When you run a small, local business, it’s important to know how well each of your marketing methods is performing. Here’s how you can get that information without blowing your budget.
One of the best things you can do for your business is to ask new customers how they found out about you. But when you do this, don’t expect to get accurate information.
I know this sounds strange, but it makes sense, I promise.
If you make decisions about how to promote your business, then obviously you want to know how your customers find out about your business. So, you ask. The trouble is the information you get when you ask this questions is not always accurate. In fact it’s mostly inaccurate. My estimate is that it’s about 25% accurate at best.
There are two reasons for this.
One reason is that people simply do not remember. People don’t remember because they have other, more important, things to occupy their mental space. Your business and your marketing are not tops on their list of priorities. (Sorry!)
But, they want to give you an answer (because you asked) so they say some thing makes sense. “I saw your ad in the yellow pages” they might say. Or “I think I found you in the phone book”. I know because I do the same thing. It’s not that we’re dishonest. We just want to be helpful.
A friend of mine told me about a survey they did once for an event they helped promote. They asked people how they found out about the event and over half of them said they heard about it on the radio. On the surface this sounded like great marketing feedback.
But there was one problem.
They never promoted this event on the radio.
People said “I heard about it on the radio” because they wanted to be helpful and because they listened to the radio a lot. So, it made sense (to them) that they probably heard about the event on the radio.
The second reason this sort of feedback is usually not accurate is because people hear about your business in many ways.
Remember, if you’re doing your marketing well you are probably using more than one medium to deliver your message to your market. Depending on your budget and market you might be using five or more different ways to let people know who you are and what you do.
It’s not hard to find five or more ways to promote your local business:
- On site signage
- Yellow pages
- Bus bench
- Newspaper ad
- Direct mail piece
- Coupon shopper
- Newspaper insert
- Local sponsorships
This is good because it builds both awareness and credibility for your local business. (Remember, the more ways a person hears about your business, the more credible and memorable your message becomes to them.)
The trouble is, people are not going to remember (or tell you) they saw it in all these different places. They’ll give you the name of one place they saw your ad. (Usually the most recent place they saw it.)
So, we have a marketing paradox.
To get the best results you want your message to be seen by people in multiple ways. But, that makes it impossible to determine (with any accuracy) which media is working best. And you want to know what media works best so you can make the best use of your marketing dollars.
What do we do about this?
It depends on a lot of factors like your business, your budget, your marketing goals, etc.
It also depends on how important tracking marketing ROI is to your business.
One of the big obstacles to tracking results is scale. As a small, local business, if you went to the expense of trying to survey and track every type of marketing available to your business, you’d spend much more on tracking and surveying than you would on the marketing itself.
If you have a multi-million dollar marketing budget then you can afford to do some serious testing. Once your testing shows you reasonable results, then you roll out the big campaigns on a larger scale. But that only works because your testing costs are a tiny fraction of your whole marketing plan.
But, for those of us with small, local businesses, this method simply does not work. The testing would eat up most (or all) of our marketing budgets.
However there are some things you can do to try to monitor what is working.
Here are some tips to make your local marketing work better and to help you monitor it.
1. Establish a budget and commit to it. Consider this as important as your rent or payroll. Don’t make it a low priority unless your revenue and profitability are low priorities.
2. Decide what you want to say and whom you want to say it to. Keep the message simple, clear and concise.
3. Decide if you want to increase awareness for your brand or if you want a direct response. These are two DIFFERENT goals and they require different tools and strategies.
4. Remember your goal is EXPOSURE. You want to expose your market to your message as often as you can within your established budget. So spend your marketing dollars to buy this exposure as effectively as you can.
5. Stick to it for a reasonable amount of time. Don’t quit after a couple months. Give it time to work.
6. Get feedback from customers, friends, business associates, employees. Try to find out WHO is seeing your message and HOW they are seeing it. Always be willing to tweak and tune it as you go, based on feedback.
7. Watch your revenue and your new customer activity. Does it go up or down as you implement this marketing?
Remember, they key to getting more customers is to let more people know who you are, what you can do for them and why they should consider doing business with you. Focus your resources on making sure your potential customers know you and remember you. Then they will consider doing business with you.