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What’s the best length of time for a small business to advertise for?

There is no real true answer to that question. If the thing you’re advertising on or through is obviously wrong, then I would advise less than a minute. If it’s right and showing results, then it will be a bit longer. If you think it’s right but it’s not showing results yet, then perhaps somewhere in between.

Here’s a story from a recent project I was working on…

I was able to get a client a free trial on an advertising site, but after the week trial they’d got no responses. They then turned down a £25 per month offer.

I can kind of understand it, but they were a company advertising to Over 50s, and the screen was inside a Post Office (i.e. full of older people). Theirs was a high-ticket item at over £500 profit per transaction, with a low frequency of purchase.

Should they have expected much in a week? Even if that screen generated just one purchase every year it would be making a healthy profit for the advertiser (£500 profit minus £275 advertising costs is a healthy profit).

Please have a bit of faith that what you are doing is right. If you tell someone who knows nothing about advertising and they say they think it’s a good idea then it probably is. Don’t try to be too clever.

For this particular advertiser (or, should I say, non-advertiser), all it would take for them is one person a year to do it, and we all know that advertising needs to be seen regularly to get it to ‘sink in’.

You see, Google et al have done a great job of making us think that everything is trackable, that everything has an ROI you can actually measure.

But sometimes it doesn’t work like that does it.

And anyway, you also have to ask yourself how you are tracking the results.

You might think that Google is unfillable in helping you track your incoming business, but it’s not as clear as you may think.

And to avoid any doubt, I am not saying you should be doing everything you can on Google, both free & paid-for, as there’s nothing better for getting people to you once they have decided to look for something that your company can provide, but I am thinking more in this blog post about searches specifically mentioning your company, brand or product.

Are people being attributed to Google because that was how they found your website? But if they came to your site off the back of typing in your company name, what prompted that? It’s probably one of two things: 1) word of mouth recommendation or 2) some other strand to your marketing. It reminds me of a cartoon I saw in the ‘marketoonist’ which shows a guy being exposed to eight or nine different adverts offline, but that the final response is attributed to digital because that was the final Call To Action.

And that, in turn, reminds me of a conversation I had in a previous life when I was selling advertising space on digital screens inside golf clubs. The client was selling powered golf trolleys and was currently using TV & magazines. They didn’t see that advertising inside golf clubs was worth it because ‘they wouldn’t be able to gauge the responses’. This is what I mean by needing to have a bit of faith in the strategy you have come up with for your advertising.

That’s right, they didn’t think that advertising golf stuff to golfers who have just played golf while they are talking about golf in a golf club bar would sell their product. I mean, come on. We’re not asking you to close your eyes and fall backwards in to our arms like those stupid trust exercise things you have to do on team building days. It’s just advertising, not rocket science.

And while I am at it, you’re not going to be able to track everything anyhow are you?

I mean, how do you track stuff? More or less everything you do will be attributed to Google as that’s where they will search for you – even if you have a specific phone number for people to call that you track, people will likely just Google you. Even if you have a bespoke URL that your offline advertising is pointing people towards to, say, get 10% off or something, does everyone do this? No, they don’t.

It’s what drives that search that is the important thing. Ignore this at your peril as if you do, people will stop searching for you and then that’s it, it’s particularly difficult to get it going again. And of course, making sure you come up at the very top of the listings when someone does enter your business or product name (you should test this weekly by the way) is one of the most important things you can do.

The bottom line is that yes, Google and other search engines have truly disrupted the market like nothing in the history of advertising, but it does pose other questions we should be asking ourselves as marketers, especially when we see people using our company or brand name as the search term. The most important one being: what has driven that individual search?

Crack this and you’ve done a great service for you and your business.

I’ll leave you with one last quote which I should have put somewhere earlier in this piece (i.e. where it fits) but it’s so good that I’ll leave it hanging at the end here:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
John Wanamaker (1838-1922), Department Store Magnate & early pioneer of advertising & marketing.

No “Dodgy Del Boys” round here…

You might find this strange for a small business marketing expert (me) to talk about but recently I’ve been in the market for a second hand car. There’s nothing special in that, and nothing special in the kind of car I was after for the family, just a little hatchback with five doors coming in at under two grand. Reason for buying? Someone driving in to ours in the school playground and writing it off (seriously).

Well, five weeks and three cars later we’re still driving the same battered old car we were at the start of the search. Why? Because there are lots of Dodgy Del Boys out there that either sell crap cars and/or don’t follow up their offer of warranty afterwards. (Just to put further flesh on the matter the first car was sent back within a day, the second car is sitting on our parking space with a claim int he small claims court and the third one is currently being repaired by the seller for a gearbox oil leak.)

Anyway, why am I going about that here? Because I have realised a lot of the services that small and micro businesses use, and the investment of valuable cash that is involved, carry similar risks.

So I have decided to do something I think is new and unique – I am guaranteeing any grassrootDESIGN work for a year. If, for example, your website breaks because of the design or structural work done by me then I will fix free of charge. Even if it breaks not because of me and the work I have done then I will have a go at fixing it (and I’ll likely succeed as I’m good at these kinds of things). Why would I offer this? Unlike the Dodgy Del Boys selling cars, I believe that if you treat your customers well, even if it costs you a bit of time and effort, they’ll likely come back and ask you to do more paid-for work down the line. And I think that works well for small businesses and micro businesses. And micro businesses don’t stay micro forever, and neither to small businesses, they tend to grown. My theory is that if I look after you at the start, you’ll ask me to do more work down the line.

The other thing is that it just feels like the right thing to do.

So if you use me for web design, hosting, or anything else that could go wrong in the future then rest assured the work is protected for at least 12 months.

Have a look at what I do here, and feel free to contact me here.

Branding vs. Response – what’s best for Small Businesses?

Do a google search for what’s the best kind of advertising; branding or direct response and you’ll get an answer like you would for anything, but does that mean it’s right?

I’ve been working in and around small business now for over seven years through my work running three small businesses and working with probably hundreds more.

A common question is whether the small business should employ a brand or direct response-led (DR-led) approach to its marketing. The answer, I think, is not so much a yes or a no…

Regardless of explicitly calling something DR or branding, we are all trying to make every single piece of advertising essentially response-based. Afterall, what’s the point of a beautiful piece of ‘branding’ advertising when it doesn’t make you think about that company, product or service? That there, that emotional response is just that, a response. A Direct Response to the seeing or listening to that thing that the advertiser has put in front of the audience.

Small businesses generally do not have the budget for do a defined branding campaign alongside a specific DR campaign, so we have to get clever and see how we can combine the two. This is where digital can come in handy, whether it is on your phone, computer or on a digital panel or screen somewhere. Why? Because it gives you the chance to run multiple adverts for the same media investment. The only extra cost is the ad design and that’s only £75 isn’t it (with us, here).

The most important thing about your campaign though is not so much whether it’s DR or brand-led, it’s what you want that advertising to do, the results you want it to deliver. As small businesses we kind of have an advantage here to other larger advertisers; our business goals for our advertising are sometimes more obvious and, dare I say it, easy to deliver than those for the big boys.

Once you know hat you want your advertising to result in then we can really get to work thinking about how we can deliver it.

Get in touch with me to see how we can work to deliver your small business advertising objectives the best way possible, whether that’s employing a strategy of DR, branding or a combination of the two.

And remember the grassroot motto: giving small businesses the chance to marketing themselves like the big boys, without spending the big bucks! It’s kind of our thing…