Looking to the roots: How you can begin to define marketing success, before marketing anything

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On a Friday in late September, I find it ironic that, overseeing a business that earns virtually all of its revenue from advertising sales for architectural, engineering and construction businesses, I rarely seek to promote or encourage readers here to pay for conventional (print or Internet) advertising. This may be seem counter-intuitive, but it is founded on an underlying appreciation of the important prerequisites that you need to have in place before you spend marketing dollars on advertising — and simply put, most businesses don’t have them.

In my opinion, there are two key elements that you need to cover before you spend money on advertising.

First, your underlying core business must be solid; with excellent internal controls, a truly solid client service philosophy, and effective marketing and communications to your current clients to encourage repeat and referral business.┬áContinuing research indicates that overall, AEC businesses earn more than 70 per cent of their business through repeat and referral clients — and these require virtually no additional advertising investment. (You can of course — as I will indicate below — use advertising to boost and support your existing relationships, but you need these to be really good in the first place before you start.)

Second, you need solid tracking/budgeting and management controls so you can (a) assess the effectiveness of your advertising and (b) ensure the leads that your advertising generates are profitable.

Publishers like me like clients who say that the advertising doesn’t need to provide direct results; it is part of the business branding process. We have easy money and no accountability for the value of our service. And, indeed, in some circumstances brand-building advertising makes sense; done right, it can expand your image/marketing and reduce sales resistance.

But generally you need to have things right before this sort of advertising makes sense, because it is really hard to track and assess its value.

One place advertising can be worthwhile is when you co-ordinate it with client profiles, editorial features, and employee recognition initiatives. Here, you enhance your good-will, obtain valuable social media and website SEO, and (if done right) could earn supplementary free positive media publicity.

You might wonder why I don’t push the product we sell in this blog. The key is that the blog started as a client service initiative — I’ll work with any of our advertising clients and provide marketing consultation services that transcend the advertising budget — ensuring that even if the individual ads don’t deliver clients, our client receives value for money. This ensures both client satisfaction and business sustainability.

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