We tend to think about “marketing” when we need it the most and it is least effective. Sales are down, business is struggling, and we need new customers to replace the ones who’ve departed.
Sometimes an urgent fix will work, most likely in developing an initiative to recover and reconnect with existing and former clients (and their direct referrals). But generally you find you are in an uphill battle with rising costs (ouch) not matching with incoming revenue.
There’s a reason for this disconnect. Start with the 80/20 rule.
Most likely, most of your clients are repeat clients or direct referrals, often without any prompting from you. Your relationships, connections and reputation make it easy for potential clients to seek you out and do business with you. You can help them find you (at relatively low cost) with a solid website and reasonably clear visibility (job signs and the like).
But as you go beyond this low hanging fruit, costs rise exponentially, it seems, and revenue nowhere near matches. You might spend money on keyword advertising, to find you get a pile of clicks, but no orders. Or worse, the few inquiries you receive from your print or direct mail advertising are the customers you don’t want to see — the ones that are seeking many competing bids (low one may win the job, maybe) or, worse, they are simply playing you off against their preferred contractor and intend to use their first choice all along.
Add to the problem the scale issue — the larger the purchase, the longer the purchasing cycle and generally the more stages potential clients need to go through to decide to buy anything. So you could need to spend months and months truly patiently “hoping” that your brand new marketing campaign works — especially if it is your first real effort at paid marketing, and you don’t have any metrics or data to validate your progress historically.
How do you solve this problem?
I think the best answer comes in two parts. First, you need to go back to the basics and review what really works and focus on what will provide the highest value for the lowest cost. Mining your repeat/referral leads will be the best way to start.
Second, you may benefit from consulting with a third-party consultant (me?), without an axe to grind or specific product to sell. (Maybe that disqualifies “me” because obviously we sell advertising in our regional trade publications, but I’m quite capable of being dispassionate about our own services and try to look at things holistically.) The goal in this consultation is to see if there are obvious things under your nose that you can do effectively.
Third, and this is where you need some courage and patience, is to implement and budget a marketing strategy with thoughtful benchmark/goals, accepting that there will be some trial and error and costs along the way. (So this generally isn’t a great thing to start when you are urgently in need of new business, and is really good to do when you seem to have enough business not to need to do any marketing. Oh for the paradoxes here.)
The goal is to create an inbound marketing strategy that generates new leads and which, because of your ability to measure and assess results, you can manage and control to provide reliable results. Then the next time you hit a downturn, you turn up the knob somewhat, and generate more leads — perhaps at a higher cost per lead but still at a profitable level.
It isn’t easy to get this right, because you need to be patient. Hopefully, however, the consultant you engage will provide value right at the start by helping you capture some of the low hanging fruit quickly.
You can learn more by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you are at the Buildings Show in Toronto, you can attend my live presentation.