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Is your marketing dollar going down the toilet?

There is a common misconception that is causing small businesses to throw money down the proverbial toilet.

We receive many phone calls from small businesses who are struggling to survive. The common thread from the calls goes like this…”I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I can’t get the sales in the door. I ‘ve just spent $x on advertising, but I haven’t had any responses.”

Does this sound familiar?

There are many reasons why your advertising might not be working, but in general, it's because advertising your business is not the same as marketing your business. Let me explain.

So you know you have a great product or service, but do you ever bother to ask if the market feels the same way? You assume yes, because you have happy customers, but have you compared the number of customers you have with the potential number of customers you could have? In other words, have you explored your market share?

Say you have 5% of the possible market. What does the other 95% think and what will it take for them to buy from you? Even if they do think you are great, why don’t they buy from you now?

Here you can see the need for market research. This isn’t as exhausting as it sounds and let me assure you, it will save you a lot of time, money and heartache in the long run.

You can even do this yourself. Start with a simple SWOT Analysis by making a list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

From this, you will actually learn some pretty interesting things about your business.

For instance, you may find that people love your offerings, but your location is inconvenient. Or that you are trying to sell Coca Cola to the younger generations X and Y, who only ever drink Pepsi. Or that you sell high quality expensive sugar, when people don’t care about quality in that product category.

From a simple exercise like this, you can discover that you either need to change your offer, your business or your targeting, as no amount of advertising is going to make people come if the basics don’t match up.

By understanding the unique trends and needs of each of your target markets and then comparing these to your business’ strengths and weaknesses, you should be able to come up with interesting solutions to the barriers that are preventing people from buying from you.

And what will you do when the fickle market decides to change and other barriers arise? You’ll need to find ways to ensure your business always stays on top in the future too. Ahhh, how we love marketing strategies and plans!

I know I’ve simplified my explanation and in reality, marketing is much more involved than this. However, you can see that marketing is actually a continual process of understanding the market and delivering what they want. It never stops. Good market intelligence means you can define and refine your product, price, place and promotion (also known as the 4P’s of marketing) to stay on top of competition.

On the other hand, advertising is just one of many aspects to promotion. It talks at people (one-way communication only) and is losing traction because consumers are becoming more savvy, media is becoming more fragmented and people increasingly regard advertising with suspicion.

To take your message to your audience, consider other aspects of promotion including PR, word of mouth campaigns, factual communications or loyalty programmes which usually cost less, are more relevant or more highly regarded by consumers.

If you are going to advertise, you need to ensure you have one clear message that is relevant to your specific target market in the correct media channel that best suits them. You also need a clear call to action.

Most people make the mistake of trying to get their money’s worth by compacting as much information into an advert as possible. Big mistake. This only confuses people or makes the advert so busy they don’t even want to look at it.

In short, spending a lot of money for very little return does not make good business sense. Whilst advertising has its place, it should not be the first solution you jump to. Using that same money to investigate and fix the real issues behind slow sales performance does make good business sense and so an integrated marketing approach should always be taken.

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