Marketing: is it for you? As marketers, we are firm believers that businesses can’t thrive without good marketing, because marketing is a powerful tool to get customers in the door.
But we’re going to be the first to tell you: more marketing is not always a smart first move for every business. Most, yes… but not all. But how do you know?
Seven signs that marketing will really help your business
- You have a lot of really happy customers, but you never seem to get any new faces in the door. Do most of your sales come from loyal, return customers? Do you rarely see a new customer or get a new email address through your website? The good news is that your product (or service) is popular with your customers. The bad news is that you’ll always struggle to grow your business without new customers coming in. Is this sounds like you, it’s a sure sign that running targeted ad campaigns will result in new sales—and more happy customers
- When you get a new customer, they say, “I never knew you were here!” or “I never knew about you!” As lovely as it is to have customers excited about finding your business, hearing this is actually bad news… because it means that people aren’t aware that you exist. You have a potentially large customer base out there, just waiting to meet you! Running a few targeted ads will help you get in front of these excited potential customers.
- You get a lot of web traffic, but it doesn’t convert into sales. This one may surprise you a bit—since it’s a good assumption that, in this case people already know about your business, they just don’t want to buy. But remember, your messaging IS marketing, just as much as launching an ad campaign is. If lots of people visit your site, they obviously want your product (or one like it), but something on your website isn’t clicking for them. Take a really hard look at how well you are messaging your value propositions (the “why” people should buy from you). Even better, have a professional give you a quick messaging audit (yes! We do that!)
- Your customers generally like you, but you don’t get much web traffic. Pretty much the polar opposite of the last situation, this scenario indicates that people aren’t finding you easily online. You might argue that this doesn’t matter much If you’re a brick and mortar business. But you’d be wrong. In this day and age of the Google search, do not kid yourself: every business is an internet business. Let’s pretend you’re a carpet cleaner, for example. If someone searches for carpet cleaners near them, you want to show up in the results. If you’re not showing up, it’s a good sign you need to work on your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and also consider building a Search Marketing (SEM) campaign.
- Your only source of new customers is referrals. First, don’t get me wrong: referrals are great. They are one of the best sources of new customers. But the problem with them being your only source is that you’re restricting your potential customers to a relatively small group of people. The good news is that, because it’s clear your customers love you enough to refer you, you should be pretty confident that even more people will love you as long as they know about you. An ad campaign—one targeted to people that look and act like your current customers—will be extremely effective. And, yes, you can target lookalike audiences to your current customer list, as long as you have email addresses on file.
- You have a product or service that only a very niche group of people is interested in. This is a case where targeted marketing is one of the few ways you’re going to get more customers. Walk-by traffic or broad-reaching ads, like newspaper ads, won’t do much for you. Put together some good, extremely-targeted ad campaigns and a solid Search Marketing campaign, and you will be golden.
- You have solid sales numbers and happy customers. Hey! Don’t look at me funny. A smoothly-running business always benefits from smart marketing to drive even more customers in the door.
Six signs that marketing won’t help your business (at least not right now)
- You already have plenty of business the way you are. This is obvious, of course. Marketing is a tool to gain more sales. If you have plenty of revenue, or enough clients that your book of business is full, it makes no sense to market. And good for you! (Though I’d still argue that you want to keep your website alive and pertinent… and perhaps keep a bit of a pipeline going?).
- You have a product or service that nobody wants. I know this sounds harsh, but it needs to be said. There are some new businesses and startups that struggle with sales, then treat marketing as a magic bullet to “fix” the problem. Unfortunately, marketing can’t fix a product that people aren’t interested in. Be honest with yourself, get some market research done (we like PollFish for lowish cost market research), and make some changes before you try a big marketing push.
- You’re priced wrong for the market. You can run the best ads, to the most targeted audience, with the best web copy ever written, and you won’t sell much of anything if people think your product is priced too high. Marketing is a sheer waste of money until you fix your pricing.
- You have a lot of bad reviews (especially when your competitors don’t). Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can overcome bad reviews with better marketing. Social proof (the marketer’s term for reviews and testimonials) rules today’s world. If 50 people are saying your business is terrible, marketing will be a waste of money no matter how well executed. Instead, take some time to actively court good reviews from happy customers— as many as you can. Wait to launch your big marketing program until your online reputation is fixed.
- You have some major functionality issues that you need to sort out (bad location, backordered product, a rude staff member, punitive shipping rates, etc), Again, marketing is not magic. It can’t fix major problems in your business model. And even if you have a great product that people want, if you market heavily while these problems are in place, you run the risk of pissing a bunch of people off. And then you’ll find yourself situation number 4: trying to handle a bunch of bad reviews. Fix first, then invest in good marketing.
- Your product or service is highly seasonal, and it’s not the right season. This is a bit of a gimme, since most people naturally understand this. If you only sell your product in the 3 months before Christmas, don’t bother with marketing in March. Similarly, if you do exterior painting, most people aren’t going to be thinking about getting a quote in November.
I’m absolutely certain that this isn’t a comprehensive list—on either the pro or con side—but it’s enough to get the point across: If your business “has good bones” but needs more customers, jump into marketing! It will help!
But marketing isn’t, and should never be treated as, a magic bullet to “fix” a business. More than anything else, marketing is a tool. It’s a useful tool, but it’s just a tool. And, like all tools, it should be used wisely for the job for which it was intended.
Happy small business marketing!
Katie & Theron
At Urban Sherpa Marketing Co. we offer marketing advisory, strategic planning, and services for small businesses and startups, including content marketing. Our goal is to make high-quality marketing possible for every business, no matter the size. Think of us as your outsourced marketing department, strategic marketing adviser, or even your phone-a-friend marketing lifeline. We specialize in building efficient marketing programs to grow your business without blowing the bank.
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