Marketing a business is growing a business. To make more money in your business, you should have a steady stream of prospects. You must be able to service those prospects (sales) and convert them into paying customers. That all starts with a glowing online reputation and making sure you are ranking for local terms.
How do you ever get local SEO and marketing if it doesn’t make money? I was asked that question a few times in a recent conference. Here is the complete answer.
ROI and Marketing
Your return on investment (ROI) is a must in your marketing programs. You should be able to turn your marketing programs into positive cash flow for your business.
For example, an investment of $1,000 dollars has to come back into the business in the form of paying customers. This means the cost of the job and the cost of marketing must also be covered. So a business that makes 40% margins will need to make $2,500 to recoup its marketing costs.
That is why direct response marketing is a perfect place to begin your SEO and advertising efforts.
Marketing Average Spends
To justify marketing budgets, you have to understand the short- and long-term value of a customer. You will need to keep customers for the long haul if you want to boost your profitability.
The normal break-even point for businesses is a 12-month period. Each customer should start bringing profit into your business within 12 months after you’ve made the investment to acquire that customer.
Acquisition Cost of Marketing
In this article, David Skok discusses the relationship between product, market, and team. According to him, failure to get product/market fit right is likely the number one cause of startup failure. He further goes on to say that the most important metric or focal point should be on the cost to acquire customers (CAC).
The CAC metric, the real profitability of a startup brand, can predict if a product, brand, or startup can make it. CAC is a percentage based on your sales and the price of your product. You cannot use the same raw cost as other businesses but should focus on the percentage itself. The “cost” to gain a customer on a $9 dollar e-book is going to be less than the cost to gain a customer on a $4k diamond necklace.
That is what separates the “big” businesses and the mid-sized businesses.
If you’re a small business with one to three employees, finding the smaller scale of this model — aside from defining roles and training others — should be your priority. This will be the difference between staying small and becoming either a highly profitable small business or a medium-sized business.
You have to focus on being effective. CAC becomes the only number that matters. Driving your business forward based on that allocation of capital will drive your business to growth.
So what do you take away from this?
- You have to know your market and define it.
- You have to, more than anything else, have positive CAC in your business.
Start Your Marketing With Research
The first step in marketing your brand or service is to understand your market. While this may sound boring, it will definitely help you find cost-effective methods and systematic ways to always have your brand in front of buying customers. Research is where you drive your business and become a forward thinker instead of the normal “wait until they call” method that so many have grown accustomed to.
To illustrate market research, let’s look at a fairly obvious field of work: construction. As a construction business owner, you may wonder, “Why should I do research? I am in the building business, not the research business.”
Market research for the construction business would look something like this:
- Step 1: Determine what you’re looking for. What is the current market for commercial construction in “State/City” and who are the current players?
- Step 2: Plan how you’ll find it. Lay out the plan necessary to answer the questions from step one.
- Step 3: Put the plan to work. Assign the task to different members of your group or carve out time in your calendar to make sure they are completed and recorded.
- Step 4: Create a report. Once you have the data, you need to lay it out in a way that can be kept for future reference.
- Step 5: Incorporate the findings into your business. Start bidding for and accepting jobs based on your strengths and the targets and opportunities you found.
Using SWOT in Market Research
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You want your strengths and opportunities to overcome your threats and weaknesses.
Your strength as a new business is availability. You don’t have as many customers so you are not as full as other contractors.
Being new, credibility is your weakness. You don’t have major influencers recommending you.
- You can call other recommended contractors and sub work from them.
- You can start a Google PPC campaign that showcases what makes you different from other contractors. An ad that says “Call us now and we will be at your house in less than three hours” can work wonders. (Remember to have the resources allocated to justify your claim.)
- You can start building a recommendation or center of influence market by hosting small “DIY” seminars at the local hardware store. You can begin to give talks and presentations at the local Chamber of Commerce.
- Your real threat is that you don’t make enough money to survive and thrive.
- You will have to focus on low-hanging fruit and understand being busy is not as important as making money.
- You have to determine what market or segment you can penetrate to become the #1 recommendation.
Using AIDA in Market Research
AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. You classify each phase in the buying decision to live in one of these moments. To understand AIDA, let’s relate it to advertising.
You must first gain the attention of your customer. You can do this by crafting a great headline and placing it in their path through internet advertising or the Yellow Pages.
You have to gain customer interest with the headline and sub-headline. This is where you talk about the benefit of using your service. They may sound cheesy but great headlines work.
Something like “Great Rates and Fast Service” or “Your Money Back” can be simple but effective, while “The Choice for Automotive Repair in [insert your county here]” will target your customers in wider mediums.
You have to understand what your customer is looking for. Is their desire price driven or is it top quality service at affordable rates?
How does the customer take action? Do they call you or should they visit your website? Whatever action you have them taking, you’ll want to allocate resources to that avenue of customer service.
Added Step: Conviction
Your audience is hit a lot with various interactions from advertisements. This makes them less trusting of ads. You have to build credibility into every offer. This is why online reputation and reviews are so important.
Marketing to Your Audience
Now that you have the groundwork for your marketing laid out, you should understand the following:
- You know what your CAC calculations have to be. Regardless of the amount of money it cost, profitability is all that matters.
- You know what customers you have to focus on gaining to meet your CAC.
- You know your strengths to present to these customers.
- You know how your game plan walks the customer through the attention, interest, desire, or action cycle.
It’s now time to craft your marketing to match what you discovered. Below we lay out some of the best marketing tactics and strategies to grow your business and create a positive ROI.
Online Reviews and Reputation Management
Before you launch any marketing or advertising campaign, you’ll need to focus on driving your reputation and reviews up. You need to have credibility. Your marketing will fall short when a customer finds a lot of bad reviews for you.
Here’s how to get online reviews without pissing people off:
Make Writing the Review as Simple as Possible
Make your website the central hub to leave reviews. You can then take the positive reviews and ask customers to post them on Google Plus or Facebook. Send them the direct links with suggestive phrasing on what to say. Many times that is all it takes to gain 10-15 glowing reviews.
Be Present on Multiple Review Sites
Everyone has their preferred site. It may be where the customer found you in the first place. Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Local, Yahoo Local, Trustlink, and many more are places to start.
Don’t be shy. Asking for a review is part of business these days and most people don’t think about it unless you ask. Say something as simple as, “Your opinion matters to us, so I would really appreciate it if you could leave a note about your experience on a few of these sites. It helps keep my cost down on marketing. Thanks!”
Tread the Incentives Very Carefully
Show appreciation but don’t encourage reviews with incentives. Anyone that reviews your business should get a 10% off discount coupon but leave it at that. That keeps your business ethical.
Consider Your Demographics
Younger customers will make a selfie about the experience. If you’re working with a less social media savvy customer base, they will need more prompting and hand holding.
Turn Reviewers Into Brand Ambassadors
Think about ways to further leverage the relationships of positive reviewers. Think about having an appreciation luncheon and snagging some video from it to put on your site. Nothing says great customer service as sincere video clips showcasing it.
Don’t Ignore the Negative
Ostriches make terrible business owners. You shouldn’t stick your head in the sand either. Listen to the complaint and make it better than right. Always go the extra mile. This is not a place to make your case but understand and show how you are willing to please the customer.
Website and Online Marketing
Online Marketing Starts With Your Customers
Before making a website, creating a profile, or launching any campaigns, you should understand who your customers are (demographic and emotional Data). You should also know the major pain points your business solves.
Understand the Path You Want to Lead Customers
Do you want to buy traffic and direct them to your homepage or a landing page, or are you going to have them go through your Facebook page? Are those different designs ready to capture and show the pain points for that targeted group of customers?
Website and Brand Creation
Designing a website is different from making a website. If you don’t know the pivotal moments and where you want your customers interacting with you at those moments, then you’re not ready for a website.
To understand your brand’s mission online, you should first understand the key differences between online and offline.
Word of Mouth vs. Trust
Online is not extremely different than offline. You just have to understand that online trust isn’t that easy to gain. If your content is too promotional, people will see you as a “salesy” company. This won’t do well for your brand. You want to provide clear, valuable information about services, brands, and other key points that the customer would normally talk to a salesperson about.
What would you want a customer to know? Reviews, free information, credibility sources, and how your customers find you build trust online.
Appliance stores like Yale Appliances have done this and turned it into profits. They took the exact process that a customer would go through with some of their sales people and made it online. The owner has written over 1,400 posts on their website in a little less than 10 years. The site now drives a large part of their revenue and is increasing in every facet.
Listen Before Talking vs. Listen Before Writing
When you’re talking to a customer on the showroom or on the phone, you can answer the next statement based on the questions you ask them. This is not the case when you are writing the information. You have to answer all questions and make it easy for customers to understand the path to get there.
Since you’re not able to give and take as you would in person, your website design becomes the path the customer has to go through to get the answers to their questions. The design of your website should lead customers through the journey that best answers their questions.
If your website is just a placeholder to call you, you’re not increasing the research that can be done on your company.
81% of consumers research online before purchasing. That is a staggering statistic. If you want to be sought after by customers then you have to make your website educational. Put marketing aside and just have a conversation.
We have been successful at taking our customers’ catalogs and then just recording phone calls where we ask them about various products in the catalog. We then turn that into content for the website with side by side comparisons provided by brands. This is great review content that can help educate potential customers on site.
You Interact With Customers vs. Your Website or Social Page Interacts With Customers
With the same give and take as before, you have to realize that your website becomes the face of your brand online. You focus on evergreen content and its creation cannot be spoken of in ROI.
If three customers a month pull up one piece of content that you wrote a year ago, then did that content bring in 36 customers a year? What is that piece of content worth by itself?
The idea of content marketing is great. The problem is that it has to work in tandem with other great content and a great website. This starts as you create the website.
You Can Adapt Based on Customer Reactions vs. You Have to Mold Your Content Before Putting it Up
The beginning of your homepage and website should start with the design that your customers walk through. If you understand how customers interact with your business already, then you know exactly how it would lay out in a store. You should do the same online.
I have seen a lot of people spend a lot of money on sites that didn’t improve the customer experience. Make sure you understand the customer and their experience before you start on your website.
Understanding the Critical Points to Online Marketing
Don’t accept oversimplified answers to strategic marketing. You will want to start testing but that is not where you begin. You look at that process through every step and understand why things happen. This leads you to a CAC model that you can duplicate and scale.
You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. That is the same as your marketing infrastructure. Start with the blueprint and develop your marketing based on your plan. You can track everything online and make the numbers work for your business’ profit and avoid any poor investments.
The Secret Sauce = Online Marketing + Timing
Picture this: The moment your ad as a plumber comes across the computer screen as they realize the hot water heater is dumping gallons of water into their basement.
Another picture: The moment your ad (online tool store) comes across the screen and they are shopping for Father’s Day gifts.
These are just some examples that show you the power of online marketing. Online is the only place that you can make sure the person you’re marketing to is genuinely interested in your product or service. Also, you cannot get timing in any other form of marketing.
Timing comes down to keywords. You find keywords that your brand should show for. You show the ad only to people on that search term. That results in a conversion.
Now you just have to figure out the right piece of content to show each grouping of keywords.
This process takes a great deal of detail and measurement. Everything is well thought out and deliberate to analyze the best converting moments in your customer’s timeline of interaction with your company.
To get the right audience online you will want to have marketing segmentation. That is what we will cover in the next post.
In-post Images: Screenshots by author taken June 2017.