After watching the Super Bowl and the famous (or infamous) television ads, did you ever think to yourself, "If my marketing budget was a fraction of what that company paid to run that commercial, I’d have business the rest of my life"? Well, think again. Marketing is not about spending as much money as you can. Marketing is about using money to help sustain and grow your business. Many marketing tactics can make your marketing dollars work harder for you and help you compete profitably. If you can’t spend $50,000, don’t let that keep you from developing and implementing an integrated marketing plan. Creatively spending $5,000 and using some of your time to market your brand is better than spending nothing and waiting for business to walk through your door. You could be waiting a long time.
Integrated marketing: appearing bigger than you are
Like Microsoft, Nike or Tyvek, you are a brand, just at a different scale. As a brand, the more marketing impressions you make on your target audience, the more awareness you generate, which can lead to increased purchase interest and ultimately more business.
Notice the word can. This is where the theory "the more I spend, the more business I generate" falters. The concept of integrated marketing becomes critical in understanding your marketing’s impact on your business. In its simplest definition, integrated marketing is using advertising, public relations, direct mail, promotion or other marketing efforts with consistency and synergy. All efforts work together to cost-effectively market your brand by making consistent and relevant impressions on your target audience to generate more awareness and interest and lead to more business.
Let’s compare marketing scenarios with two fictitious remodeling firms in the same market.
The first remodeler has been in business for 10 years and spends $50,000 (2% of gross sales) on marketing annu-ally. The firm uses those dollars on local television and newspaper ads. Company A also has its logo and company information on its trucks and yard signs. Through TV and newspaper ads, the company generates a significant number of impressions. Many of the TV spots, however, run at odd times or during shows with irrelevant content. The firm has never compared the TV plan and the newspaper plan to determine if one audience complements the other. Also, while the owner spent considerable time creating great-looking advertisements, the newspaper ad and the TV ad appear considerably different from each other. Additionally, the company has changed the look of its logo for TV and print but has not changed the logo on the truck and yard signs.
The second remodeler has been in business for four years and spends $20,000 (also 2% of gross sales) on marketing. This firm ensures a high level of service to clients and uses a satisfaction survey at the completion of each project. Company B also uses a referral incentive program, distributes pamphlets in neighborhoods where it’s working on projects, sends one or two targeted direct mailings annually, and coordinates its newspaper advertising around the home and garden shows in which it participates. The firm follows up every lead generated by the marketing with a personalized letter. It also sends press releases to local editors regarding interesting or unique projects and industry information that might be useful to homeowners considering remodeling their homes. Finally, this company uses yard and truck signs. It developed a logo and a tag line describing its services. Both are used on all marketing efforts as well as on all company stationery and forms.
Which company uses integrated marketing? Which company sees the greatest return on marketing dollars spent? In five years, which company likely will increase its marketing dollars and profitability? The answer is obviously Company B.
While these examples are extreme, the point is that you can spend all the money you want on high-impact media and it still won’t increase your sales if you aren’t smart about it. Critical to your plan’s success is understanding your customers and their purchasing process. Integrated marketing tactics let you make an impression at each stage of that process.
"Marketing is not just about creating the lead," says Patty McDaniel, owner of Boardwalk Builders in Rehoboth Beach, Del. "It is about creating the atmosphere for the entire process." For Boardwalk, that process starts with making an impression and extends to staying in touch with the customer two years after completing a project.
Don’t have a large budget? If you can spend the time and have some creativity, you can put together an integrated marketing plan using low-cost tactics that return high value by generating qualified leads. The key is to be targeted, innovative and persistent. This holds even more true when working within a strict budget.
Referral marketing is No. 1
If you can spend only $50 on marketing, use that $50 to get referrals from past and current clients. They will provide the most qualified opportunities in the most cost-effective way. Knockout service is essential, but referral marketing can be successful only if you combine that service with marketing tactics. Asking for the referral seems so obvious yet is overlooked by many. Your customers aren’t thinking about how they can help build your business. But when asked, they are more than happy to pass along your name to friends and family.
Staying in touch with past clients is also critical. McDaniel, whose marketing budget ranges from .75% to 1% of gross sales, estimates that 90% of her business comes from referrals, often from clients she had up to six years earlier. She spends most of her marketing budget targeting past clients. "It’s a scale issue," she says. "If I want more projects, my marketing base needs to be larger. You can’t do nothing and expect referrals to keep coming in. You need to constantly touch them."
Maintain a database of past clients and contact them periodically through holiday cards, newsletters or direct mailings. In each contact ask for referrals and include your business card. Don’t forget to thank clients who provide referrals.
Peter Black, owner of Skinner Hill Construction in Boston, does not use traditional advertising, yet is either turning business away or having clients wait up to one year for his services. Black attributes his success to his dedication to clients, which includes personally thanking them at the end of each project. If Black gets a referral from a client, he calls again with another thank you.
Thank yous also can take the form of incentives. Scott Walters of Scott Walters Construction in Minneapolis gives clients a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant with a note of thanks for a referral. "If you give less than $50, your customer doesn’t necessarily feel appreciated," he says. "On the other hand, if you give too much, they begin to wonder if you overcharged them on their project."
Use your job site as a live commercial
A project site can provide a terrific opportunity to market your name and services to a targeted audience. Your projects likely are in neighborhoods where potential customers live. You can make impressions on them as they drive by the site every day.
Additionally, think about the "over-the-fence" conversations that happen with neighbors during the project. People are curious and will ask your client questions. Make your brand visible when they are talking about the project.
To take full advantage of this opportunity, use yard signs, put signs on your trucks and trailers, and distribute pamphlets in the neighborhood. Some yard signs also have brochure holders so prospective customers can pick up pamphlets. Ensure that your company name, phone number and Web site are legible and large enough on the sign to be easily read. If you can, use photography and color to attract more attention.
Make yourself visible at the site, too. "We take advantage of the very public nature of a remodel," says Bill Capps of Kooser Run Construction in Somerset, Pa. "I pay attention to the neighborhoods, when dogs are walked, the joggers, etc. I am there for those peak times and try to be very visible."
Has this tactic paid off? "We continually find ourselves blanketing neighborhoods," Capps says. "There was a stretch of four years where we did major additions on four houses in a row, each project bigger than the last. We are currently on the third in a row in a different part of town."
Brett Boyum, owner and founder of Go Full Circle Marketing, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.