Leigh Hopwood explores the secrets to doing marketing that delivers on your investment.

How many times have you thought a marketing activity sounded great, you spend a small fortune on it and then struggle to justify the spend because it ‘hasn’t delivered’? So many companies have done that and as a result lost confidence in marketing, and therefore avoid it.

Done well, marketing can grow your business. But you already knew that.

So what is the secret to doing marketing that works, and really does deliver a return on investment?

Well, it lies in the planning.

  • Knowing what your business goals are will inform your marketing.
  • Understanding who your customers are and who you want more of, will inform your marketing.
  • Knowing where the influencers and decision makers are engaging will inform you marketing.
  • And knowing what you want to achieve from a marketing activity will help you make decisions on where to spend your valuable time and money.

Let’s explore that a little further with some scenarios…

Marketing really can grow, or indeed save your business.

Leigh Hopwood Leigh Hopwood Marketing Consultant at Redd Marketing and Chair of the CIM

Scenario 1

A small business that needs a constant flow of private customers

It can be a problem for a small business that installs heating solutions to find and attract a constant supply of new customers. The chances are you try to sell a maintenance contract to boost revenues and customer retention. But you need the customers in the first place. How do you get them?

First, determine your objective. Decide what you want to sell – ideally based on market need – and how many new opportunities you can handle. Do you know your conversion rate? If not, work out how many enquiries you’ve had in the last 6 or 12 months and how many new customers you’ve won; this gives your conversion.

Spend some time – maybe an evening or two – thinking about who the best and most profitable customers are. What defines them? Find out where they are and what they might read or see. This will determine where you should be spending time and money on marketing.

Then for the message and/or call to action – what are you going to ask them to do. You may have the objective to raise awareness of your business or services so that your business is front of mind when someone has a need for your services. Or your call to action may be highly sales orientated inviting people for a boiler service at a reduced price and a free consultation on whether renewable heating would suit them.

Consider the quality of your design, tone of voice and words. The quality of your marketing will be perceived as the quality of your service delivery.

And don’t forget to monitor and measure the campaigns effectiveness. If it’s not working, consider why not. Is it the messaging, where the message is, or does it just need more time? If it delivers more than you can handle then stop. Not responding to enquiries can be damaging to your reputation.

Scenario 2

A major player struggling to retain existing business customers

It is not unusual for organisations to have a leaky bucket. In other words, they are losing customers as quickly or faster than they are gaining them. How do you stop this? First find out why. It might be a product, service or price issue – so deal with that. But it may be that you just aren’t making your customers feel wanted; not knowing how they are feeling and with digital informing customers more means they have left before you knew they were even looking.

Marketing can help. There are very many things you can do to prevent customers from leaving.

First understand why they are leaving, then consider what would make them stay. Think about what you are trying to achieve; do you want to keep all your customers or just those that are more profitable or easier to deal with? You might want to consider focusing your retention efforts on a specific customer type or on customers using a specific product or service.

Don’t be afraid to spend time looking at where you are now and where you want to be. This is more important than the actual delivery.

Whatever you do, get closer to your customers to better understand them and then you can adopt a marketing approach that is relevant and works.

Scenario 3

A growing business that wants to be everything to everyone to grab market share

Too often the MD or business owner doesn’t want to limit themselves by focusing too much on an offering or customer segment, opting instead for a very broad approach. The danger here is that by being broad, you make your service less relevant and less appealing to your potential customers. You may appear less of an expert and therefore less able to fulfil their needs.

Having a focus means you can spend time and money on growing a specific customer type, the most profitable, based on the expertise you have. Less time and money is wasted being irrelevant to the majority.

Let’s say you can provide any air conditioning product to any business. Yet, in your customer base there is a slant towards a specific market sector ie hotels. Of course, you wouldn’t turn down business from a manufacturer, but if you focused your marketing efforts on building the number of hotels you work with then you can become ‘famous’ for working with hotels; which leads to more hotels wanting to work with you because of the expertise you have. And this means the cost to sell and serve those customers reduces, making your business more profitable.

Understanding where your business performs best, which customers are best for your business and having a focus for your time, money and effort will grow your business.

Once you’ve tackled one market segment, go after the next most profitable or related industry.

Final thoughts

Time and energy spent on marketing should be split evenly between understanding the current situation, planning and delivering. Too many organisations spend 95% of their time on delivery and don’t understand why ‘it didn’t work’.

If you spend more time defining what you want to achieve then the decisions on which marketing activity to invest in become much more obvious.

Marketing really can grow, or indeed save your business.

There are too many organisations in the press these days that have not taken marketing seriously in the boardroom, focusing instead on short term financial gain. Please don’t let that be you.

Leigh Hopwood, is Marketing Consultant at Redd Marketing and Chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing