Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Young Businesses: Targeted Marketing and Cash Flow

I recently answered a question regarding increasing revenue and cash flow through marketing. I'm much more of a strategy, operations and finance person than a marketer. However, I fully understand the huge importance marketing plays in driving revenue. Marketing is an investment. Unfortunately, many small business owners (and medium business owners) target marketing for their first cuts when business drops. Not good! But if you don't understand how your marketing impacts your sales, this makes sense. I mean, if your marketing has no impact, then perhaps you should cut it because the expenditures are reducing your business' profits and cash flow.
You can proclaim you business from the mountaintops but you must choose the right mountaintop or noone will here you!

 You must engage in targeted marketing and you must track your marketing efforts. Your marketing is an investment meaning it should have a favorable impact on your business' cash flow. Set goals and track those goals. Do you want to drive traffic to your website, phone lines or physical location? What's your goal here? Do you want people to come in ready to convert to a sale? What's your goal here? You must then ask a bunch of questions to determine the best marketing strategy and tools for your company.

If prospective customers come to you through your website, ask: How did the prospect find my business' website? Was it through search engine optimization (SEO)/a Google or Yahoo!, site referrals, social media referrals, advertising, or what? You can use Google Analytics (free or premium accounts available) or a similar tool to determine where your traffic comes from. If people can purchase through your business' website, you must include a question during the order process asking them how they found your company.

A walking billboard can be effective - in a high traffic area.

Use the information you obtain from this analysis and insight to direct your online marketing,  advertising and public relations efforts. For example, if your customers found your business through other related sites, then contact those sites and see if they allow some form of advertising on their sites. If no advertising is allowed, perhaps you can do a guest post for them, if they have a blog or provide useful articles. If your customers or prospects found you through Google places, then advertise on Google places. In addition, list your business with all the online business directories including Yelp, Superpages, Yahoo!,etc.

If your customers and prospect found your small business through SEO, then check and refine your keywords, make sure that you have enough keywords on your pages and consider blogging, article writing, etc. Or consider hiring a reputable firm that specializes in SEO. Do you see how your customers find you help you determine where your time, money and efforts should go?

In addition, you should make it part of all your procedures to inquire how any customer or prospect that calls, emails or visits your business found you. Where does your target customer go or hang out? These are the places you need to target. Does your target customer read trade publications or the local business press? Does your target customer gather at different locations to talk or engage in an activity? Do they belong to groups? If they do, you must engage in targeted marketing by funneling your marketing dollars to those publications, locations or groups. 

Don't know where your customers are because you've never tracked it or your firm is too young to have much data? Identify your key competitors and track their customers. Or track what marketing and advertising they're doing and target your marketing accordingly. In addition, consider co-marketing with companies that serve your customer base but do not behave as direct competitors to you.

Just ask yourself, "Where is my customer? Where does my customer go, do, read, hang out? How do I reach him/her/it?" Then adjust your marketing accordingly. If you don't have a lot of information on this now, try a few different marketing efforts. Track the response rate. Test, measure, adjust. Test, measure, adjust. This is how you engage in targeted marketing and make the best use of you and your business' limited time and money. You'll soon see the positive impact this procedural approach makes on your business cash flow.

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