3 Keys to Marketing Your Sequim or P.A. Business

sequim-marketing

The Goal is To Make Real Money With Advertising

Sequim and Port Angeles business owners have a big challenge marketing their products or services in this rapidly changing business climate.  Most entrepreneurs are so busy managing the day-to-day activities of their business, putting out fires and responding to emergencies throughout the week, they have little time to become marketing and sales experts.  Mastering your profession and becoming an expert on that subject is one thing:  becoming an expert at marketing and sales is another thing altogether.

Sequim and Port Angeles business owners get hit with so many sales pitches to advertise here and there, to join this association or that, no wonder it gets confusing.  Many business owners have tried different associations that promised to bring business, and some have joined networking groups that promise referrals.  The common experience is that none of these ever produce.  Oh, sure, you’ll always find someone somewhere who got a client once, but that is the exception, not the rule.  They sound good, but somehow all the big talk and promises of customers never seems to materialize.  Can you tell I’ve been there, done that?  How about for 30 years!  But I’ve also interviewed hundreds of business owners over the past 20 years, and the experience is overwhelmingly the same.

What can a business owner do?  Here are three critical keys to successful marketing, and the bottom line of all successful marketing is making real money.

First, don’t shoot from the hip on where to advertise.

I spent an hour on the phone with a local business owner yesterday.  She told me a salesman tried to sell her some expensive print newspaper advertising, and when she told him it had not produced any business for her in the past two years and that she could not afford to do so right now, his answer was the old worn out cliche, “You can’t afford not to advertise!”

Now here is a business owner who wants to do the right thing, but she knew something was wrong with this salesman’s approach.  Her reasoning was absolutely on track, and here it is.  If print advertising is not producing customers for me, and it hasn’t in the past two years, to throw more precious advertising money down that black hole would be the definition of insanity–doing the same thing over and over again while hoping to get a different result.  Picture the fly bouncing off the window again and again.  Humans are supposed to be smarter than flies.  This woman was smarter than the fly and the advertising salesman together.

“You can’t afford not to advertise,” would be a true statement if the advertising medium in question actually produced results.  If it does not, then advertising must be directed to another venue.  Here’s something that most people know, but haven’t thoroughly digested yet–print advertising as a traditional form of marketing is no longer working like it once did.  The fact that print newspapers are going out of business left and right is strong proof that businesses no longer like the cost/benefit ratio.

There are many places to spend your advertising dollars besides newspapers, including magazines, radio spots, flyers in the Chamber newsletter, bulk mailing, Google Adsense, lead generation companies, sponsorship of local activities, yellow page advertising, billboards, signage, and a hundred niche advertising gimmicks.

Remember the goal is to make money with your business.  Making good money can give you freedom to do many good things in the community, but advertising should make you more money than it costs, at least in the long run.  With this in mind, it is critical that you know which advertising is effective for your business and how to rank the effectiveness of that advertising.

Question: which is more effective for most businesses, a billboard or a 2-inch block ad in the newspaper service directory (a single page full of nothing but little block ads or business card type ads)?  This is a trick question, because neither is effective.  Billboards are effective for directions to a Casino, but they no longer are effective for branding purposes (their primary purpose).  Newspaper service directories are nothing but a money maker for the newspapers.  Sorry to be so blunt here, folks, but you want the truth about marketing so you can actually make money in your business, not some watered down politely written dribble.  Everyone I have talked to in the past 20 years about newspaper service directories tells me they just skip right over that page.  I do too.  I always have, just like the vast majority of everyone else who reads the paper.  (Online service directories are a horse of a different color, although they must be done right to be effective.)

Most business owners waste thousands of dollars every year on ineffective advertising.  Don’t do it!  Your money is too precious, and what you really need is customers.  Figure out the most effective advertising that will produce customers for you as quickly as possible.  Don’t be fooled by every Tom, Dick or Jane salesperson who must sell you so they can make money.

Second, don’t join organizations or associations unless you know they will make you money.

Many businesses join associations at the national, state, or local levels because they are told they get a laundry list of benefits.  So how many sales have you actually made because you were a member of xxx organization?  It’s absolutely amazing how many business owners cannot identify a single sale from such associations.

Business owners ask me, “Should I become a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council, or the Downtown Business Association?  Should I join a national association of like-minded business owners?  What about networking groups that share referrals?  Should I become a member of the Better Business Bureau?”

The answer to all of those questions should use the same analysis.  Will this association help me make money?  At this point a salesman for any association will want to point to non-monetary benefits, especially when you start to corner him about how you will make money.  But the goal of any business is to make money, and if they cannot specifically tell you how you will make real money, do not join.  If you want to join for some other reason, like making friends and learning, that’s great, but let’s not justify this in the budget by arguing it will help your business make money.  My honest estimate from 30 years in business in three states, and working with a lot of business owners during 20 years of law practice is that only 1% of business owners actually make money from these associations.  Associations are generally not there to make you money, but to generically lobby for your industry, or some other broad purpose.  There’s nothing wrong with, but we’re focusing here on how to make money with advertising.

Many have joined associations under the mistaken impression that customers will just start showing up through referrals or the “network” of the association.  Doesn’t happen.  The only way to actually squeeze business out of your membership is to become totally immersed in the association, serving in various capacities, talking and meeting people, and so on.  The problem with this approach is that it takes tremendous time, and this is time for which you do not get paid.  Anyone who has served with such associations will tell you they basically donated a lot of time without any direct or indirect compensation.  Most business owners simply do not have the time or desire to use the association to do 24/7 marketing by socializing and networking.  There are other more effective ways to put your skills and talents to work to make money.

Someone will argue at this point that there are many benefits, but try to get them to articulate the benefits that actually produce money, and they cannot.  Others will argue it is a wonderful experience meeting so many people and working with many of them, and this is undoubtedly true and good, but it isn’t making money.  Many who do find great pleasure in serving in associations in their communities are retired with a nice pension, and it is wonderful they have the time to donate.  But business owners who cannot retire and have a family to support must be very careful about how they spend their time and money.

If you need to make serious money in your business, you need to focus like a laser beam on what does make you money and disregard the rest.

Third, have an Internet strategy uniquely designed for your business.

Today the Internet is a growing dominant force for almost any business in connecting with potential customers.  More than 80% of Americans are using the Internet to research and to buy.  The search engines have replaced Internet portals and franchise names as the primary way consumers search for your product or service.  Branding is falling to the wayside.  Franchise names don’t mean anything to a younger generation.  Loyalty by customers is not the strong source of business it was in the 60’s and 70’s.  The Internet has changed everything, but most business owners don’t understand that and don’t know how to take advantage of the Internet.

Here is something I will share that has taken me a lifetime to learn about marketing, plus the past 20 years since I first got into computer technology, and the past 14 years of marketing on the Internet.  Ready?  Honestly, this may be the most important piece of information in this entire article.

There are three vital components to a successful Internet marketing strategy.

  1. You must have a member of your team who is great with technology and the Internet.  That includes very good graphics, very good navigation, and very good search engine optimization (SEO).  Believe me, very few techies really are good at all of these.
  2. You must have a good writer for your Internet articles, and he must also be very good at writing good sales script.  Words matter, and these days it takes extraordinarily good sales scripts to capture someone’s interest in a couple of seconds on the Internet and then reel them in.
  3. You must be able to convey your vast knowledge and experience in the content on your Internet site.  People are searching for answers, and if you provide them in a well written article that they can find, you will connect with potential customers.

So let’s put these three together.  You must have three people on your team, unless you can combine these skills in one or two people, which is extremely rare.  You must have the expert with the knowledge, which is you as the business owner.  You must have a techie, and you must have an excellent writer who is a great salesman.  If you lack any one of these, your Internet presence will be a failure.  This is the precise reason so many businesses are frustrated with their websites, which are not producing business.  I know a local business owner who paid a techi $6,000 to create a website for them, but all they have is a static brochure on the Internet.  There is no good content and no good sales script.  They are very frustrated, because they hardly appear in the search engines, and their site has never made them money.

There is much more that could and should be said about each of these three keys to marketing your Sequim or Port Angeles business, and while space is not limited here, I understand your attention span is.

BONUS:  Have a master plan for marketing your product or service, and put it all together with a marketing budget.  Be able to track what is working and what is not working.  Do NOT be fooled by people with great resumes who work for impressive organizations who want to suck you into their world claiming they can help you.  There are a thousand ways to waste your money and your time.  You cannot afford to waste either.  If you need to, find an expert in marketing, including Internet marketing for today, but be careful.  They all claim to be experts who can help you.  Your mission is to find someone who is knowledgeable, competent, and trustworthy in business and marketing.

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