It’s 5 am and the shrill blast from my alarm clock has successfully propelled me out of bed. Thirty minutes later, I’m on the road to my gym.
Why am I starting this marketing article with a description of my pre-dawn routine? Because while I was trudging along on the treadmill, it occurred to me: Marketing your business is a lot like an exercise program. Here’s how.
It’s hard work. There’s a reason why they call exercise a “work out,” and the same is true for marketing. Quality marketing requires a quality effort. Anything less is a waste of time and money.
It takes time. It’s the number one excuse. The average business owner’s day fills up quickly. By the time he knows it, the day is over and those marketing plans remain buried in the desk drawer. Same thing with exercise. My predawn workout is the only time slot I’m guaranteed not to be busy with something else.
No really. It DOES take time. Not just the work itself. But in seeing and realizing the effects. I’m not going to drop these 25 lbs. in a week or two. Likewise, it will take time to see a lasting difference in your business with a change in strategies or tactics.
If you skip it, you’ll regret it. Either a bigger waistline – or a smaller bottom line – will be the result of ignoring this critical task. But it’s not your doctor who will be nagging you to put in the work – it’s your accountant or banker!
But here’s the most important similarity of all:
You can – and must – measure the results. To succeed at either pursuit, you’ve got to make this a real numbers game. Be it pounds, inches, and BMI counts, or new customer acquisition counts, margins or upsells. Tallying the results and watching the scoreboard is critical.
First you need to know what exactly you’re measuring and trying to improve upon. Are my gym trips dedicated to building muscle, shedding a few pounds, or lowering my blood pressure? Each goal probably requires a different game plan.
For your business, you need to figure out which goals will make the most positive impact. Of course everyone wants to increase sales and profits. But that’s like me saying that I want to be healthier as the ultimate goal of my exercise plan. When you can narrow down and prioritize your most critical marketing goals, it’s an easy next step to choosing the right offer or tactic to achieve best results.
Here are a few common examples of top priority goals, along with the tactics often used to achieve good results.
• Are you trying to get more new customers? Couponing and introductory discounts may be the way to go, and they’re easily tallied up at the end of the campaign. Tell-A-Friend and referral programs can provide surprisingly good results when combined with the right offers and incentives.
• Maybe you’re trying to retain or revive old customers? Personal phone calls or letters with specific “come back to us” offers might be the key. Loyalty programs are always strong.
• Perhaps you’re trying to increase your average cart, or total purchase? Test out a variety of upsell products and services, and try them in various platforms. Perhaps it’s as easy as adding pages to the e-commerce check out process. Or maybe a follow-up email after the purchase with add-on suggestions is the best approach.
No matter how brilliant your ideas or offers are, your success or failure will key on your ability to accurately measure each separate promotion. With forethought and planning, you can isolate the kinds of measurements needed to track the effect of each piece of the plan.
Watching the numbers fall – or grow when you’re talking business – is a huge motivating factor. But that’s not the real reason why you’ve got to keep score. When reading the results become part of your daily/weekly/monthly routine you develop new insights about how your business really works, from the inside out. As you grow more comfortable with your understanding of the numbers, you can build on the good – and even the bad – results. Having these numbers at your fingertips allows you to quickly tweak and modify your campaigns and bring about the best results.
Now your business will begin to operate on a new marketing timeline. From testing offers, to tallying the numbers, analyzing the results, and tweaking the promotion. It’ll become a rhythm – soon you’ll feel the urge to test out a variety of offers or employ a range of tactics to achieve you goals.
I’ll leave you with one last comparison between hitting the gym and penciling in the marketing plan:
It’s good for you. Ten out of ten experts agree. Your life – or business – will benefit from a consistent and disciplined program. Every small business owner knows they must market in order to grow and prosper, especially in this challenging economy.
Steven Spatz is the Vice President, Marketing for Disc Makers. Spatz’s 20-year direct marketing résumé includes marketing management positions with Mattel, Matchbox Collectibles, Hasbro/GI Joe and Pinnacle Orchards.