Make Your Marketing Pay Off

Marketing needs to be bottom-line oriented. It's not a black hole that you toss money into after you shell out for the payroll and healthcare; it's a vital part of a growing, successful business and you must approach it professionally at all times. Here are some tips to help you make your marketing a productive and financially sound part of your business.

Print it yourself

Traditionally, marketers have been heavy users of printing and photocopying services, and the printing bills tend to get out of control in a hurry. Today you can purchase color laser printers that handle tabloid sheets of paper (up to 11 x 17 inches) and even print long banners.

Do more PR

If anything you do or say might be newsworthy, make sure that you tell the media about it early and often. You need to send out a press release at least every season, if not every month. Publicity is free advertising, and it ought to be a bigger part of your marketing than it probably is.

Use more distributors

Any business can sell through other businesses in one way or another. Creatively using distributors (call them sales partners, if you like) is a great way to expand your marketing footprint on someone else's nickel.

Give more product away

It's a paradox: The more you give away, the more you make and the more economical your marketing program is. This paradox is true because, in general, the best advertisement for a product is the product or service itself.

Find more ways to give prospects an opportunity to sample your wares or experience your service. Doing so cuts out a lot of expensive marketing by giving your prospects the real thing instead of having to spend your time and money trying to tell them about it.

And nothing beats a great product, so always work at improving the quality of your products and services. Today's consumers are very informed and you can't fool them more than once!

Eat out more

In many businesses, there is the formal marketing program, and then there is the real program — where the good customers actually come from. More often than not, customers really come from word of mouth — from the personal contacts and networks of key people in the business. If this is true for your business, then consider cutting the formal marketing stuff (ads, catalogs, and so on) back by 15 percent and putting that money into networking instead. Go to more events and conferences. Take more customers and industry experts out for lunch. If your personal contacts can produce good leads, then you ought to be eating out every day. Become the best entertainer in your industry.

Slash unproductive programs

Every business has a few marketing activities or expenses that don't pull their weight. Usually they exist because they're traditional, and nobody thinks to question having them. Be bold. Sacrifice these sacred cows. If you never seem to get any sales from those expensive ads in your industry's premiere trade magazine, try cutting them out of the budget and see whether anything bad happens.

Invest more in your stars

The 80:20 rule usually applies to marketing: 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the marketing activities. So figure out what your best marketing activities are and shift funding toward them. For example, in many businesses today, the return on investment for Web-based marketing is considerably higher than for print advertising, yet print still gets a bigger share of the budget. Increasing your return on investment from marketing is easy — you simply shifting your spending into the highest-return activities that you have.

Stage events

Events like industry breakfasts and how-to seminars for customers and prospects are a powerful way to make a connection and establish your identity as a leading expert in your field. But events take advance planning and organization, so many marketers are intimidated by them and never use them.

Your business should stage at least one high-profile event each quarter. They're surprisingly economical ways to build visibility and attract or retain top customers. But keep those events modest in scope, make sure to invite only those prospects who fit your profile for good customers. You don't want to waste time and money entertaining people who won't ever make a big purchase.

Control product costs

The cost of purchasing or producing your product is a hidden driver of your marketing and sales efficiency. Given a big enough margin, you can afford to market anything. Too often, clients expected a poor marketing program to sell something on a razor-thin margin. With a budget like that, nothing is left to spend on sales and marketing, and this situation gives the illusion that the marketing program is to blame when profits are poor.

Rather than blaming the marketing, try cutting costs and improving the margin on the product. Decide how much difference you can tolerate between basic production or purchase costs and your list prices. Spend the time and imagination to find ways to reduce product costs so that you can market with a big margin. Then you can afford to do good marketing and build a following for the product.

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