How to Market Your Business Now

How to market your business nowIn my last article, The Internet: The Great Disruptor, I explained that the Internet brought a lot of turmoil and upheaval for every industry and business. It made many businesses and products obsolete. It changed the way things have always been done (e.g.Tesla). It even created the ability for new businesses, like Uber and Lyft, to come in and completely upset and undercut the established taxi and limousine services across the world. Especially in countries like the U.K. and France, where they have strict guidelines, certification processes, and laws governing these businesses.

In this article, I’m going to continue with what appears to be pessimistic overtones. The reason is, I want you to see the reality of the situation so you can understand the true context within which your business lives and operates. By the end of this article, you will have gleaned an overview of what you need to do to market your business now. While this article may seem pessimistic, in fact it’s realistic, and designed to allow you to see how business is changing at a meta-level.

The Internet has changed everything

The Internet has had a profound impact on society, and entire cultures as a whole. For businesses, this new media, with a mind-numbing array of channels, has changed how a business markets their business.

Ten years ago, and if you wanted to automate your business using an ERP or CRM system it would cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Now, using software as a service (SaaS) tools you can lease the same functionality on a month-to-month basis for less than $50.

SEO Is Dead. Long Live SEO!

When the Internet first started taking off there wasn’t an easy way to find websites. Users had to install their own search engines on their personal computers, which were called gophers and ferrets. The first web-based search engines, called spiders, scoured the web for you and gave you a list of results that it deemed worthy and relevant to your search.

It wasn’t long before website owners realized that in order to get traffic to their websites they would need to be on the first page of the search engines, and search engine optimization was born. The problem was that the early search engines were easily tricked into placing a website on the first page of results. That’s why Google was an instant success. Google used inbound links as a major factor in ranking websites. That made the search results much more relevant, and you no longer had to sift through results to find what you wanted.

Unfortunately, search has become a big business. In order to satisfy the shareholders, Google had to figure out a way to monetize their search engine. That means ads. But what business would place an ad if they were already in the top five search results?

So Google began making it harder and harder for businesses, and the search engine marketers they hire, to get on the first page of Google’s search results. Now, while it depends upon the keyword you’re trying to rank for, and the competition that is also trying to rank for the same keyword, it’s almost impossible to rank for hundreds of thousands of popular keywords. In fact, the only way to rank well on most keywords is to have a website with a lot of remarkable, high-quality content that naturally gets links from other websites.

The problem with that scenario is it’s a Catch-22. Who will see your remarkable, high-quality content and link to you when you won’t be listed on Google until you have incoming links from other websites? Also, most businesses are too busy doing business to develop and produce high volumes of content.

The Rise of Content and Inbound Marketing

Google is smart.

Google has forced businesses to become publishers of content in order to get visibility on their search engine. That means that search engine optimization has moved away from simple on page optimization and link building, to content creation and promotion. This new style of influencing Google, is known as either content marketing, or inbound marketing.

If you are lucky enough to be in the top three organic listings on Google for your keywords, you will get a lot of free traffic to your website. However, there is a lot of work, and a significant investment of resources required to produce content and promote it in order to be ranked in the top three on Google.

By making it more complex, and more difficult to rank on the first page of Google in the organic (free) listings, Google has required that you invest heavily in marketing in order to ensure the success of your business.

Why?

Think about it. You can hire a team of content developers to create and promote content so your business might rise to the first page in Google’s search results over the course of a year, or you can simply purchase an ad and be on the first page of Google today. When you compare the costs, it is much, much less expensive just to place ads.

Google knows this. They designed it … for their benefit.

Enter, Social Media

It’s lucky that social media rose to prominence alongside the changes Google made to its search algorithm, because all of the webmasters who relied on free, or inexpensive methods of driving traffic simply redirected their focus to it.

They invested thousands of hours into social media platforms like Facebook, and Twitter, hoping to capture the attention of the mass market. The problem, however, is social media is driven by virality. Water pumps, air filters, sprockets, printing equipment, professional services, plumbing, and a host of other businesses don’t have any intrinsic appeal to the mass market.

What does? What Kim Kardashian wore to an event today. Grumpy cat. Three ways to get a member of the opposite sex to notice you. How to make $1 million without leaving your couch. In other words, fluff and B.S.

Does that mean that businesses can’t use social media? No. They can use social media, they just need to build a following of interested consumers first. With businesses, numbers of followers aren’t as important as follower engagement. It’s much better to have 20 followers who all engage with your products and services, than it is to have 1 million followers who never engage.

Even so, it seems to be consumer and luxury goods that do well on social media. Plumbers for instance will have a hard time gaining interest in their business on social media channels unless they can figure out a way to make it viral. An article, or a status update on cleaning a septic tank isn’t noteworthy, unless it’s Kim Kardashian’s septic tank.

Actually, the World Did Change after 9/11

You can say that the Internet is partly to blame, but you can also make a strong case for 9/11 changing the way Americans do business. In 1999, you could cold call business in person. Today, it’s virtually impossible. All of their doors are locked. If they have a lobby, there’s no receptionist, just a phone with which you can call an operator. If you have an appointment, someone will come get you. If you call a business today, you will likely receive an automated attendant that will give you a robotic choice of options to connect with someone in that business.

If you sell business-to-business, odds are you have run into these changes head on. Depending upon your target, you may find variances, or differences in the way you can contact a prospect. However, nowadays it has become much more difficult to do telemarketing. Which is a reason why many believe that cold calling is a waste of time.

What this means is, there’s a convergence of sales and marketing taking place. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s only large companies needed a marketing department. Even then, they were mainly in charge of outsourcing creative development to advertising agencies. Into the 80s, marketing departments began creating integrated communications, and marketing collateral. They refined the ad slicks, sell sheets, brochures, and the messages they contained. In the 90s, marketing spanned the business process as it engaged in research to identify the products and services that people would purchase, and then after those products and services were created, developed the messages and marketing collateral that would sell them.

Even so, the sales professional carried most of the burden of converting prospects into sales. Most salespeople of the time, and partly still to this day, believed the leads generated by marketing are a waste of time. Comprised mainly of tire kickers and time suckers.

The decade after the turn-of-the-century brought confusion as businesses looked toward the future, while trying to incorporate the business processes of the past. Today, it is clear that marketing is a requirement for most businesses, and salespeople form the front line of the marketing department.

For instance, salespeople today are utilizing social media, joint venture partnerships, content marketing, their personal networks as well as others, they are writing sales letters, and driving traffic to webinars, they’re creating consumer awareness guides, speaking in front of groups, and developing demonstrations which prove the effectiveness of their products and services. Salespeople today have come a long way from prospecting, presenting, and closing.

Now, salespeople are an extension of the marketing department, although most business haven’t realized it yet. Salespeople may not even realize it. Yet, every day in order to find new prospects, salespeople have to engage in activities that can only be defined as marketing.

The Game Is Based on Action, and You Keep Score with Money

In the past 15 years I have had many clients who want, and desperately need to turn around their business and get back into the black. The problem, however, is they are unwilling to take action. The truth is, more businesses fail due to a lack of action than a lack of knowledge.

I recently had a client whose marketing plan could consist of merely sending postcards once per month and making a call once per month to each of the businesses on their list of 600. In one year’s time, they sent two (2) postcards and called maybe 400 of the 600 businesses once, including the 140 calls I made for them. Sure, they claimed to have made calls, but would not track how many calls they made, how many people they spoke with, or how many new sales were generated from the effort. The only numbers they have to show the results of their effort is their total sales. Luckily, the postcards I developed, and the few calls they made did help them boost sales so that they are now breaking even, but you have to ask yourself why they are unwilling to take action and grow their business.

But they are not the only ones. In 15 years, I have encountered this hundreds of times. The sad truth is due to the disruption caused by the Internet and globalization, businesses that don’t constantly strive to increase awareness, sales, and profitability will go under. Just like when you buy a motorcycle, it’s not a question of IF you will have to lay the bike down, it’s a matter of WHEN.

There are some business owners however, that understand the constant need to market and grow their business. For instance, Sigger’s Hair Salon here in Atlanta ran a promotion where they would give a woman a complete hairstyle including a wash, color, cut, and styling for free. This free offer has a value of at least $200, if not more.

My wife received this offer in the mail. It came in an 8.5 x 11 envelope. Inside was a four color brochure with six pages detailing the services Sigger’s offers and why they are the premier salon in Atlanta. There was an insert that explained how their stylists went to Paris once a year to receive training on the latest styles and techniques. There was also a certificate for the offer that explained that she was selected to receive a complimentary cut, color, and style.

Let’s work the math on this offer. The package that Sigger’s is mailing most likely costs $4 – $6 to print and mail. That doesn’t include the copywriting and design work required to create the brochure, the insert, and the offer certificate. That probably ran another $2,000 – $3,000. When my wife arrived for her complimentary color, cut, and style, her stylist Amy spent over two hours with her which cost $60-$80 at the least. Amy also used product on my wife which could easily have cost $10-$20.

Let’s add that up. It cost Sigger’s hair salon $74 – $106 to get my wife in a chair so she could see firsthand the quality, the professionalism, and the abilities of Amy. That doesn’t include the cost for copywriting and design work to create the mail out.

I can guarantee that there were many women who thought the offer was too good to be true, or were happy with their current stylist, and never took Sigger’s up on the offer. I can also guarantee that there were many women who took the offer and never went back. This means that while the costs to get a single woman in a chair costs anywhere from $74 – $106, the actual cost to get a repeat customer could be $300-$500.

You may think this is ridiculous. After all, women only need to color cut and style their hair once every three months. The owner of Sigger’s hair salon, John Sigger’s, had to invest a minimum of $10,000 on this campaign just to wait 3 to 4 months to see if it worked.

I can tell you, from experience, this was a brilliant campaign. It has an irresistible offer that demonstrates the quality a woman can expect every time she goes to Sigger’s hair salon.

Yes, it cost a lot of money to run this campaign. However, the customer it generates will return to Sigger’s again and again for many years. In that way, the $300 – $500 it costs to purchase a customer pales in comparison to the long term profits. Even if a woman only returned to Sigger’s four times, Sigger’s would receive $800 – $1200 in revenue. That’s a good ROI.

More than the economics, however, this example illustrates what businesses who are focused on growing their awareness and profits are doing. With an offer like this, they can get all the business they want, and they can grow as large as they want. In fact, if you were a competing hair salon, you would either have to match their offer, or hope Sigger’s doesn’t target your clientele – Because if they do, you will lose a significant amount of your clientele to them.

20 years ago, this type of offer was unheard of. Today, it’s becoming more and more common. Not only because business owners are getting more savvy with their marketing, and are more willing to hire experts; the real reason is because they have to create offers and campaigns like this in order to stand apart from the competition and grow.

Thanks to the Internet and globalization, the old adage, “If you’re not growing you’re dying,” is more true now than ever before.

Other Emails in This Series:

The Internet: The Great Disruptor

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller is the owner of Mindwhirl.com, a sales and marketing coaching and training company in Atlanta, Georgia.

Michael’s mission is helping small business owners understand, and organize their marketing so they can make money and grow.

Mindwhirl helps business owners plan and implement effective, profitable marketing campaigns and sales programs.

If you need more sales, we know how to get leads and grow businesses. Call us today at (404) 858-3105, or email me at mmiller@mindwhirl.com.

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