Friday, November 13, 2009

Do you have a marketing plan -- or just spend money 'til it's gone?

Just yesterday I was asked by a representative of a non-profit organization if I would suggest an ad in The Guide To Health, Wellness & Creative Living in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

Since I founded the publication back in 2002, I can quickly say, Of course!”

However, the ownership has passed on to another editor. I don’t have a dime to make from this recommendation – just the opportunity to encourage and support small businesses. I’m advertising in The Guide and I would encourage any practitioner, business or non-profit organization to get a space there if they want to reach a certain kind of person.

Here’s why:

The Guide has a shelf life of one year. Unlike the daily newspaper, which may be lining the bird cage tomorrow, or the radio ad that disappears as the words are said into the air, The Guide is designed to be a resource for the community for a considerable time.

People, both professionals and others, save the publication for a year or longer and will refer to it regularly. Many health practitioners and others will keep it in their waiting rooms and offices for visitors to read. Just today I talked with a massage therapist in Burlington who has kept The Guide for every year that it has been published.

The geographic span covers a specific target area – southeastern Wisconsin and a bit of northern Illinois, which includes Racine and Kenosha County, plus south Milwaukee. Jamie Jacobs, the current editor, is really making an effort to get it into the county, including Burlington, East Troy and other related places west of the Interstate where there is an ever-growing movement regarding these alternatives.

There is an important online component. This means that the online version of The Guide is up 24-7 for anyone who is searching for such information. Online is now the way to go, as teens and young adults, and even mid-age adults are going directly to the web when they need a phone number, address or community resource.

People most likely to pick up, read, share, save and enjoy The Guide are people who are looking for alternatives. If you offer a service or product that is targeted to people who delightfully step outside of the mainstream, this is a great venue to reach those alternative-seeking people.

It's amazingly affordable. For $200 a year – the cost of a nice-sized visible ad – your ad prorated to less than $1 per day. My calculator says it is 54.7 cents per day, actually, even better. It's just 2 cents per copy for the advertiser for a run of 10,000 copies; and just 1.3 cents per copy for 15,000 copies.

Now, having said all that,  here are a few considerations for your decision-making.

First of all, how much money is budgeted for marketing your business?

What’s your rationale for where you’re putting your advertising funds? Do you support the advertiser because he’s your friend, or your child attends the school and you want to support the basketball program, or because the ad is cheap?

What’s the ROI – the expected return for these investments? Do you track how people  find you and then convert to buying clients or customers?

Do you have a marketing plan? (Keep in mind that advertising is just one component of marketing, the latter of which means brining your product to market.) Or do you just spend money on marketing and advertising until the budgeted funds are done for the year?

If you have a marketing plan, when was the last time it was reviewed or revised? Is it revised according to your updated services or what your customers or clients tell you they like or want about your business offerings?

How comprehensive is your marketing plan? For instance, what components does it have --signage, web, press releases, special events, social media -- and how do they interrelate with each other?

What is the balance between “free” publicity and “paid” publicity and how do they interact with other market-building activities?

Do you use the same ad every year or do you tweak it according to customer feedback, the state of the economy and other variables?

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