The Hardest Check To Write

by Rob Stam

Marketing is part of what I do for a living, so I obviously like to see a business that invests in its marketing. However, as a business owner I also understand how difficult an investment that is to make. In fact, I dare say that it is THE hardest investment to make. Why is that and what should you do about it?

The “why” portion of that question is easy to answer: it’s difficult to anticipate your return on investment. Most of us know that not marketing isn’t going to bring us business, but how much marketing will it take to justify the cost? Will investing in minimal marketing, such as Facebook ads, be effective or will that only be effective as part of a larger overarching strategy? These questions plague most small business owners.

How to make marketing a good investment is ultimately the tough question to answer. First of all, it’s essential to understand the goal of good marketing: to make more money. At the end of the day you don’t really care if your website wins awards or your video makes people laugh, you care if it improves your bottom line. Whenever you invest in creative assets, remove your business owner hat and put on your customer hat. Evaluate your website, brochures, videos, and any other marketing assets with that mindset. Do they move you to engage with the product or business or do they just look good?

Second, remember that story sells. People do not communicate by sharing features and benefits, we communicate by telling stories. If you ask me about a new restaurant in town I’m not going to list the menu items, I’m going to tell you a story about my experience. Make sure your marketing assets follow that same thought process. Strong images, short phrases, or powerful videos with great music are way more impactful than listing all the wonderful things about your company or product. Certainly you need to be clear about what you offer, but you’ll only engage a client in what you do after they’re intrigued by who you are.

Third, be strategic with your deployment. You can pay for billboards, Facebook ads, TV commercials, print ads, and everything else, but you should first clearly define your target audience. Who are they? Where do they live? What do they read? Where do they hang out on the weekends? Just like you design a product or service around a certain type of ideal customer, choose your deployment outlets in the same manner. Reverse engineer from there versus just taking a guess.

Finally, do it in the right order. Nothing about marketing is rocket science, but it does demand effort beyond developing attractive materials. Do the leg work and the market research, refine your message, set a budget and a goal for revenue growth, and then proceed with creating the assets that play into the strategy instead of doing it the other way around. In doing so you’ll save yourself thousands of dollars and make yourself thousands more.