February 2012 Top 5 Marketing Tips


Below are this month’s top 5 marketing tips for February 2012 – simple tips to help you improve the effectiveness of your marketing.

1. ‘What’ before ‘How’ – When I start dialogue with many companies they often want me to tell them how they should market themselves.

However, before we can even begin to look at the ‘How’, we need to take a step backwards and first understand ‘What’ it is the business is trying to achieve.

In order to do this effectively I take clients through a “Back to the Future” process where we start, in effect, at the end.  We look at where the business owner wants his business to look at, at some point in the future, usually 5 or 10 years time, and then work backwards.

By doing this we can outline what the company needs to do over the next 12 months in order to take it towards its ultimate goal.  Once we have a clear idea on what we need to achieve this year, we can break it down further into monthly and weekly targets and then take a look at how we are going to achieve it.

If you rush straight into the “how” without a clear idea of what it is you are trying to achieve – then how will you know if what you are doing is working?

2. Create a habit – By and large I work with entrepreneurial business owners.  What makes a business owner entrepreneurial is the self-driving energy that they feed off from new ideas.

Unfortunately, this is also what holds many entrepreneurs back as this continual buzz from new ideas distracts them from the core focus of what they should be doing.  Similarly, most marketing activity that the business needs to undertake often gets started with a wave of enthusiasm, but then fades away as they look for something new and exciting to do.

However, most marketing strategies will consist of a number of different tactical activities that need to be carried out, followed up and measured regularly.  Because the whole process thus becomes repetitive, the business owner loses interest – and then the marketing activity slows down and, ultimately, stops working.  To overcome this happening, make those key tasks a habit of your working week or day.

If your activity plan relies on social media activity on a regular basis or following up on direct mail campaigns – make sure that you set time aside (and the same time regularly) so that the activity becomes a habit.  Start to divide your weekly timetable into blocked out time of marketing activity.

After a few weeks you won’t even need to refer to the timetable because all of your activity will become habitual.  If you just can’t make it work – get some external help to make sure it happens.

3. Work out your averages – in the world of marketing, understanding averages is crucial.  Most businesses struggle with averages because they don’t feel an average client exists.

This doesn’t matter.  Although many believe that marketing is a creative industry – it is actually more mathematical than creative.  The whole field of marketing revolves around results – return on investment.  If this has not been achieved then your marketing activity has spectacularly failed – no matter how creative your communications were.  Results and returns are measured in numbers.

So in order to calculate whether a certain channel is worth pursuing we need to know the figures involved and whether the potential returns far outweigh the initial outlay.  Even if you only have very crude average figures, this is better than none at all.  For example, to work out your average annual client value, simple divide your sales turnover by the number of clients served.

Similarly if you want to know the average transaction value, divide your turnover by the number of individual orders (not clients).  If you feel that a couple of your largest clients are skewing your figures too much – just ignore them and leave their figures out of the analysis.

Until you understand the averages within your business, such as client lifetime profit value and enquiry conversion rates, then you are never going to be able to accurately forecast whether a specific marketing activity is likely to be profitable or not – which means you may waste a lot of money on activities that were never financially viable in the first place.

4. Nail the proposition – I know that this seems like the most obvious marketing tip ever but, believe me, there are plenty of SME businesses out there who still have not nailed exactly what their proposition is.

This is worrying because the proposition of what the business is offering, is the central core to all marketing activity.  Can you clearly communicate what your business does and offers to its clients in less than 25 words?  If you can’t then I suggest that you work on simplifying your business offering.

If you think about all the best brands in the world, or even locally to you, the one thing that they will all have in common is that they are excellent at marketing themselves, because they have a very simple and universally understood proposition.

I know it is an overused saying but “less really is more”.  Until you have absolutely nailed your proposition, your marketing activity will never generate its full profit potential.

5. Control the environment! – There is never a guarantee that any specific marketing activity is going to work.  This is because there are so many variables involved in the process and, ultimately, we are dealing with human beings making a decision – who are very difficult to predict.

Have you ever used the Google Adwords tool to look at the keyword searches that people are using to find your type of products and services?  It always amazes me what people type in to Google – things that would never have even crossed my mind.  Because marketing response rates are difficult to predict you need to make sure that you test and measure all activity within a controlled environment.

What do I mean by this?  Well imagine you placed an advert in the press and the response rate was very disappointing – there would be a clear temptation to, either, axe the specific advert, axe the publication or axe advertising completely from the marketing budget.

However why did the advert not work?  Was it because it was the wrong publication (target audience)?  Was it because it was the wrong day of the week or month of the year?

Was it because the advert headline didn’t grab enough attention?  Was the offer or message not filtering through? Was it because the call to action wasn’t clear enough? Did you actually get enough enquiries but your conversion rate was poor (problems in the process)?

If you don’t find out why the advert didn’t work – then you could make the same mistake again!  So in order to work out why the advert didn’t work, you will need to tweak things gradually in a controlled manner.  First, perhaps place the same advert in a different publication – does the response rate improve?

Next, try the advert on a different day?  Then tweak the headline, then the perhaps the imagery, change the call of action?  If you change one thing at a time you can measure what difference each element makes – until you get to an advert which generates a great return on investment.

Don’t fall for the temptation to make wholesale changes after one disappointment.  Refine gradually.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.
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