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Monday, February 28, 2011

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm not getting any calls!

For most businesses, their first reaction is “That media isn’t working for me.

” But let’s face it, “that” media has an audience or it wouldn’t exist.

So why isn’t that audience calling you?
  1. They don’t want what you’re offering;
  2. Your ad didn’t grab their attention;
  3. Your target customers aren’t part of that audience;
So the question becomes – is the answer to your problem to keep switching Medias? Or is it perhaps time to take a close look at what your ads are saying (or not saying)? And exactly who your customers are.

Let’s start with your customers. If you don’t know who your customers are, then you don’t stand a chance in selecting the right Media for your marketing.

I hear from different people all the time:
  • “I won’t even look at the Wheel because it’s negative; it’s full of mistakes and mis-quotes. I don’t like it.”
  • “I only read the Gazette because it’s a great read, local, fun, positive and interesting.”
  • “I’m not interested in the Gazette because it doesn’t cover any hard news.”
  • “I turn to the Wheel because that’s where I can get the real “newsy” news.”
  • “I love Facebook, it keeps me in touch with so many people, some I haven’t talked to in years.”
  • “I hate Facebook, it is such a complete waste of time.”
  • “I do all my research online, it’s the best way to get detailed information at my convenience.”
  • “I hate researching online, I can never find what I want, Google always gives me a bunch of crap results.”
  • “I love well-built business websites that provide me with the information I’m looking for.”
  • “I’ve given up looking at business' websites because they are so cluttered, I get lost looking for stuff and they’ve got so much flashy crap that it takes forever to load on my computer.”
  • “I love country music.” / “I hate country music.” / “Classic Rock is my favourite.”
  • “I can’t stand CJAY, their jokes are in bad taste.” / “Forbes is freakin’ hilarious.”
I could probably go on forever with thoughts and comments such as these. My point is, people are different. What one person loves another person will hate. In order to choose the best Media for your business, you absolutely MUST know your customer. Until you profile your customers you can’t even begin to hope that you’re advertising effectively. Instead of asking customers where they saw/heard your ads – try asking them what newspapers they read; what radio stations they listen to; are they low, moderate or high Internet users; do they like Facebook or other social media sites. This is the information that is going to tell you “where” you should be advertising. For sure it is possible that you’re going to get quite a mix, in fact I can almost guarantee it, but if you gather enough information from enough people you’re going to be able to come up with some statistics. 50% of your customers love Facebook, 10% never heard of it, 10% don’t care, 30% hate it. 50% of your customers read the Gazette, 20% read the Wheel, 20% read both, 10% don’t read either. Are you starting to see the kind of information these type of statistics can give you about how you should be handling your advertising/marketing? But remember, this example doesn’t mean that you would put half of your marketing budget into Facebook and half of it into the Gazette and that’s it. It simply indicates how much weight to put into each level of Media. Facebook is free (unless you choose to do some of their paid advertising, which is a viable option to consider), so for the most part, your Facebook (or other Social Media site) is primarily going to cost you time rather than money. A larger percentage of your customers are reading the Gazette, but some of them are also reading the Wheel – so divide your print advertising dollars on something like a 70/30 split, or 50/30/20 and include another publication.

Profiling your customers is the ONLY way to determine WHERE you should be advertising. Running an ad and then saying “It didn’t work, must be the Media.” Plain and simple, is wrong and if you choose to continue to think about your advertising that way, your advertising will never work for you successfully on a consistent basis. I do apologize if that comes across a bit bold and blunt – but it’s the truth and sometimes we need to hear that truth in its raw form (not all prettied up) for the realization to dawn.

So let’s assume that you’ve got the customer profile taken care of, you know where your customer media “hang-outs” are. But damn it, you’re still not getting the calls. This will be due to one of two factors: either your ads aren’t getting anyone’s attention, or nobody wants what you’re offering (badly enough). Some pretty strong statements again, but at the end of the day, despite the economy, people are still spending money. At this point in time perhaps they’re not spending as much as they were 3 years ago, but all that means is that you have to try a little bit harder to get your piece of the pie because the pie isn’t quite as big and thick as it used to be – but there is still a pie!

So how do you go about doing that? You need to take a hard look at what you’re offering to people and what you’re saying to them (or not saying). You need to find the right words and images that are going to grab their attention in the first place, then you need to find the right words to keep their attention and get them excited, then you need to give them a reason to take some action. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Come up with a catchy headline that will grab a person’s attention that possesses an emotion;
  2. Tie your headline into the “body” of your ad through the emotion you introduced in your headline;
  3. Close your ad with how your business will appeal to the emotion you’ve tapped into in steps 1 and 2.
You’ve also heard it described as “Start by giving them a problem, finish by being the solution to that problem.”

Once you’ve got a de-cluttered ad that is designed to get people’s attention, then you need to test and measure that ad. You must make sure that you are cross-marketing with the same message, presented consistently, that you are using appropriate tracking methods, that you give the ad enough exposure in enough places for long enough before you can make the decision of “this ad isn’t working”. If that is the outcome in the end, then you need to rework your message to something different then test and measure again. Like I said at the start of this article, existing Media’s have an audience – once you’ve determined where your customers hang out, your challenge becomes getting their attention. There is nothing wrong with the Media – you are simply either not getting their attention or are saying the wrong thing(s).

Monday, February 21, 2011

WHY you should advertise . . . #10

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

10. Advertise Maintain Employee Morale.

When advertising and promotion are suddenly cut or cancelled, salespeople may become alarmed and demoralized. They may start false rumours in an honest belief that your business is in trouble. Positive advertising boosts morale. It gives your staff strong additional support.

Happy Family Day Alberta!!!!

I hope you are all able to take a day to be with your loved ones.

They deserve it.... and so do you!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Plan, Cross-Market, Track … 1, 2, 3

For today I’m going to review the various information you’ve received over the last week and try to summarize it a bit.

Three key elements of your marketing should be:
  1. Plan
  2. Cross-Market
  3. Track
Advertising and marketing is one of THE most undervalued and emphasized components of most small businesses.  Lack of advertising/marketing is on many Top Ten lists of why small businesses fail. Of course it goes deeper than that and there are often very valid reasons why businesses don’t sufficiently advertise. The most common being a lack of funds another common reason being a lack of know-how.

But with a bit of effort, perhaps a bit of help and mixed with a bit of creativity, every small business can improve their marketing.

Planning - I recommend starting with an outline for the year, followed by a bit more detail for the next six months and then a complete breakdown, full detail and creation of your initiatives for the next three months.  There isn’t a whole lot of point in fully creating all of your marketing for the full year simply because things will change and then you’ve wasted time and possibly money.  However, leaving each piece of marketing to the last minute is also a bad idea as it simply won’t end up being as good as it could be if more time and thought had been put into it.  Allowing a month to get setup for each three month segment should be sufficient in most cases, however, do be heads up if you are planning to use something that may take a longer production time – like imprinted promotional products.  Order and book everything you need in advance so that when it comes time for implementation, you’re ready and waiting and can make it happen with very little effort. 

Here’s an example of outlining the year:
– Plan and create initiatives for April, May & June
– Plan and create initiatives for July, August & September
– Plan and create initiatives for October, November & December
– Plan and create initiatives for January, February & March

For your initial planning, keep doing whatever you have been doing during your first planning month – something is better than nothing, you don’t want to stop everything just so you can plan.

Now list out the key events/focus related to each particular quarter that either directly or indirectly relate to your business.

For example:
April, May & June
- Spring
- Easter
- May long-weekend
- Home clean up (spring clean)
- Auto seasonal checkup, tune-up etc
- Last stretch of school

Also note any annual sales or events that are already part of your business – perhaps your business’ anniversary is in June.
By outlining this for the year you stand a much better chance of being pre-prepared for important things to come rather than scrambling at the last minute to throw something together for something as important as your anniversary.

I’ll come back to detailing your plan in a future article - I’m almost at 600 words again!  lol

Cross-Market – At very least, aim for three different marketing methods, but better yet, try for six and just remember the more the merrier. Repetition and saturation are two very important elements in all marketing initiatives.  But smart marketing takes time and research to ensure you are getting the best possible deals with the most effective application.  When you’ve picked your methods, map them out in your plan with a timeline and topic/focus for each thing you do. 

Tracking – Focus your tracking on the bigger picture to start with and put more emphasis on tracking whole campaigns rather than individual initiatives – otherwise you’ll drive yourself nuts and inevitably arrive at the conclusion that this media or that media doesn’t work and all you’ll do is thwart your own marketing efforts resulting in no marketing working because you stop doing it.  Trust in numbers, trust in your customers and give everything you try a fighting chance to prove itself.  Most importantly, if you feel a particular campaign isn’t working, question your message/focus BEFORE you question your choice of media.  At the end of the day, EVERY form of media works for advertising/marketing – gimmicks that “don’t” work fade away never to be heard from again.  But methods that have been around for centuries, or even decades, still exist for a reason.

Remember, the point of your advertising/marketing is to increase traffic/inquiries.  NOT to directly and immediately increase “sales”.  If you’re receiving more phone calls or more visitors, then your advertising IS working.  If that increase is not resulting in an increase in sales, then something else is wrong – your advertising methods are not to blame.

WHY you should advertise . . . #9

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

9. Advertise to Keep a Healthy Positive Image.

In a competitive market, word-of-mouth can do you more harm than good. Rumours and bad news travel fast, very fast. Advertising provides an opportunity to correct misleading gossip and puncture "overstated" bad news. Advertising that is vigorous and positive can bring consumers into the marketplace, regardless of the economy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Failing to plan is planning to fail

One of the biggest mistakes that many small business owners make when trying to find new ways to market their business is to put all of their eggs in one basket. They will stop one, or worse, all forms of marketing in order to pursue another. A popular trend right now is to stop all print, radio and direct mail marketing to pursue a website and online presence.

For most small businesses, this is a very dangerous mistake.

Don’t get me wrong, having a website is unquestionably one of the most important marketing tools you can have for your business. However, with the options available out there, creating a website should never come at the complete and total financial sacrifice of all of your other marketing efforts. All marketing is a building block process – think Jenga – you remove a supporting block and the whole thing will come crashing down, leaving you to pick up the pieces and start again. Sound extreme? Several years ago a milk company decided that they were on top of the world and that they no longer needed to advertise, so they stopped. Twelve months later their sales were plummeting at a shocking speed. They immediately started to advertise again, but it was too late and it took eighteen months of advertising for them to recover and get their revenues back to where they were before they stopped advertising.

“Ok, I get that, but I’m not ‘stopping’ my advertising, I’m just changing how I’m advertising by getting a website setup.”


  1. How long is it going to take your website to be live and fully functional?
  2. How long is it going to take your website to show up in search engines?
  3. How long is it going to take to establish a network of back links?
  4. How long is it going to take for consumers that are in your market area to find out you have a website and to start using it?
  5. How are you going to let your market area consumers know that you have a website?
  6. What is the purpose of your website? (To attract new customers, to provide existing customers with better service, to be a more detailed online brochure, to expand your business beyond your local market…)

Yes, a website is important and I personally believe it is important to every single business in existence. BUT, the needs of each individual business are different and more importantly, the needs of each businesses’ customers are different.  If your business primarily caters to the more “non-technically inclined” customers and it requires personal appointments, chances are you don’t need a big fancy online store for your customers to “shop online”.  On the other hand, if your business caters to a more technologically savvy group you’d best have more than your address, contact information, hours and some photos, or you’ll lose ‘em in 30 seconds or less.

So it is very important that you understand who your customer’s are and what their needs are.  If people ask you questions about your business/services/products in any form, your website should have the answers. If you exclude information from your website because you’re afraid your competition will get their hands on it, then chances are your competition already has your share of the market (or is well on its way to getting it).  If you’re afraid to post information on your website because it might scare away your customers, you need to rethink what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you’re doing it.

You need to invest a lot of thought and planning into your website before you take the big jump to get one put together for you. If you don’t, then your journey of getting a website setup runs the very serious risk of being a hugely disappointing experience. But even worse than that, if you’ve also pulled all of your other advertising, your business is going to suffer, I can guarantee it.

Never lose sight of the goal – to increase sales and more importantly, to increase your bottom line. Marketing is your only “constant” in enabling that to happen. Cross-marketing regularly and consistently is the most effective means of reaching your goal.

Plan, Plan, Plan – this is absolutely key. 
  1. Figure out your timeline,
  2. decide on your marketing budget,
  3. choose your marketing methods (the more the better, IF you can sustain them financially and in your timetable),
  4. line up your marketing to get the maximum coverage and exposure for the best possible dollars based on these decisions,
  5. create, or get created, your chosen marketing materials – make sure they are interconnected into a “campaign”,
  6. track the success of your campaign, track the origins of your customers on a general scale and profile your customers continuously.
Test, Measure, Repeat.

Remember: Failing to plan is planning to fail.

WHY you should advertise . . . #8

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

8. Advertise Because There is Always Room for More.

If you're in business, you've got overhead to meet, wages to pay and yes, new people to reach. Advertising can generate customers now and in the future. “Building Blocks” – everything you do with your marketing today will impact your business tomorrow and the next day and the next after that. If you’re not advertising, your sales will decrease – not today, not tomorrow, but at some point in the future that will have you scratching your head saying “what happened?”

WHY you should advertise . . . #7

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

7. Advertise Because it Pays Off In the Long Haul

Gain the advantage in the long run over competitors who cut back or cancel advertising. A five year survey of more than 3,000 companies found Advertisers who maintain or expand advertising over a five year period see their sales increase an average of 100%. Companies that cut advertising, averaged sales decreases of 45%.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Linking it all together

  1. Pick your focus: 24-hour plumbing hotline
  2. Pick your duration: 3 month campaign
  3. Pick your headline: I came home and the dog was bald.
  4. Pick your image: a bald dog (go ahead, laugh, it’s ok! But think as well, what on earth do hippopotamus or chameleons have to do with phone services?)
  5. Tie your “message” into your headline “I’ve never been more surprised other than when I stepped out of bed at 2am into an inch of water.”
  6. Choose your publication(s) – based on geographical reach, cash out of pocket, value add-ons, best price per point of contact.
    1. Incorporate your headline and image
    2. Develop several versions of the “message” tie in
    3. Alternate between publications to increase your audience reach. Overlap in geographical regions is ok because of reader habits and frequency
  7. You want some print materials that you can use with customers in house (or onsite) AND mail out to specific areas;
    1. How’s about a greeting style card with your image of the bald dog on the front and your headline;
    2. Inside right “If you think that’s surprising, just think how surprised you’d be if you got up in the middle of the night and found yourself in an inch of water!”
      NOW WHAT?!
      We just want to let you know that we’ve got you covered with our 24-hour plumbing hotline…..
      But in the meantime, can you give me a call if you’ve got any suggestions on what I can do with a bald dog?!
    3. Inside left: A check-list of the things to check and when, to help prevent the inch of water scenario.
  8. So now, any thoughts on what the first thing people should see during this campaign when they go to the website? Hopefully you said a bald dog!  Along with “Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do with a bald dog?!” It’s got me stumped, but I sure know what you can do during a middle of the night crisis with your plumbing!
  9. Social Media is where you can have a lot of fun with this one. You keep your Facebook status or your Twitter Tweets short and sweet. Play with the bald dog situation.  Pre-plan a series of posts that lead from one to the other drawing on natural curiosity. The comments will likely get wildly out-of-control and so completely off-topic to your business and focus…. But that’s ok, because a) you’re gaining attention and interaction; b) you’ve got a plan in place that inches people towards your focus each day.  You’re creating a memorable experience for them that they will connect to your business.
  10. Blogging is where you have the opportunity to give back to your consumers. Stepping out of bed into an inch of water or coming home to a bald dog are not the only surprising scenarios that people could face that leave them unsure what the next step would be.  Plumbing is an integral part of any home. So take some time and put together some pieces that will offer some light humour of surprising situations followed by some great household tips to avoid emergency situations.  Tie as many of them as you can into plumbing, but they don’t all have to focus on plumbing.  The point is to give consumers something that they want to read, that will keep them coming back. It’s developing the habit, it’s setting you up as the expert and it’s putting you at the front of their mind when it comes to your industry.
When planning a campaign, don’t forget that you personally are going to be the one MOST exposed to your marketing and messages. So if it feels like it’s a bit repetitive or a bit over the top, look to your tracking to give you feed back by asking your customers how many different times they’ve seen one of your messages; ask them if they know what to do with a “bald dog” and see if there is any comprehension.  If your customers don’t know what your current marketing campaign is, then you’re not over doing it, it just feels that way to you simply because you personally are over exposed.

Add a time line of implementation to your campaign.  If you plan a 3 month campaign, that's roughly 12 weeks.  Budget your paid marketing methods to allow for consistent, regular exposure throughout the entire 12 weeks.  Set your campaign up to build on itself (building blocks remember).  In other words, don't give it all away in your first ad or in one major website update, or in one blog article.  Do you remember the initial campaigns for Barq's rootbeer (after Coca-Cola bought them out) before it was released to the public?  For weeks on end print, radio and TV were flooded with the message "Barq's has bite" - no one had any clue what it meant, what it was referring to or why they should care.  But they did care - they were curious and they wanted the mystery revealed.  Barq's is now one of the top selling soft drinks in the market.

WHY you should advertise . . . #6

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

6. Advertise To Increase Sales

Advertising works! Take a look at successful businesses; they are usually strong, steady advertisers. You'll find the most aggressive and consistent advertisers are often the most successful.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Marketing Methods Summary 2

So the three methods from yesterday approached offline methods.  Today's three methods tackle online marketing methods.  But don’t forget that the power behind each of method of marketing is in the support of all of them.
  1. Website Promotion – this is where I need to be really careful with my word count, I can probably pull four articles out of this topic alone, but for now let’s summarize with:
    1. unless you’ve got a huge budget, don’t attempt to obtain your dream website overnight, build it in stages, over time and work with a web designer who will work with your budget on a monthly basis and within your timelines;
    2. realize that in many cases it can take 3 months or more for your website to appear in search engines;
    3. do NOT pay for SEO (Search Engine Optimization);
    4. DO participate in link exchanges;
    5. keep your website address as short and simple as you possibly can;
    6. tell everyone and anyone that you come into contact with what your website address is;
    7. remember that you absolutely MUST also promote your website offline to help generate the traffic online.
  2. Social Media – yes, I’m referring to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc (the list is quite huge). It’s a much bigger tool than most people realize, but once again, it’s got to be done right in order to be effective. One of the first local businesses that I personally witnessed taking the right approach with Facebook was Stirr! in Black Diamond. One of the biggest keys with Social Media is don’t immediately try to use it as a direct sales tool – in other words don’t be too eager to ask for the “sale” without being the first to give.  One thing that Stirr! does that got my attention is that they post recipes for people to use, they also post various food related “Tips”.  So what I’m saying here, is look at your industry as well as your campaign focus and figure out what information you can give back to your customers. Give them something really useful and they’ll keep coming back – when they’re ready to buy, coming to you will already be a habit.
  3. Blogging – this one scares a lot of people, but – deep breath – it really shouldn’t.  Don’t think of blogging as “writing”, think of it as a transcript of the things you would say to people if you were chatting with them over a glass of wine.  For some people an easier way to start blogging is to get a tape recorder and “say” what you want to blog, then type up what you’ve recorded and bang – you’ve got it in writing! Focus on what you know and write it the way you would speak it – it’ll be easier for people to read, it’ll be more personal and it’ll be easier to write.

Now, to tie your marketing together it’s important to provide an anchor for the consumer.  Think Telus.  White background; crisp, clear logo; an animal; a song; a headline that gets your attention. Most of their ads don’t even include contact information. But every piece of marketing they do, whether it’s in a publication, a mail out, online, over the radio, etc, all of it ties together.  You don’t need a million dollar budget to put together that concept. It’s consistent yet they change it enough to keep it interesting and tied together.
So whatever headlines, images and message you are promoting offline need to be the focus of what you’re doing online. Don’t confuse your customers with a different focus every time they see something to do with your business. They’re more likely to think that you can’t decide what it is that you’re doing than they are to think “Wow these guys have a lot to offer.”
Tomorrow I’m going to have a bit of fun showing you a plan of action that demonstrates exactly how you can tie these six methods of marketing together.

WHY you should advertise . . . #5

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

5. Advertise To Generate Traffic.

Continuous traffic is the first step towards increasing sales and expanding your customer base. The more people who come to, or contact, your business, the more possibilities you have to make sales. According to an NRMA survey, for every 100 items that shoppers plan to buy, they make 30 unanticipated "in store" purchases.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Marketing Methods Summary 1

You may wonder if I’m somewhat biased on the methods of marketing I’ve chosen to discuss first, but let’s face it, my entire business is “marketing” – I have access to every service and product available in the world of marketing; I have relationships and affiliations that enable me to help a business with every aspect involved in marketing. I chose these particular methods simply because of their simplicity and economical benefits. You absolutely can sink a lot of dollars into a combined effort with these methods, however, you can also utilize this particular blend of marketing methods on a very limited budget.

  1. Print advertising – consistency is the first priority, regardless of where you choose to run your print ads, don’t make the mistake of ‘running one to see how it goes’ (a comment I hear frequently). To be perfectly honest, if you can’t afford to plan for a consistent campaign, don’t waste your money, one ad isn’t going to have any long term, noticeable impact for you.

    At the same time, keep in mind that “consistency” doesn’t have to mean “expensive”. You don’t need the biggest, flashiest ad in the most expensive publication to gain print media exposure.

    You need a message that will get your customers attention, placed somewhere they are likely to hang-out. (Finding out where your customers “hang-out”, in terms of media, is another tracking topic that I’ll come back to in another article.) Then, from the potential places your customers hang-out, price AND value shop.   One publication may offer a cheaper “cash-out-of-pocket” option, but your cost per household could be double or triple what another publications pricing would be because of total circulation.  Is your business better suited to a very specific demographic? Or do your customers come from all walks of life at all ages?

    Remember you are looking to “cross-market”, so find out if the publications you are considering provide current, online versions in addition to their print versions and are they free or subscription based? Do they offer other products that they’ll package for you? Find out if they offer value-add-on deals or come up with your own and ask them if they’ll do it. For example, you could always ask “If I run a certain size ad with you for a set duration, will you throw in a classified ad, or a business directory ad for the same time frame at no extra cost?” If you don’t ask, you don’t know.  Most businesses first ask “What discount can you give me?” but really, if you think about it, what has a stronger impact on your business promotion? Saving 10% on the price of your ad, or getting a free business directory listing so that you appear more than once to your customers in the same edition?
  2. Print materials – the trick here is to work with print materials that can have multiple uses, to be heads up on paper selection and don’t make assumptions. For example, through our suppliers our glossy business cards are actually less expensive than the matte cards, not what you would typically expect.

    Depending on your business you could have a brochure that also acts as an order form or an inspection form or maybe all three.

    In some cases sacrificing a little bit on the paper quality in order to print with a smaller company that will accommodate small batches of printing can be a benefit from two angles 1) less cash out of pocket for you; 2) you have the opportunity to make adjustments to your materials as you test them out with the market, rather than getting stuck with hundreds or thousands of something that really isn’t working for you.
  3. Targeted Direct Mail – Canada Post will allow you to break down your mail outs to cover Houses, Apartments, Farms and Businesses (or any combination of these four) as well as separating out specific postal codes. So before you jump in to do your mail out, research the areas you want to reach and be selective with where you are sending out to. If you’re not a B2B then there probably isn’t much point in paying the extra premium pricing that Canada Post charges to mail to the business addresses. The biggest key with Canada Post direct mail outs is to do your research. Most of the staff at Canada Post across the country are not trained in marketing, they are not equipped to provide you with sound marketing advice or even thorough knowledge of the regions you are looking into.

So now, how do you tie these components together in cross-marketing? Well, on the surface simply doing them simultaneously is technically “cross-marketing”, but it’s not “effective” cross-marketing.  To cross-market effectively you want to tie your marketing messages together so that they are all working towards the same goal. Another topic I will cover in more detail later is the focus of your message, but for now, suffice it to say “pick one focus”.

Too often businesses try to cover as much ground and information as they possible can all at once.  But look at it this way, this is the fourth email you have received from me with marketing articles, you have read over 2,500 words just in the main article portions.  If I had sent you over 2,500 words all at once would there have been as much chance that you would have read all of it? Probably not.  Your customers feel the same way when they see something about your business.  Don’t try to overwhelm them with everything all at once.  Plan specific campaigns, with a specific focus and tie all your marketing efforts together into that focus.  You don’t want to just hit them with it once, which is why cross-marketing is so effective. But you also don’t want to keep running the same thing indefinitely.  So each campaign needs to have a start and finish point.  Campaign marketing is also much easier track progress with – basically for the duration of the campaign, and for several months after the campaign, did your sales increase in your area of focus? (Watch for a future article on what to do if a specific campaign doesn't increase your sales.)

My apologies that this one was a bit on the longer side, it simply didn’t have a strong or logical break point to split it into two parts.  Tomorrow I’ve got a shorter summary on the other three methods and a nice piece on the full integration of all six methods.

Some interesting facts on newspapers:

There is no proof full page or double-truck ads are more effective than half page ads. The savings can be spent on a concurrent radio campaign or billboards.

Newspaper coupons will have a better rate of redemption with a radio chaser.

Less than half of  "main-stream" newspaper readers read the entire paper. Most are skimmers. How many times through the paper does it take for you to find your own ad?

More than half of "community based" newspaper are read in detail from cover to cover.

Newspapers are still a formidable advertising force. Find ways to continue to use the paper to increase store traffic, but do it with other advertising too, so the media mix is efficient. Don't let anyone tell you NOT to advertise in the paper. Just do it better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What is cross-marketing?

This may seem like a simple enough question, but there are many forms of cross-marketing that are easily overlooked.  Traditionally, cross-marketing was deemed to be the practice of the “big guys”. You were cross-marketing if you ran print, radio and TV campaigns simultaneously. Cross-marketing was, and sometimes still is, discouraged by some professionals unless you have a very large marketing budget to work with.  But these are often professionals who are only used to working with large budgets and can’t fathom that a business could possibly launch a successful marketing campaign without the big bucks.

In today’s world of business, however, this theory no longer need apply.  The biggest trick with cross-marketing is to not over-extend yourself and don’t start something you can’t finish.  Cross-marketing effectively, requires the development of a well thought out plan, followed by consistent implementation. Actually, this is true of any marketing, but when you are juggling multiple methods of marketing on a limited budget, being organized and having a plan is even more crucial.

So, how can you setup a cross-marketing plan that won’t break the bank?  With a wee bit of creativity and a little investment of time - that's how.  There are so many options available that it would be overwhelming to cover them all, and there is no way I would succeed in keeping that information to around 500 words!

So let's just have a look at a few of the areas you can work with for affordable cross-marketing.
  1. Print advertising (in publications)
  2. Print materials (brochures etc)
  3. Targeted direct mail
  4. Website promotion
  5. Social Media
  6. Blogging
Woohoo – isn’t that great!  Never heard those suggestions before I’ll bet!  Lol

Ok, but the real question is HOW can you use these tools? As I was afraid when I started on this article, things got way out of hand and I now have pages and pages of information to share with you. So let’s start out with an easy point to get you thinking.

With all of the above, the most important key is consistency – if you’re going to post an industry tip at 6pm daily to catch people just after supper, then make sure that you do it EVERYDAY at 6pm; if you’re going to blog, pick a time of day and/or a specific day of the week and schedule your blogs to post automatically always at the same time.  People are creatures of habit (whether we like it or not) and this is a situation where it is better to go with the flow than against the grain. Be consistent in your timing and in your message, remember, the point is cross-marketing, so make sure that when you plan each campaign, that all of the marketing you do is directly connected to the same topic/message. You can offer variations of the same message to keep it interesting and you can say the same thing in different ways. But if your goal is to increase calls to your “24-hour plumbing hotline”, then make sure that every message you are putting out there for a specific period of time draws the customer back to that point.

Tomorrow I will start to offer a summary of the types of marketing that I have listed above with some insights into each of the points. These certainly aren’t the only methods out there, but they’re a good place to get started.

WHY you should advertise . . .#4

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

4. Advertise Because Your Competition is Advertising.

There are only so many consumers in the market who are ready to buy at any one time. You need to advertise to keep your regular customers as well as counterbalance the advertising of your competition. You must advertise to keep your share of customers or you will lose them to the more aggressive competitors.

Don't get left behind wondering why your competitors are busier than you are.  Stay up to speed on what they are doing and make sure you are one step ahead of them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tracking from the beginning

So they say that the beginning is a very good place to start – so what the hell, let’s give it a shot!

The first thing I’d like to mention is that I fully understand that the form from my last article will NOT work for everyone. If you have a very busy retail outlet with lots of people crowding through at the same time, or if you handle large volumes of phone calls, etc, that particular tracking form isn’t going to be overly practical. So, a short cut for those of you in these situations is to simply rephrase a common question.

Don’t ask “How did you learn about my business.” Put simply, the answer to this question cannot be trusted.

Instead, unless you already “know” the answer, your first question should be “Is this your first time doing business with us?” If they say “no”, terrific, welcome them back and mark off on a sheet behind the counter/desk that they are a repeat customer. If they say “yes”, then the question you really want to ask is “Wonderful, did you hear about us from someone you know, or did you see one of our advertisements, or did you see our sign and decide to pop in?” This question gives you much stronger information to analyze. After religiously asking this question for a period of time, you are going to see numbers that will tell you what percentage of your customers are:
  1. Repeat business
  2. Referrals from other people
  3. Customers driven by your advertising/marketing
  4. Customers attracted by your location/signage

At the end of the day, all of your customers will fall into one of these categories. For most of you, chances are that the results of this exercise will actually surprise you. One week from today I’m going to send out a request to everyone here. My request will be to post a comment on my blog sharing what the percentages are for the four categories above. There is no “confidential” information divulged in percentages, but by having multiple businesses share this information it can be a huge help to other businesses who may be struggling with a certain category or it may offer a peace of mind that they are more in line with other businesses than they thought they were. I hope you’ll choose to participate.

So yes, this is the beginning. Why? Because until you understand what category your customers fall in to by percentages, how can you even begin to know what you need to track, test and measure? For that matter, how can you know what exactly you should be marketing? This is a much easier question to ask, it is a much easier question for the customers to answer and it is often more accurate. Most people can recall “generalities”… ie: “I remember someone told me about this place.” Or “I remember seeing some kind of ad, or hearing something.” But they often have a harder time remembering “who” told them or “where” they saw or heard something.

At the end of the week you should have the following information:

#    %   Repeat business
#    %   Referrals from other people
#    %   Customers driven by your advertising/marketing
#    %   Customers attracted by your location/signage

HINT: Keep a small sign near your cash register or phone to remind yourself and/or your staff what the two key questions are: 1) Is this your first time doing business with us?  If yes, then 2) “Wonderful, did you hear about us from someone you know, or did you see one of our advertisements, or did you see our sign and decide to pop in?”  It's also important to phrase this question in a way that is natural for each person asking it in order for it to flow and to actually get asked.

What this particular method of tracking won’t do for you is specifically tell you “which” of your ads are yielding the most results. But in reality, tracking is such a detailed, multi-level thing and can be extremely costly the more you break it down. Plus, if it isn’t done correctly it can return such erroneous results as to be useless. So don’t be in a hurry to get ahead of yourself. Take things one step at a time and watch the picture that develops, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you learn.

Tomorrow I’m going to take a break from discussing tracking, although a very valuable topic that more businesses should spend more time understanding, there are other aspects of your marketing that you can and should be working on while you’re getting your tracking working for you.

ps: if you ever need any of the forms or documents I link with my articles, or if you want a PDF version, you can get them through our website at this link:

WHY you should advertise . . .#3

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

3. Advertise to Remain With Shoppers Each Step of the Way.

Many people procrastinate on making buying decisions. They often comparison shop by going from store to store (or searching online) to find differences in prices, quality and service. As such, your advertising must reach them steadily through the entire decision-making process to ensure that your name is fresh in their minds when they ultimately decide to buy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More on simplified tracking

So, in the last entry I gave you a summary of a tracking sheet that you could print out and start using immediately.  Hopefully some of you have, but if not that’s ok, no time like the present.  Here’s the link again to get a copy:  Tracking - Where

For those of you who aren’t keen on customers being influenced by other customers’ checkmarks, another way to gather this information is to have a separate sheet for each customer and ask them to circle or highlight their answers. This method will use a lot more paper, however, it may also be more accurate and easier to use in a busy store. Here’s a sheet you can use for this method: Tracking - Where List

You can also let customers know that if they have already filled this out, they don’t need to do it again. That will help reduce duplicate information.

I realize that some of you are very keen to separate out specifically “which” of your advertising/marketing is working for you, which is why I started with this particular tracking sheet and information.  I strongly caution against putting too much emphasis on this, but if you are going to insist that you need this information then I can at least give you some pointers to help this tracking be more informative and useful.  Please remember, that in reality this really isn’t the place you should “start” – at least in terms of your analysis, but there is nothing wrong with gathering this information now and reviewing it, and then gathering the other information you also need before this information will fully make sense.

First you must realize that a percentage of your customers will incorrectly state where they saw your advertising or heard about your business.  We have first hand tested this and it is without question true.  So I took it a step further and did some additional research and sure enough, I came across several other experts who indicated the same problem.  So with all of your tracking, you must take it with a grain of salt and learn to read between the lines.

Once you have a decent amount of responses (the quantity is going to depend on your particular business, I would aim for at least 10% of your monthly traffic, but see what you get after a week), sit down and go through them. I’ve put together another form that you can use for your analysis.

Using the above form may seem daunting and a fair amount of work, but I guess the question you need to ask yourself would be “Is my business worth the effort?” Unfortunately, many businesses do not put the time, thought and effort in to their advertising and marketing.  This results in many businesses running blind on hope and prayer. Some get lucky, some don’t. Do you want to leave your success to chance?

From the information you gather in this form some of the questions that don’t get answered are:
  1. Are my customers getting different media’s confused? ie: calling the Gazette the Wheel
  2. Was it “where” my ad was or “what my ad said” that got my customers attention?
  3. How many times did my customer see my different messages or the same message before they took action?
  4. What other factors influenced their decision to do business with me?
  5. Why do I have methods of advertising/marketing that no one is checking off?
This is why this information is only one piece of the puzzle.

In my next article I am going to take you back to the beginning. By all means, start to gather the information for this more detailed form, you will need it for a full analysis, it is simply not the only information you need to gather.

Wow, these "short" articles are more challenging for me than pretty much any endeavor I've previously embarked on!  There is simply just too much to say on these topics and every point made has a spin off in another direction or another way of doing the same thing. *sigh*  :)  but I fully appreciate how busy each of you are, so I will continue to aim for "short"!

I'll be back again tomorrow!

ps: if you ever need any of the forms or documents I link through my emails, or if you want a PDF version, you can get them through our website at this link:

WHY you should advertise . . . #2

The key to any successful business, small or large, is advertising. Your potential clients need to be aware of your business and products. This is the KEY!

2. Advertise Continuously.

Shopper loyalty to specific businesses is not as prevalent as it once was. You must advertise to keep pace with your competition and to give your customers a reason to come to you. The National Retail Merchants Association states: "Mobility and non-loyalty are rampant. Stores must promote to get former customers to return and to also seek new ones.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Your tracking isn't working - even if you think it is....

I want to chat to you about tracking – some do it, some don’t and most that do, do it wrong. So it’s no wonder that most businesses are frustrated with their advertising and marketing. In order to market effectively you need to track the things you do so you know what’s working, but if you don’t do it right you’re wasting your time.

“No problem – I’ll ask my customers how they found me.”


Ouch, sorry, I’m not here to rain on your parade.  But I am here to let you know why this is wrong and how you can make it right.

First off, what are you really asking your customers with that question? What are you tracking? In reality, you are tracking nothing more than your customers recall ability and you’re asking them to name whatever Media that first comes to mind.  Unfortunately, your customers don’t care about your need to track your advertising – life would be much easier for us all if they did.

“But I don’t want to prompt them with the right answers, I want to know what Media stands out in their mind.”

Ok, again, what are you tracking there? Absolutely nothing at all to do with your business – but you’ll gather some terrific stats that I’m sure the Medias would appreciate getting their hands on.

No, if you want to track whether or not your advertising is working you need to layout the options and you need to do it very clean and simple. All you need is a piece of graph paper, or a printout from Excel, with a box to write the name of the Media or form of advertising and lots of small, empty boxes for customers to put a checkmark.  You head the form up with “Where have you seen my business” and you ask customers to put a check mark next to every single one that applies.  It’s quick and easy for the customer and it’s quick and easy for you to analyze.
Where have you seen my business
Gateway Gazette

 Western Wheel

 Etc, etc

Now there are a couple of tricks here.
1)   DON’T just include the places where you DO advertise – include as many as you can think of.  By doing this you eliminate the worry that you are “leading the witness”.  And just for kicks, make some up.
2)   I recommend placing them in alphabetical order by name and don’t identify what form of Media it may be – some will be obvious, but if the customer isn’t familiar with one of them, the name isn’t going to mean anything to them, which is ok.
3)   If you don’t get a lot of walk-in traffic for your business, keep this chart by the phone and ask each customer if they can take a quick moment to answer yes or no to the following list. In this instance I would recommend skipping over any fake ones you’ve made up simply for the sake of time.

Click here for an editable and printable template that you can start using today. I’ve already got you started with an extensive list that you can add to or remove from.

Since I’m on a mission to keep my articles as close to 500 words as possible these days, I’m going to leave it at that for today.  There is soooooo much more to say just on this little chart, but I’m already over 600 words! :-)   

So, go get this chart started – first and foremost you need to get it filled out. 

I’ll be back soon to tell you how to analyze it and use it.

~ Planning – a nutritious part of your healthy marketing efforts. ~