Effective marketing techniques

Marketing campaigns don’t have to be expensive and fancy to capture attention. Basic principles should be all you need to sell your product.

Most small businesses don’t have big marketing budgets, but any company can attain good results by sticking to the fundamentals of marketing for their campaigns.

Graeme Chipp, managing director of strategy and marketing company Growth Solutions Group, says businesses shouldn’t even think about marketing until they know who they are as a company. That involves understanding customer needs and checking out the competition. When that’s done, he suggests following a six-step plan.

“First, articulate the context of where your business sits. Are you starting up or have you been going for a number of years? What customers are you going after? Address the critical issues that come from that,” he advises.

The next step is to understand your unique offer to the market, what your business can give consumers that no other business can. Having established your proposition, you can set your marketing objectives, which could be anything from winning new customers to increasing repeat business. At that point, identify the action you’ll take to achieve those objectives.

“The fifth area is how are you going to measure it? Those measures might be financial or they might be around your brand,” says Chipp. “Sales and profits are good measures. Recognition of your brand is harder, it could be the number of people who come in with word-of-mouth referrals.”

Lastly, you need to understand the medium term implications of your marketing strategy, which feeds back into why you market, he says. “It might cost me money this year but, longer term, what is it going to do for my brand, my business? Can I invest in a new piece of equipment or am I going to put money down to recruit key people?”

The biggest mistake that people make is spending money on marketing without knowing why, remarks Chipp. “By doing all this thinking, people can be much more clear about what they want to achieve. People often jump to a solution—‘I need a website’—but they haven’t gone back to who they’re trying to communicate to and what they want customers to do as a result.”

For resource-strapped companies, Chipp says starting off small is fine. “You don’t have to get the whole bank every time, you can try something and if it works build on the experience and do it again and keep it fresh.”

Off & Online

Divya Hegde owns and operates Complete Radiance, a skincare salon in Sydney. Previously she relied on her shopfront to attract customers, but since moving to a less prominent location she has used other types of marketing such as the Yellow Pages, letterbox drops, and advertising in local newspapers and community newsletters.

“A letterbox drop can be effective, but the response depended a lot on the offer and the timing,” she says. Her way of measuring return on investment was to see whether the response paid for the advertising, plus extra.

Desiring a web presence, Hegde signed up with ReachLocal Australia, an online marketing service. “I was sceptical because other people told me I could optimise my website myself,” she recalls. “I wasn’t expecting it to be as successful as it was—by the time people called me, they were already 70 percent my client.”

Steve Power, CEO of ReachLocal, says the magic they provide is knowing exactly which search terms lead to phone calls, taking the online traffic to an offline transaction. “We know the top 1,500 words people use when they’re searching for something, even misspellings and slang terms. We then select the right words for that campaign. Our system puts a tracking number on their website, so when they call through to the advertiser we track the phone calls. The advertiser knows for every dollar they spend, it’s come from us and how much that lead cost them,” he explains.

“More importantly, we know which words generated the phone call. A lot of internet marketing companies say ‘we can get you a lot of visits’. We’re not interested in visits; we’re interested in leads. If I’m a plastic surgeon, ‘nose job’ might generate a lot of visits, but ‘boob job’ might generate the leads. That’s an important distinction.”

Hegde’s site picked up traffic from people searching for treatments, even if they had heard of them elsewhere. “I promoted one treatment, which had been promoted [via another business] in Cleo and on A Current Affair. People were specifically searching for that treatment on the internet, so I picked up 20 clients. Each client pays about $1,000 a treatment, so that was a big increase.”

Apart from having measurable results, ReachLocal also allows users to control their budget. They can spend more when they need to ramp up business, but pare back when they’re too busy or have less to spend. And, says Power, “you only pay when it works”.

Most ReachLocal clients are local businesses who complete the transaction offline. Power says they do geographically specific campaigns because they know that 75 percent of sales occur within a 15-kilometre radius and want to get the best value for their clients.

It won’t work for all businesses, he admits. “It’s not effective for businesses that don’t get a lot of search traffic, like ‘unicycle repair person’. And business to consumer tends to work better than business to business.”

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Channel Surfing

Different channels will suit different campaigns, depending on the type of business you run and the kind of response you require. Most small businesses won’t have the budget for, or need the reach of, TV commercials, but they should consider anything from a basic pamphlet drop to sponsoring their local cricket team.

Hegde found she could leverage substantial internet traffic from editorial in the mainstream media, showing how complementary marketing can extend the value of a campaign. Details of the treatment were available through trusted media channels, so all her website required was reasonable prices and contact details.

Other methods are well known but no less effective, such as using enticing smells to make people hungry and therefore more likely to buy food products. Australia Post recently launched scented mail, which uses new technology to give scent to postcards. Combined with Impact Mail, which uses attractive shapes, the result is a direct mail campaign that looks and smells good, with the aim of making your message more memorable.

Lack of sensory interaction is one failing of the internet, says Nicholas Ridis, managing director of Avodka. Ridis, who also holds academic positions at two universities and is a director of the Australia Marketing Institute, also notes that savvy consumers will often go into a shop to get the ‘look and feel’ experience but then go online to find and purchase at the cheapest price. This means some businesses compete with themselves online and offline.

“Online and offline need to work together,” he says, emphasising the idea of consistency. “You can’t undercut yourself by cheapening your brand just because it’s online.”

He believes the internet has some other pitfalls, depending on the demographic of your potential customers. “If your website doesn’t look great, it’ll turn customers away—especially Generation Y.”

Ridis instead sees word-of-mouth as the most powerful medium, the online equivalent being discussion forums where consumers exchange opinions on products and/or services. He encourages businesses to monitor these forums to attain honest feedback. “But never pose as a customer,” he warns. “People will find out and you’ll lose any credibility you had.&rd
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Word-of-mouth need not be limited to customer recommendations. Businesses shouldn’t underestimate the value of intermediaries, including retailers. “Try and get your product into a larger retailer. If you can get into Kmart, as long as you can supply the volume at the right price it’s a pretty safe strategy,” Ridis explains. “You might have your own store as well, but they have the consumer reach.”

Chipp agrees, adding that your own staff can also be a great marketing tool for your business. He suggests giving out a consistent message by ensuring they are all clear on who they work for and what you offer. Other intermediaries include buying groups and other businesses whose service or product you use. If you’re a graphic designer, for example, your local printer can recommend you to their other clients.

While it makes sense to cover as many channels as you can, the recurring advice is to issue a single, consistent message. It is generally unhelpful, for example, to offer a discount on one type of service on a leaflet when your website says you’re a specialist at another. This is where matching collateral, such as business cards, stationery and your website can help. All of your collateral should emphasise your point of difference and display your details clearly to invite people to contact you.

Without marketing, many businesses would find it difficult to gain exposure to potential customers, but it’s not a silver bullet, says Ridis. “A lot of companies think marketing is going to fix everything but a marketing campaign will only be as good as the business strategy behind it.”

For many companies, it may just be a case of going back to basics.

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Do-It-Yourself

Provided you have a good eye for design and a computer, there’s no reason why you can’t try some DIY marketing. Your toolkit should contain:

Microsoft Office, which most people have, so you can send information through using its formats

Adobe Creative Suite 3 (or a similar graphics program) to create professional collateral

Colour laser printer for quality printouts

Paper folding machine, exponentially faster than humans so will pay for itself

Paper guillotine or trimmer for neat edges

Laminator to create professional-looking signage

Appropriate paper stock (glossy, matte, card etc) to infer the quality of your brand

Blank CDs if you want to issue multimedia

Digital camera (at least 4 megapixels) to capture images

Phone system to handle customers. Ridis says your ‘on hold’ message is another opportunity to consolidate your marketing message.

Stop! Press?

Don’t forget that the media can be a great way to spread the word about your business so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re press ready. Here’s a checklist:

Press releases: Have a core list of relevant media contacts to which you send press releases. Press releases should be newsworthy, such as the launch of a new product or an award win. If you don’t have media contacts, allocate space on your website for news and update it regularly.

History: A brief history of the business, with perhaps a short biography of the founder, gives the company some context. The ‘About’ page on your website should perform this function. You should also prepare this as a Word or PDF file.

Images: Hire a professional photographer to take pictures of key people in your company as well as your flagship products. Keep the rights so you can use them wherever you need to, such as in your collateral or for external publication. This way you can control your business image and, if you don’t have time for a photo shoot, you won’t miss out on exposure. A print quality image has a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch) and should be at least A6 size (about 10cm x 15cm). The commonly used image file types are jpeg, tiff and png. They should travel easily over email, in a CD, or on a memory stick.

Spokespeople: Designate interviewees—founders, CEOs and managing directors are most in demand—who can field questions from the press. Make sure they are available for comment, particularly after a big announcement.

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