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One of the most common and easy ways to kill your small business.

How to kill your business.

The silly season has been and gone and we have head into the New Year with our audiences experiencing advertising and commercial fatigue. Over the past few months we have been constantly sold to, everywhere we look, and we are mostly all spent out. So, how do we continue to market and communicate with our audiences and continue to offer them value?

Let me introduce you to the one thing many businesses try on after the success of their larger competitors over the heavy months. It’s absolutely the BIGGEST mistake made by small business owners when it comes to Marketing. It’s a widespread problem and it’s at the heart of why most small business marketing fails.

As a small business owner, you’ve certainly spent an uncountable amount of hours thinking about marketing and advertising. What approach are you going to take? What are you going to say in your advertising? What content is going to be engaging and spark the interest of your audience to take notice?

The most common way that most small businesses decide on this is by looking at large, successful competitors in their industry and mimicking what they’re doing. This seems logical – do what other successful businesses are doing and you will also become successful, right? In reality, this is the fastest way to fail and I’m certain it’s responsible for the bulk of small business failures.

The world of marketing is dominated by the big brands, with the big budgets and the glamorous careers. There appears to be an assumption that small businesses should use essentially the same marketing ‘rules’ as bigger brands, only on a smaller scale. The notion is that small brands are much like big companies, except that small brands have lower sales, fewer assets, and fewer staff.

Here are the two major reasons why:

1. Large companies have a different agenda. Large companies have a very different agenda when it comes to marketing than small businesses do. Their strategy and priorities differ from yours, significantly. The marketing priorities of a large company look something like this:

a. Pleasing the Board of Directors

b. Appeasing shareholders

c. Satisfying superiors biases

d. Satisfying existing clients preconceptions

e. Winning advertising and creative awards

f. Getting buy-in from various committees and stakeholders

g. Increase branding and market share

h. Maintain commitments to charitable causes and goals

i. Making a profit

The marketing priorities of a small business owner look something like this:

a. Making a profit

There is a world of difference in the marketing priorities of small and large companies. So naturally, there would have to be a difference in strategy and execution.

2. Large companies have a very different budget. Strategy changes with scale. This is very important to understand. Do you think that someone investing in and building skyscrapers has a different property investment strategy than a small property investor? Of course! Using the same strategy simply won’t work on a small scale. You can’t just build one floor of a skyscraper and have a success. You need all 100 stories. If you have an advertising budget of $10 million and three years to get a profitable result, then you are going to use a very different strategy compared with someone needing to make a profit immediately with a $10 thousand budget. Using a large company marketing strategy, your $10 thousand is going to be a drop in the ocean. It will be totally wasted an ineffective because you’re using the wrong strategy for the scale that you’re operating at.

Large company marketing.

Large company marketing is also sometimes known as mass marketing or branding. The goal of this type of advertising is to remind customers and prospects about your brand as well as the products and services you offer. The idea is that the more times you run ads with your brand, the more likely people are to have this brand at the top of their mind when they got to make a purchasing decision.

The vast majority of large company marketing falls into this category. If you’ve seen the ads from major brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple, you’ll have experienced “mass marketing”. This type of marketing is effective, however, it is very expensive to successfully pull off and takes a lot of time. It requires you to saturate varies types of advertising and media – for example, TV, print, radio and Internet on a very regular basis and over an extended period of time. The expense and time involved are not a problem for the major brands and they have massive advertising budgets and teams of marketing people and product lines that are planned years in advance.

However, a major problem arises when small businesses try to imitate the big brands with this type of marketing. The few times they run their ads, is like a drop in the ocean. It’s nowhere near enough to reach the consciousness of their target market, which is bombarded with thousands of marketing messages each day, so they get drowned out and see little or no return for their investment. Another advertising victim bites the dust!

It’s not that the small businesses aren’t good at branding or mass media ads, it’s that they simply don’t have the budget to run their ads in sufficient volume to make them effective. Unless you have millions of dollars in your marketing budget, you have a very high probability of failure with this type of marketing. Branding, mass marketing and ego-based marketing is the domain of large companies. To achieve any kind of cut-through requires an enormous budget and use of expensive mass media. Following the path of other successful businesses is smart but it is vital that you understand the full strategy you’re following and that you’re able to execute it.

Strategy from an outside observer’s perspective can be very different to the reality. If you’re following a strategy that has different priorities than you or has a vastly different budget, then it is highly unlikely that it will generate the kind of result you’re hoping for.

Now, let’s look at what successful small to medium business marketing looks like.

Small and medium business marketing.

The major goal for a small brands is survival. The notion of brand building versus sales activation has no chance. Activation dominates, direct response matters.

Direct response marketing is a particular branch of marketing that gives small businesses cut-through and a competitive edge on a small budget. It’s designed to ensure you get a return on investment that is measurable. If $10 notes where being sold for $2 each, how many would you buy? As many as you could get hands on, naturally. The name of the game with direct response marketing is, money at a discount. For example, for every $2 spent of advertising you get $10 out in the way of sales.

It’s also a highly ethical way of selling. It’s focused on the specific problems of the prospect and aims to solve these problems with education and specific solutions. It is also the only real way for affordable reach the consciousness of a prospect. When you turn your ads into direct response ads, they become lead generating tools rather than just name recognition tools. Direct response marketing is designed to evoke immediate response and compel prospects to take some specific action, such as opting in to your email list, picking up the phone and calling for more information, placing and order or being directed to a website.

So, what makes a direct response ad? Here are some of the main characteristics:

1. It’s trackable. That is, when someone responds, you know which ad and which media was responsible for generating the response. This is in direct contrast to mass media or brand marketing – no one will ever know what ad compelled you to buy that can of coke... Heck, you might not even know yourself.

2. It’s measurable. Since you know which ads are being responded to and how many sales you’ve received from each one, you can measure exactly how effective each ad is. You then cancel or change ads that are not giving you a return on investment.

3. It uses compelling headlines and sales copy. Direct response marketing has a compelling message of strong interest to your chosen prospects. It uses attention-grabbing headlines with strong sales copy. Often the ad looks more like an editorial than an ad, hence making it at least 3 times more likely to get read.

4. It targets a specific audience or niche. Prospects within specific verticals, geographic zones or niche markets are targeted. The ad aims to appeal to a narrow target market.

5. It makes a specific offer. Usually the ad makes a specific value-packed offer. Often the aim is to not necessarily to sell anything from the ad, but to simply get the prospect to take the next action, such as requesting a free report. The offer focuses on the prospect rather than on the advertiser and talks about the prospects interest, desires, fears and frustrations. By contrast, mass media or brand marketing has a broad, one-size fits all marketing message and is focused on the advertiser.

6. It demands a response. Direct response advertising has a “call to action” compelling the prospect to do something specific. It also includes a means of response and a capture of these responses where interested, high-probability prospects have easy ways to respond. When the prospect responds, as much of the persons contact information as possible is captured so that they can be contacted beyond the initial response. It includes multi-step short-term follow up. In exchange for capturing the prospects details, valuable education and information on the prospects problem is offered. The information should carry with it a second irresistible offer tied to whatever the next step you want the prospect to take, such as calling to schedule an appointment or coming into the showroom or store.

Every brand, every category and every customer is different. Every brand has its own attributes, its own strengths, its own weakness, its own competitor set and its own distribution challenges. And, every brand has only a certain amount of cash in the bank. When it’s your cash, the world of brands suddenly becomes a different place.

You may not have the spending power and resources of the businesses at the top end of town, but you can (and should) adopt their big picture mindset!

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