All marketing efforts and strategies should have a researched answer for three out of four of these questions:
• Is it scalable?
• What will it cost in order to get the results you want?
• Is it targeting the right audience for your organization (i.e. people who will buy)?
• How likely is it that the audience you’re targeting will convert?
Let’s quickly break down those questions.
Is the marketing scalable?
What this means is, will the marketing grow with you? Can you do the same marketing tactic with 10 people as you would 1,000,000 people for the same (or lower) cost?
For example, email marketing is extremely scalable. It takes you almost no more effort or cost to send an email newsletter to one person as it does ten thousand people.
On the other hand, door-to-door cold-calling isn’t scalable at all. Yes, you can hire or contract salespeople to do the door knocking for you, but one human can only do so much in one day. That means this marketing cost will always increase in lockstep with increased effort.
Now, just because a marketing tactic isn’t scalable doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, you just have to know and recognize if a tactic is or is not scalable (and if it’s valuable to your organization).
Airbnb provides a great example of a business that used a non-scaling marketing tactic in order to get off the ground. The founders of Airbnb noticed that many of the rooms that were being posted on their platform were in New York City and had terrible looking photos. Airbnb was already asking customers to take a leap of faith to sleep in a stranger’s home (while the stranger was sleeping there too) and images that were blurry, dark and just generally unappealing weren’t the inviting welcome mat the website needed.
With the understanding that great photos would make or break their fledgling website, two of the founders of Airbnb (Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia), hopped on a plane to New York City from their San Francisco headquarters. Their mission? To go to as many listed homes as possible and take stunning photos of them.
Was it scalable? Heck no. Was it effective? Well, in 2018 (ten years after it was founded) Airbnb grossed revenue of more than $1 billion (they now just connect hosts with professional photographers, in case you were wondering).
What will it cost in order to get the results you want?
The key here is “the results you want.” All (yes, all) marketing should be approached as an investment, not as an expense. An expense is something you don’t expect to see a return from. An investment is putting money down today in order to get more value later (typically more money, but other things can have real value too).
You have to understand what investment you’ll have to make in order to get the return you expect. In order to figure out what that return should be, you must have a goal in mind.
Let’s say you want 20 new customers this month. That’s your goal.
We’ll assume you think that doing a direct mail postcard campaign to specific ZIP codes will get you the right customers. So, how many postcards will you need to pay for to get those 20 new customers? Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt that you’ve designed a good action-oriented mailer that can actually convert (rarer than you think).
If the postcards achieve an average response rate of 2% and you’re able to convert half of those leads into customers, then you’d need to send 2,000 postcards out (2,000 * 2% response rate * 50% conversion rate).
Now, what did it cost you to send those 2,000 postcards? Don’t forget to factor in the cost to research and design those cards (in addition to the printing and mailing costs, of course).
Is it targeting the right audience for your business (i.e. people who will buy)?
First, you have to understand who your target audience is (we’ll talk about that more in a minute). Once you have them in mind, you have to figure out if the marketing campaign you want to create will resonate with them.
Let’s assume you own a window washing company and your target audience is a small business owner that has a physical storefront that’s less than 3 stories tall.
Should you run a display ad on a website that is typically visited by corporate executives? Probably not, since 1) executives typically don’t make low-level operational decisions, 2) they’re likely in a larger building than your equipment can handle, and 3) they’re likely not looking for a service like yours at that moment anyway.
Should you run a Google Ads campaign that shows your text-based ad in search results when someone Googles “commercial window cleaning near me” instead? Probably, since you know that person is at least looking for a service like yours (we’ll get more into search engine marketing (SEM) in a later chapter).
How likely is it that the audience you’re targeting will convert?
Even if you’ve got the right message in front of the right people, you still won’t likely get the sale. Why? There is a myriad of reasons, and you’d be well served in knowing what they might be.
A good example of one of those possible reasons is centered on trust. Does the prospective customer feel like they can trust you? All the flashy and polished ads are worthless if a customer can’t put enough faith and trust in you to hand over hard-earned money to you.
Another reason someone may not convert has to do with timing. If you’re a real estate agent, you know that folks don’t just decide to sell their home every month (as of 2018, it’s every ten years on average). So that Facebook post you just did isn’t likely to get you a new client (however, it might help keep you top of mind when a contact does decide to sell or buy a home).
You also have to make sure you’re targeting the “economic buyer” (thanks for the term, Alan Weiss) for your product or service. This is the person that can actually say “Yes, I’ll buy what you’re selling” and then makes sure you get your money.
A classic example of this targeting that has been rehashed a million times (but still worth drawing attention to) is cereal. Namely, kid’s cereal. Do you think a mother is drawn to the crazy cartoon characters and images of sugary marshmallow morsels? Heck no. But the economic buyer is. The child drives the action to purchase, not the parent.
Always keep the economic buyer in mind when evaluating the likelihood someone will convert.