I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “If all you have is a hammer, then every problem you encounter ends up looking like a nail.” It’s a funny thought, but there’s a lot of truth to it. We rarely think about a challenge we face with anything other than the usual solutions in our toolbox. The more familiar the solution, the more it seems to appeal to us.
We could even take this analogy further and apply it to business marketing. If a business owner has always relied on ValPak, then ValPak may be the only thing he’s willing to invest in — even if it no longer packs the same value it once did. (See what I did there?)
To another, the answer may still be Yellow pages advertising, because the answer for him has always been Yellow Pages. And when it doesn’t work as well as it used to, the answer is to double down, doing even more of the same thing, hoping for a different result.
I bet you would expect a digital marketer like me to follow those statements with something like, “You should really be using online marketing instead, because that’s the sharpest tool in the toolbox,” right? Wrong.
Surprised? Let me explain.
The most important tool in your marketing toolbox is feedback. Information. Data. It’s your measuring tape. Without it, you’ll never have a clear idea of what marketing mix your business truly needs to grow. It may be that in your part of the world, direct mail circulars really are the most cost-effective means of reaching your target market. No one would be as surprised as I if that indeed turned out to be the case… but stranger things have happened, and you’ll never know for sure unless you measure.
Are You Using the Spray & Pray Method?
As a consultant, I am amazed every time I talk to a small business owner who doesn’t know where his core business is coming from. There is usually a vague sort of sense of what may be working, but when I ask for the numbers, there aren’t any to be had.
No actual measurements were made, no tracking implemented, no periodic evaluations of the marketing budget. Just year after year of high-dollar spending — literally throwing money into the air and hoping the wind doesn’t come sweep it all away before any of it has a chance to take root and do any good.
I call it the “Spend and Pray” model of marketing, and any business owner who employs it is succeeding despite himself, if he is succeeding at all.
The truth is: the only way you will ever know if a marketing tactic is bringing you back more than you are putting in is to measure results. This does require patience and diligence, but you’ll be rewarded with the kind of competitive intel that others only dream about.
How Do You Measure Your Marketing?
You can get as high-tech or as old-school as you like on this part, but start with the six little words that you should say every time you talk to a customer for the first time. These words come right after the word “Hello,” and they are: “How did you hear about us?”
Of course, it’s not enough to simply ask the question. You must record the answers. Keep a pad of paper next to every phone and computer in your place of business. Make it a part of your religion to ask and record, and soon you will have a much more accurate understanding of how people are finding out about you. It’s a start.
For the record, I’m under no illusions about online marketing. It’s not a holy grail (queue the angelic choir), and it’s by no means the only strategy you should be trying. But the reason I love online marketing so much is because it is so easy to get meaningful feedback very quickly.
With web site tracking tools, I can know within minutes or hours if a new tactic on a website is going to perform well. And if not, I can make adjustments the same afternoon. By the following afternoon, I can measure again. Try that with magazine advertising. I thought so.
Still, there are ways to track the effectiveness of your offline ads and marketing, too. Much of the time the measurements will be made via those six magic words, either over the phone, or a web site contact form: “How did you hear about us?”
What Should You Measure?
When gathering up all of this glorious data, the temptation is to simply count up the number of times a particular marketing source is mentioned, and then jump to the conclusion that this is the one thing that is working out the best for you. But you’d be doing yourself a real disservice if you chose to stop there.
With a little extra work, you can track the actual customer through your system, from first call to paid invoice. This is where the real enlightenment begins.
In my experience, when a business owner pulls this information together for the first time, they are shocked to learn two things…
First, the best source of new business is rarely what the business owner has always assumed. And second, there is usually a big surprise when it is revealed which marketing source brings in the best kind of business (the kind of customers who spend more, and remain loyal).
By measuring not only how many customers are coming from a particular source, but also the quality of customers you are getting from each source, you are now equipped to make some business-altering decisions. You are finally able to stop wasting money on the ineffective kind of marketing, and to start applying your resources to only those activities that are showing you the kind of return on your marketing investment you deserve.
If you approach every marketing opportunity with a measuring tape, you’ll never be disappointed in your results. In fact, every new marketing tactic you try will yield exactly what you need it to: information. Knowledge about what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t.
Never again will you be even remotely tempted to allow that pushy salesperson to talk you into a big premium package, not unless you already know it’s working for you. And that’s what Measuring Tape Marketing is really about: empowering YOU to make business decisions with confidence.
We get asked all the time if we manage Google Ads, and if so, what we think of it as an advertising platform. The answer is yes we do manage Google Ads, and what we think of it depends on your goals. In order to be successful with Google Ads, you must evaluate where it fits in with your overall online marketing strategy and end goal, and be realistic about what the platform can and can’t do for you.
#1 Drive Traffic, Increase Conversions & Brand Identity
Google Ads can be an incredibly useful tool to drive traffic to your website, increase conversions, and boost brand identity. Because Spark Marketer serves local service businesses, we concentrate first on driving traffic to your website. We have seen consistent traffic increases of around 25 to 30% and as high as 45% in a few cases. This is mainly due to a focused and more directed approach, rather than the shotgun approach that we often see. We look for opportunities for increased exposure where visibility might be low, and try to identify strategies to increase clicks to your website.
#2 Reach Out of the Way Locations
Clients often want more search visibility in specific locations or service areas where they don’t yet have a good organic presence or an office that can rank on the map. Because Google Ads has the ability to target specific areas down to zip codes, it is a good viable way to reach those locations. Data research from Google and various other sources suggests that location targeting can be incredibly useful, be it to a very select audience. This can also makes your advertising management more complex as you add more areas. That said, you can’t use ads to show your map listing in an area that is way out there. Google still follows proximity with maps, so you can only target out of the way locations with text ads.
#3 Promote Specials & Sales
Two of the biggest uses for Google Ads that often get overlooked are special promotions and sales ads. These type of ads not only get great exposure, but they also get the most clicks and best click-through rates. It is hard for some people to pass on a good deal if they see one, and Google Ads are a great way of getting that deal out to the public. Again, you do have to make sure it is a good enough deal for your customers, without losing your shirt! Either knowing the item is a loss leader or has enough built-in profit that you are not losing money in the long run accomplishes this. Ads with early bird specials and manufacturer’s promotions can be great during less busy times. As long as the deal is simple and a good value, the clicks will come. But remember, every click in Google Ads costs, even if the searcher doesn’t contact you.
There are things Google Ads can do for you and things it cannot. It is not a place for PR and long-form type exposure. It is direct, targeted, and takes a fine aim and a direct approach to reach your audience and meet your advertising goals. So when deciding whether or not to include it as part of your strategy, make sure you think things through and talk with someone who’s experienced with the Google Ads platform. We’d be happy to help!
As a business owner, you are telling a story about your company with every single decision you make. You’re either attracting an audience who wants to keep reading or sending them away disappointed with the first chapter.
So what’s your story? I’m not talking about the “official” marketing on the brochure or website. No one reads that stuff, and when they do, they know it’s well-crafted business-speak, and not nearly the whole story.
When I talk to business owners about their story, I am talking about the little details. The unwritten, unscripted bits. The often overlooked parts of every service business that add up to be quite consequential. Things like:
Your Email Address
When you have been in business for more than six months, and are not using an actual company domain email address to communicate with your customers and vendors (firstname.lastname@example.org), you are telling a story about how you don’t know if you’ll be in business in another six months, so why bother? You are communicating loudly that you think being unprofessional and less-than-polished is an acceptable standard for your organization. Is that really the story you want to tell?
Your brand mark is a memorable visual story that tells a lot about your company in a single glance. It should take someone less than three seconds to see, read, and interpret what they are seeing in your logo. Your visual story needs to be simple, concise, and memorable, even when viewed on the side of a truck, at highway speeds, during rush hour.
Logos with more than two or three elements going on are usually forgotten. Avoid obscure symbology or cleverness, unless you want to explain to every potential customer what your logo means, when you could be using that time to tell them how you can actually help them.
Your Uniforms and Trucks
Cleanliness is its own story, and it’s an important one when it comes to local service businesses. A clean, well-maintained truck gets noticed. So does a dirty one, but only one leads to new business.
Similarly, a professional uniform communicates a job well done, even before the quote is accepted. A well-branded, well-maintained fleet and crew speaks volumes about your business.
Your Phone Manners
I am amazed at how many local service businesses don’t give a hoot about how their business phone is answered – IF it is answered at all!
The way you choose to answer the phone will set the tone for the rest of the relationship with your customer and give them a preview of your story. Get it right and you’ll get a chance to receive a standing ovation. Get it wrong and your customer will never even set foot in the theatre.
Customer Testimonials & Reviews
This is the part of your story that you don’t get to tell – your customers tell this part for you. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that theirs is a minor role in your production. No, theirs is the lead part. It’s the most trusted, most authentic, and improvisational storyline you have working for you.
From a marketing standpoint, it could be argued that, in the end, your business is nothing more than the story people tell about you when you aren’t in the room. And while you cannot script it or write it, you exert an enormous amount of influence before the final draft gets handed in.
How? In the experience you deliver to the customer.
Tell A Good Story
These are just a handful of the ways people take in the entire narrative of what it will be like to do business with you. These critical details tell your audience whether or not your business is going to be a blockbuster hit or a box office flop. They let the audience know if there will be a happy ending or a tragedy. They indicate whether you will be showing up on the scene as the hero or the villain.
If you take the effort to get these little details right, then your well-crafted web site and the beautifully written marketing messages begin to work in concert with and amplify all that you are doing right in your business. All together, they will do the job of telling the world that you are one of the rarest things in the world of business – a truly good story.
Each year we have dozens of clients who tell us that at least one of their online accounts has been hacked. Often, if it happens to an email account or social account, we are able to spot the hack before they are!
Still, some of these hacks have cost our clients thousands of dollars to clear up theft and fraud issues. Not to mention the fact that they have had to explain to their clients that certain sensitive information of theirs might have been stolen from company computers. And the #1 reason for getting hacked? Insecure passwords!
Since October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, we felt it would be a good idea to issue this reminder to all of our clients, to make sure you review your passwords, change the ones that matter most, and make all of them much stronger!
In order to help you do this, we created a simple worksheet that walks you through a fail-proof way of creating unique, strong passwords for every single online account you have. Please don’t be the next victim of cyber crime. Take a look at this worksheet (PDF) now available at the link below, and make this a priority today.
One last quick tip: It only takes about 30 seconds to go into one of your online accounts, click the settings tab, and change your password. 30 seconds that could save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars by preventing you from being one of the unfortunate ones who gets hacked this year due to an insecure password.
Be safe out there!
P.S. If you have shared passwords with us so that we can access certain accounts on your behalf, please call us to let us know you’ve changed your password so we can update our records, too. Thanks!