This column first appeared on RimoftheWorld.net on November 16, 2009 and in the Business Press on November 30, 2009.
I was on my way to meet with prospective clients when I found myself on the crest of a mountain, at the top of a trail reserved for dirt bikes, ATVs and Jeeps. The terrain looked like icing on a German Chocolate Cake. I got out of my Kia and tried to get my bearings, angry at myself for having foolishly believed I could find any location without benefit of MapQuest’s detailed driving directions.
With intermittent cell service, I called Double Dog Ranch owners Dana and Mike. They talked me down like Air Traffic Controllers to a terrified passenger in the final scene of Airport 1975. Sacrificing the alignment on both my car and my neck, I followed their instructions and took Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to the bottom of the hill.
The journey taught me two things:
1) Never go anywhere without a full tank of gas and an empty bladder.
2) If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
The same is true when it comes to advertising and public relations. Without strategic planning, measuring and goal-setting, no matter how much you invest, your efforts will be in vain. Remarkably, time and again, I meet with clients who have no rhyme or reason for the money they spend on advertising. In fact, many actually admit that they know they are throwing away their resources.
For example, a successful real estate agent recently told me she is wasting $800/month to advertise in a glossy, full-color magazine because her clients want to see their homes in print.
“The photos and descriptions of their houses don’t do a thing to sell their homes,” she said. “But clients expect it. So I continue to pay.”
I hear this irrational rationale often. But, in this economy, I wonder why anyone would continue to invest in something that doesn’t work. Could it be that they don’t know what would? In 2009, whatever your product, service or ministry, the easiest, most cost-effective way to reach current and potential customers and donors is online.
According to the World Internet Usage Statistics website, in the United States, alone, nearly 253 million people (or 72.4% of the U.S. population) use the Internet on a regular basis. This figure represents a 134% increase over usage statistics for 2008. These numbers reveal that even late adopters are getting on the e-bandwagon.
One of the reasons we encourage our clients to invest in Internet advertising is because goal setting and measuring are easy, no matter the budget.
- For Free— choosing from thousands of free social media platforms, anyone can start or contribute to conversations about their industry and, in the process, create brand awareness. The most popular sites for this are Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
While these applications are free, you will only get out what you put in. So be prepared to spend a significant amount of time feeding the beast. And don’t use the hard sell approach to pitch your product. Instead, provide valuable content to your target market.
- On a Budget—once you’ve established an online presence, direct traffic to it with affordable pay-per-click advertising. Several of our clients have found success placing low-cost ads on Facebook.
“Buying FB ads is a no-brainer for us,” says one of our clients, “We get thousands of direct-to-consumer impressions delivered to a very select target market and we only pay when someone is interested enough to click on our advertisement.”
- The Sky’s the Limit—while any Internet ad campaign will yield results, the best approach is to combine all of the above. In a perfect world, I recommend hiring professionals to set up and manage social networking sites. Then promote the sites using paid advertising, either by the click or impression.
Whichever method you pursue, establish a baseline by noting your average number of leads per week. Then, set a realistic goal for increasing that number. This way, you will be able to accurately measure the success of your efforts. Planning ahead will put you firmly on the road to success instead of bouncing around on an unmarked trail of tears.
Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.