The cost of NOT marketing

NOTMarketing costs money. It requires time and energy. Not many entrepreneurs have time or money to spare. So many of them convince themselves that they really don’t need to market their businesses. The reasons are many:

  • “Advertising provides us really good ROI, no point in changing what works” But if it was really working you wouldn’t be reading this
  • “We spend about $60K in trade shows and industry publication and it works”. $60k invested in another activity might work better
  • “No time.”  You’re already spending time marketing, but you may not be doing the right stuff.
  • “Can’t afford it” - You can’t afford not to!

Well, it’s time to realize that by NOT marketing your business you are doing yourself in.  There are both direct and indirect costs of not marketing your business, and they will get you in the end.  There are the obvious sales lost to your competition.  They were found on the first page of a Google search, you weren’t.  Guess who is going to get a call?  One of their exisitng clients forwarded an invitation to a webcast they received from, guess who?  Not you.

The bummer for you is that  you didn’t know you lost these sales because you didn’t even know about the opportunity.  If this continues (not knowing about business opportunities) there will be a steady decline in the growth of your sales, and therefore the growth of your business.  The problem is that both of things, while a direct results of not marketing your business, are also very hard to quantify.  You can track sales that were lost if you were in the running, had deliver a proposal, or quoted a price.  If you didn’t – how do you know that there was a missed opportunity?  By not marketing – you are keeping yourself and yor business out of the running altogether.

The more indirect cost of not marketing is the loss of leverage.  For anyone in “professional services” (consultants, coaches, lawyers, accountants, dentists, etc.) if you’re not marketing to your existing clients, you are losing two valuable assets.  First, these clients are easy opportunities foryour competition tomarket to.  They don’t hear from you but they get all kinds of stuff from the other guys and think “why not check them out?”  Second, your existing clients are the best source of free marketing you could possibly want.  Who better to sing your praises to their friends & colleague that a satisfied customer who can share something about you – a white paper, article or a link to your blog.  It costs a lot more to market to a new client than to maintain a relationship with an existing one.

Now, let’s talk about how much it really costs.  Here are a couple of scenarios for you to consider:


  • Website – using WordPress or a similar platform, you can setup a website or blog for free.  There are thousands of templates and widgets that help you customize the look and add tons of functionality without knowing any programming at all.  The possibilities are endless and the HELP and Support forums are great!
  • Video introduction – using the web cam in your computer you can create a 20 second introduction of yourself and your business.  Post it to your website and upload it to YouTube.
  • Email campaign – using your existing email account, send an email to all of your business contacts pointing them to your new website.
  • Write an article using material you already have and post it to (the top article distribution network)
  • Write a blog entry each week – it doesn’t have to be long, but it has to be valuable, or funny or worth passing along to a friend (bonus points if it is all three!)

Get Some Help

  • Website – you can find a great web designer/developer for about $65 per hour.  With a simple site of about 5 pages it should take them about 10 hours to get the site up and running ($650)
  • Video introduction – there are online services that will create a video for you using your material, still photos, etc.  Purchasing the video is about $80 or you can have them host it for $19 per month. ($80)
  • Email campaign – an email marketing platform will make creating and delivering email campaigns, your newsletter or other communications so much easier.  At the beginning go for one with a flat fee or one that allows you to pay-as-you-go ($200/month)
  • Total = $930 – so now the idea that you can’t afford it is also off the table.

With a little work and some creative ideas there is no excuse for not marketing your business.

How Does Social Media Affect The Bottom Line?

A popular phrase in marketing is “Return On Investment” or ROI.  Executives always want to know the ROI of the marketing tactics used by their staff and sometimes this is easy to determine.  Where it gets murky is when it comes to social media.  There isn’t a way to monitor social media impact at present because social media is not meant to be a marketing or sales channel.  Social media is the opportunity to build relationships with present and future customers, build your brand and create a positive reputation.  Most of the affects of this can’t be quantified.

In my opinion the best practices in social media include:

1.  Build relationships.  Tweeting a couple of times a week or posting to your Facebook profile or Fan Page once in a while isn’t going to build relationships.  You need to monitor your accounts for visitor response at least twice a week if you’re just starting out and more often when you become more experienced.  Answer questions, “like” responses and thank people for commenting.  If you have the time check out the profile of your most vocal fans and follow them as well.

2.  Don’t start a flame war.  Build your reputation by responding positively and constructively to criticism.  Show enthusiasm for suggestions even if they aren’t spot on.  Move potentially destructive conversations off social media and on to e-mail or telephone.   Do feel free to remove comments that are spammy or inappropriate and report people who continuously spam you.  Building your reputation doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat and you have the right to protect your brand.

3.  Monitor conversations about you or your company.  People may be talking about you in a positive or negative manner on their own social media accounts so it’s important that you search for mentions of your company or management staff names and respond appropriately.  You can setup Google Alerts to monitor some of this but you must also manually search social media sites proactively.  You’ll be surprised at what you learn and much of it will be positive.

4.  Use social media to promote but not sell.  No one wants to follow someone on Twitter just to hear over and over again “Buy my book. Buy my book.  Buy my book.” It is permissible, however, to mention a product discreetly.  If you have a book, for example, and you provide an excerpt you certainly may link to the page where more information about the book is available.  Just be discreet and only do this infrequently or you may find yourself talking to yourself.

If your boss asks you for the ROI for the time you spend on social media tell him or her that you are building relationships and no one can put a price on that!

Book Excerpt: Pick the problem you want to solve

red question markThe following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

The problem most companies have is that they have more ideas than they have resources (money or people) to implement them. You can’t solve everything all at once, so you have to pick the problem you want to solve today. There will always be problems to solve. The important thing is to know what the problems are. Then you can prioritize which to tackle first and which to put off until next quarter (or the following quarter, or the next year…).

Prioritizing activities is difficult for most marketers because it means that something won’t get done. By your very nature, you want to do everything you can to make your company or your product successful. The hard, cold fact is there usually isn’t enough time, money or people to do everything you want to do—right now.

To get beyond this sometimes emotional reaction, ask yourself or your organization a very simple question; “If you can only do one thing—what would it be?”

The answer is your priority. It sets the context for evaluating other options. Which option helps you reach the objective…

  • Faster?
  • For less money?
  • With better results?

Prioritization doesn’t have to be complicated and doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Try following these simple steps next time you’re faced with a difficult prioritization challenge.

  • Brainstorm a list of everything you’d like to accomplish in order to achieve your objectives.
  • Outline the potential impact of each activity on the business objective.
  • Estimate the cost of each activity (time, money and resources).
  • Evaluate the likelihood of success.
  • Identify the activities that provide the biggest return on investment (ROI).
  • Prioritize the activities according to their ROI.

Armed with this information, you are better prepared for the inevitable budget discussions. Depending on the available budget, there is a point at which you will probably run out of money. By evaluating the ROI for each activity, you can determine how far your budget will actually take you. At this point, draw a line. The activities that have been prioritized above the line get done, and things below the line get done later. These are the problems you will solve another day.

Prioritization can get tricky, and sometimes political. This is especially true when the review and approval process involves multiple businesses, decision-makers and executives. People have opinions. Sometimes you agree with them and sometimes you don’t. And sometimes you don’t get to vote. The key to effectively navigate these waters is to be clear in your approach:

  • These are the objectives.
  • This is how these strategies support the objective.
  • This is how much money we have to spend.
  • This is the return on investment for each strategy.

Having laid out an articulate, well thought out assessment of the options, you have done everything in your power to help the organization pick the problem they want to solve. Rest assured—there will always be more problems to solve. Can you think back to a situation where prioritization would have helped you more effectively achieve your objective? I know I can.

Branding is a balancing act

All to often companies find themselves with a brilliant strategy – on paper at least. When they try to implement the strategy, they run into obstacles such as channels, partners, technology, infrastructure, competition, or lack of resources. The reverse is also true. Companies can spend so much time executing that they lose sight of the business objective. They might end up with an awesome website, but no real results.

Effective brands, that is, brands that deliver on their promise and help companies sell more stuff, are those that find the right balance between strategy and tactics, between images and words, between effect and affect. Every brand is made up of several different components: visuals, messages, voice, and personality, for example. Each of these is integrated into specific deliverables like a company logo or tagline or photographic style. The trick is to find the right combination and then apply them consistently throughout everything you do.

It starts with strategy – how will you achieve your objectives? Depending on your brand promise some strategies are going to be more effective than others. For example, you probably won’t see Nascar investing in “environmentally-friendly” campaigns; you would expect it from Starbucks. There are lots of different ways to achieve your objectives. Make sure that your strategies align with your brand promise and that you can actually implement them. This is what I call the “duh” test. Run the strategies by a colleague, friend or spouse and see what they think. If they ask you a question and your reaction is “duh”…you might want to rethink the strategy.

Next come the tactics – what exactly will you do to implement the strategy? If your strategy was to grow your market share by expanding into new markets, a tactic might be to partner with a complementary brand in the new market to jump start your brand recognition. This might require a joint email campaign, billboards and local ads on radio and TV. The key is to align the tactics with the strategy so that everything is in support of the brand. Otherwise, you end with a lot of random activities – all of them are probably pretty cool on their own – but together they don’t deliver.

To be valuable, strategy must be practical, and tactics must be integrated. With the right balance of strategy and tactics, your brand will grow and so will your business.

Is it worth it? The ROI of Social Media

MarketingSherpa - May 2010 (

The age old question – Is it worth it?  This question gets asked of all marketing program, each quarter, each year.  All companies do it – an annual budget plan.   Everyone wants to know which activities have earned a positive return on their investment (ROI).  Of course they do – you don’t want to continue throwing money into something that isn’t delivering results.

Social media is one of the newer additions to the marketing arsenal.  And as such, the jury is still out on the overal ROI of social media activities.  However, in a recent study conducted by MarketingSherpa (May 2010) perceptions of social media are trending positively when it comes to budget allocation.

Almost half of the respondents (mostly mid-large sized companies) viewed social media as a promising tactic and are planning to moderately increase budget allocation – good news!   A full 7% can measure a positive ROI resulting in a significant increase in spending – great news!  So when all is said and done, less than 1/3 are still questioning the value of social media – even better news for those of you looking for budget.

Normally, when there is a new technology or new approach to marketing, it takes the the money folks a long time to warm to the idea of actually spending money on something they believe is “unproven”.  However in these economic times, when a little money spent on social media can go a long way, it appears that those same money folks have finally come to grips with the fact that this stuff does work. Especially now that we have some measurable results to report.

Like other marketing activities, social media will only be effective and deliver the required results, when part of an overall strategy.  As I have often written in this blog, all good marketing starts with understanding your objectives.  What do you want to accomplish with social media?  What role does it play in your marketing mix?  How will you measure that success?  If you don’t have a target to shoot for – how do you know if you’ve hit the bulls-eye.

The next, and probably most important thing to understand, when investing in social media is your audience.  What type of social media do they use?  Where to they hang out? Who do they read?  Who do they go to for recommendations? Armed with this information you can develop an effective social media strategy and target the appropriate platforms.  You don’t want to put all your focus on LinkedIn, if you audience is really into FaceBook.

Now you are set up for success. You know what you want to accomplish, who you are targeting and which platforms are a god strategic fit.  Now it’s time to engage and get going.  social media is, well, inherently social.  A good presence is defined (according to me) as active, timely and authentic.  I can see that real people are behind the presence of the company – there is a name to go with the brand.  I see posts, updates and information on a regular basis and it is relevant to what is going on in the industry, my business, and the world. Plus, what is coming through has a voice, tone and intention that “feels” real (not like the PR agency is writing all the Tweets, or posting on the FanPage).

With you newly found social media busget, make sure to take sometime and think about what you want to accomplish, and how you’re going to measure it so that come next years busdget cycle you are armed with an ROI that will earn you a budget increase – probably the best news of all.