Sep 13, 2010

Integration is the Key to Small Business Development Success

When I talk to groups of small business owners, the frequent question is usually about how to get more customers.

“The approaches that have worked for years aren’t working in this market!” they complain.

Yup, the marketing techniques have changed to keep pace with the evolving customer attitudes. Consider this interesting observation, recently published by Juniper Research, a major market research company:

Sixty-six percent (66%) of consumers responding to an offline advertisement visited the web site of the company advertised or a search engine to learn more. Fourteen percent (14%) called a phone number from the advertisement.

This simple observation supports the experience of many and the recommendations of almost every professional marketer I know: to be successful, your strategy must include PUSH marketing (ads, so called “interrupt media”), PULL marketing (like websites, Facebook business pages, review sites, etc) and PERSONAL marketing (networking events, Chamber events, speeches and public presentations).

To be successful in your integrated marketing effort, you would be well advised to become familiar with some of the best practices in each of these areas. A complete briefing on that would call for a book (hmm) but let me give you ONE idea to focus on in each of these areas.

When designing your PUSH marketing materials, I strongly recommend mixing graphics with text. If the graphics are relevant to the text and the audience, marketers who routinely follow this approach can enjoy a response rate 2.5 times greater than that enjoyed by promoters who do not.

When considering what to serve up to your prospects on websites and blogs, the guiding principle should be relevance to your target audience. Forget about fancy visual effects, if it is relevant it will be persuasive. To insure relevance, many times marketers use “micro-sites” or customized landing pages to insure that the searcher gets exactly what he is looking for. Someone searching for a patent law resource might be directed to the patent law landing page of a large site devoted to a range of services provided by a large law firm. Because the searcher does not have to go digging for the information he needs, he is more likely to be favorably impressed by great content.

Ready to start networking and building your personal contacts? Yes, business mixers are great, and even joining dues paying networking groups can work for some people. But the key to building momentum from your personal networking is making a lasting impression. It is hard to do that by trading “elevator speeches”. Instead of approaching this effort with a self-interest focus, try instead to figure out how you can help the people you meet. Can you introduce them to someone you know? Can you invite them to a meeting or steer someone to them that will provide a service they need? Focusing on the needs of the other guy will get you noticed in the long run, and will compliment your other marketing efforts.

Pursuing an integrated approach to marketing your business and growing your network is not a short term strategy but it can be cost effective and successful in the long run.