I look at marketing as a very simple investment of time and money and just like investing in the stock market, you need to have a solid plan to see real, sustainable returns over time.
To make the analogy a bit clearer, let’s consider a simple definition of what makes a good investment – in other words, getting more out than you put in.
If you invested your money in the stock market, you’d have a very clear idea of what made a good or bad investment. Put in £100 (or $100 for that matter) and get back £200 and you’d be happy to say that was a good investment – get back £50 and you wouldn’t be so happy.
Marketing is very much the same – spend £100 on printing some flyers that bring in business worth more than £100 then you’ve made a good marketing investment. If those same flyers bring in less than £100 worth of new trade then your money would’ve been better spent elsewhere.
It’s as simple as that.
Of course, you want to see the best possible returns, but picking the right stock to double your money isn’t as straightforward as we’d like it to be. If we knew which stock would double in price we’d all invest in it. If we knew which marketing ideas would always give us a great return we’d simply throw the whole budget into that and watch the cash roll in.
Deciding where to invest your marketing budget might seem like a gamble – but just like a savvy investor you can create a profile of what’s likely to work for your business and what’s best left alone.
This profile is the essence of a good marketing plan: you identify your message (the problem you can solve for your customers), then you identify the customers most likely to need and welcome your solution to that problem, finally you select the best vehicles for getting that message to those potential customers.
Et voila. You now have a marketing plan – and a checklist for identifying good marketing investments.
Your Marketing Investment Checklist
1. Does it communicate my message? This could be in the words you use, the design of an ad or the way you come across in a press release. Score how well a marketing option communicates your message out of 10 (1 is just your name, 10 is you talking directly to your customer for as long as you need). Keep this number you’ll need it in a bit.
2. Does it speak to the right people? There’s no point delivering a persuasive message to someone that doesn’t need what you’re selling. Your marketing should be as targeted as possible – again rate the potential marketing investment out of 10 for how targeted it is. 1 would be either a market too big to be precise or too small to matter, 10 would be you choosing just the businesses you wanted to speak to.
All the local business people may read your local paper but as a percentage of the overall readership, this level of targeting may score poorly for a B2B service. A website can be found by anyone, so you should judge the content and design of the site on your 10pt scale, and rate ideas for marketing it individually.
3. Is it cost-effective? Here’s where we start to get really practical. You have a limited budget to invest – that means you need to be selective, you can’t invest in every marketing idea going.
Rate the cost against your available budget and give it a score out of 10 (10 being low cost in this case). If it’s free or very low cost then score the amount of time it will take against the amount of time you have available to invest in marketing – 10 being something that takes no extra time at all.
Now you should have 3 scores – add them together and compare to some other ideas you may have had, if it stacks up well then you may be onto a winner and it may be worth a trial investment to find out for sure. As a simple rule of thumb, 20+ is worth a test, under 10/30 is worth avoiding.
Just like an investor in the stock market, a few simple ideas, well executed, can make a huge difference in the returns you see. Some ideas generate solid returns over the long term – ‘blue chip’, proven ideas that have worked for thousands of small businesses – and big ones for that matter. Some on the other hand are a little less tried and tested but offer high returns compared to the cost of investing in them. Sometimes you need to invest in the ideas the others aren’t to see the bigger returns.
A good portfolio will always mix a few solid bets with a few potentially high return options. My advice: invest smart, diversify that portfolio, and make small investments to start with. When you see what works you can be more confident in increasing the size of your investment but whatever you do, keep investing.