Help, I Can’t Afford To Advertise

I often talk to small business owners and many of them say, “I can’t afford to do any marketing.” And then I respond by saying, “Are you kidding me? How can you afford not to?” This is about the point that I would ask if they pay for phone service or electricity for their business and I get a reply of, “Of course.” You need marketing and advertising just as you need electricity and phone service. Marketing is not quite as cut and dry as the necessity of power and phone; however, it is just as real.

Marketing is one of those mandatory business investments if you want to succeed and grow. Notice that I said a business investment and not a business expense. I don’t care that the IRS classifies marketing as an expense, because it is an investment. Now hear me out because marketing can be an expense if you are the type that just shells out money to various marketing schemes without tracking the results. For instance, if you continually spend money on a newspaper ad and never get any response, should you continue to print that ad? Absolutely NOT! That’s when it becomes an expense.

So how do you know if your marketing is working? Well, that can be tricky sometimes, because it’s not always feasible to get a straight answer about how a customer heard about you. I know in my business I most often receive vague responses such as I found you online. Well most of my marketing is “online” so that doesn’t help me much. I want to know specifically where online; however, most customers can’t tell me because they have been to hundreds of web pages already that day. So a great trick is to use a unique tracking code or coupon code that the customer has to use in order to receive some sort of discount or special gift. At the end of the month, I tally up all the sales and profits tracked to that unique coupon code and I can determine if my marketing is making money or losing money. If it’s making money, then my next step to increase that advertising. If it’s not making money, I will analyze the ad and determine whether or not it could be improved. If not, I stop wasting money on it.

There is sometimes an initial period of trial an error with many forms of advertising to find out how to best reach your intended audience. After all, many businesses have a certain type, genre, class, or age group of people that makes up the bulk of their business. In order to have the most success from the start, it’s best to determine who you want to target and develop an effective ad or campaign that will capture their attention. The important factor often comes down to design. Shell out some dough and have a well designed ad. It’s a great investment to spend several hundred dollars on an ad that is not only visually appealing but also effective. Effective = $$$, resulting in a well spent investment.

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