyone’s mind is because there is no magic answer.  No one solution.

Before we get into the methods of determining a right answer, let’s be very clear about these two points:

1) The exact amount matters less than having an amount.  In other words, having and tracking a marketing budget, even if your initial number is off, is much more important than getting the number exactly right.

2) You can have the right budget and spend it on the wrong things.  A marketing plan should always be tied to a strategic marketing budget.

Now, let’s tackle the question.  Here are some of the more effective ways to set a marketing budget:

Percentage of gross sales/revenue:

This is probably the simplest method.  Most experts recommend somewhere in the range of 2-8% of gross sales.  McKinsey & Company is often quoted at 5%.

Most small businesses (less than $5 million gross revenue) should shoot for at least 7-8%.

Industry-specific:

Many industries have their own standard.  For example:

  • Consumer package goods:  Up to 50% of projected net sales to launch a new product
  • Industrial B-to-B:  1% of gross sales
  • Retail:  4-10% of net revenues
  • Banks/Credit Unions:  2-5% of assets
  • Law firms:  1-4% of gross revenues
  • Pharmaceuticals:  Up to 20% of net sales
  • Hospitals:  1% of net revenues

Lifetime value of customer:

The idea is simple. You identify how much profit (on average) you make during the lifetime of that customer relationship and determine how much you are willing to invest per customer acquisition.  If you choose this method be very careful that your numbers are accurate.

Goals/Plan driven:

The thinking behind this method is really a blend of some of the others.  Identify measurable goals (# of new clients, % of revenue increase, etc) and then determine your sales equation.

For example:  For every 100 prospects approached, you get 25 initial meetings.  From those 25 meetings, you can expect to get 12 invitations to present a proposal.  From 12 proposals, you will score 4 new clients.  If your goal is 20 new clients, you now know that you need to approach 500 qualified prospects.  You build your marketing plan to accomplish that and assign the costs accordingly.

Again, this method requires very accurate numbers to make the equations viable.

So what do you think?  Which method do you currently use?  If you don’t have a marketing budget, which method do you think would serve you best?

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