Marketing has changed. The choices that businesses have to reach their target customers have multiplied. Marketing has definitely become more sophisticated with the advent of social media, real-time ad targeting and a plethora of other ‘new’ routes to market. Inbound marketing is all the rage but what about outbound? Is a combination the best solution? With so many choices, how do small to medium sized businesses make their marketing decisions and get bang for their buck?
Facebook, PPC, SEO, email marketing or Twitter? Online or offline advertising? Blogging? What about the new Twitter Vine or video marketing through YouTube or Vimeo? And don’t forget Google + and Pinterest and let’s not forget direct engagement through LinkedIn. And what about good ol’ direct mail, telemarketing, events, PR and trade advertising? The options are endless and it’s often the case that businesses lurch from one ‘special offer’ to the next agreeing to the next thing that sounds like a good deal.
So what’s the answer?
Well, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for a plan. It’s often said that you plan to fail if you fail to plan. That’s so true in marketing. But where to start?
The key is to start with your target audience in mind and a bit of research. Who are they? Where do they go for information, education, communication and possibly even entertainment (YouTube?). What do they read? What do they consume online? If you don’t know, ask your customers. Perhaps do a survey which can also be used for PR and to inform the sales process. What are their issues? What do they respond to? Check out industry sources to identify hot buttons and trending issues.
Once you know more about your market and your customers and potential customers, you are in a much better position to identify how to target them. It’s then about marketing choices. But we are flooded with options. So, it’s a case of recognising that budgets are limited and you have to evaluate where you can get best return. Think about time as well as money. What people and skills do you have? Who can do what? Do you have people that ‘get’ social, that can write great articles or blogs or that can do cold calling? That’s cost-effective if that’s what your targets respond to and you have the in-house resource. If not, you may need to consider outsource for some of the routes e.g. SEO or video or telemarketing.
I always recommend that clients take a step back to really understand their target market and what their audience responds to. Then they need to consider a budget to reach them. However frustrating that sounds, a budget allows large and small companies to keep on track and to focus efforts. Perhaps there is one key exhibition in your sector and that forms the basis for your sales drive each year. In that case, maybe budget needs to be allocated for a good exhibition stand, staffing, giveaways, an offer and telemarketing follow up. If we know the annual budget is £X and the total costs for the above come in under that, we can then consider supplementary spend to reach those target prospects in other ways.
It’s also a case of recognizing what is appropriate to spend on any given marketing choice for it to be effective. For example, there’s no point in allocating £500 for telemarketing, £100 for PPC and £100 to make a cheap video in isolation. Spreading resource too thinly will inevitably lead to thin results. Go back to where we started. What’s the plan? Who are you trying to reach and what activities are most likely to generate awareness and interest? On the back of answers to those questions, pull a plan together, decide on a budget, investigate the marketing options that fit the plan and decide upon a course of action. Then stick to it. Not blindly. If it isn’t working, change it. But recognize that most marketing activities take time to bear fruit. Be flexible but make sure you you have a path to follow based on research.
I believe that marketing has become easier to focus than in the past. You can narrow your routes much more than 20 years ago. Equally, there is so much choice that it makes it much more difficult to decide on the best course of action and to get value for money. If it all feels like a bit of a snowstorm, give us a call and we will get our marketing snow ploughs out for you.
If you want to know how to compile a quick and effective marketing plan, click here
GSA is a London based new business development and telemarketing consultancy with an office in Manchester. We offer new business development and marketing strategy, senior-level telemarketing services and telemarketing training to ensure that clients generate more new business and deliver ROI.
If you’d like to find out how GSA Business Development can help Generate Growth for your Business or book one of our new business development and marketing strategy workshops, contact us now on 0845 658 8192 or send us an email.