(This column first appeared on ROTWNews.com on 3-12-12 and in The Press Enterprise on 4-02-12.)
One of the first advertising campaigns I ran was my own bid for junior class senator at Columbine High School back in the Dark Ages. I’m not sure whether the buttons, posters or personal appearances did the trick. But, remarkably, despite the pathetic slogan: “Put the Luck of the Irish in Senate. Vote Kathy O’Brien,” I won. The experience led not to a love of politics but for the intoxicating ability to influence public opinion through promotion. Although the budget for my high school senatorial campaign was minimal, advertising paid off…as it always does.
Advertising Age conservatively estimates that ad spending in the United States exceeds $149 billion a year. Marketers in key categories for 2010 were:
- Wireless Carriers
- Prescription Medications
- Personal Care
- Household Products
- Credit Cards
Admittedly, the lion’s share was spent by corporations. But small business owners and nonprofit directors continue to invest despite the economy because advertising in virtually any form pays off. If you currently sell a product or a service to one or more people, whether you know it or not, you are already advertising whenever you—
- Sell a great product
- Provide a service
- Tell someone at a party what you do for a living
- Hand your business card to a client
- Give someone your phone number
- Post to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter
Whether you run a one-man or one–woman show or a multi-national corporation, the key to increasing revenue is to amplify your existing advertising efforts:
- Sell a few more units of your product.
- Improve customer service.
- Instead of casually answering questions about your occupation, take a genuine interest in the people you meet. And look for opportunities to mention how you might be able to help them achieve their professional goals.
- Give clients two business cards so they can share one with a friend.
- Place your business name and phone number in a free online directory like Yelp or Google Places.
- Post a promotion on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
On a Limited Budget—
- Instead of spreading advertising efforts too thin, promote just one of your products. By focusing on a single strategy, you will be able to effectively measure the effectiveness of your campaign.
- Reward employees for superior customer service. Let your clients know about your commitment to meeting their needs.
- Join an active referral group like BRG, BNI or I Take the Lead. These organizations encourage lead generation among their members.
- Run a copy of your business card in the local newspaper or phone directory. Test and measure before upping your ad budget.
- Experiment with Pay Per Click (PPC) to improve website search engine ranking.
- Invest in Facebook PPC, display ads on LinkedIn and contests on Twitter.
The Sky’s the Limit—
- Having access to a healthy ad budget will enable you to try several types of advertising so you can test and measure the effectiveness of each.
- Run a customer service contest to reward clients who post reviews and take surveys. Clients who care enough to write reviews should be encouraged.
- Seek out a leadership role in your local chamber of commerce or professional organization. While this will require a considerable investment of time, it is well worth the effort because you will emerge as a leader in your field.
- Increase your current Internet campaign to increase visibility and gain social media friends, fans or followers.
- Buy promotional items featuring your company logo, phone number, website address and slogan. Encourage employees to distribute the items.
- Google is constantly changing algorithms to rely heavily on social interactivity. And few business professionals have the time or desire to comment to blog posts, comment on Facebook or tweet. So, if you haven’t hired a professional agency to manage your social media yet, do so today. In fact, call Kathy O’Brien Bowling at Mountain Marketing Group and put the luck of the Irish in your campaigns!
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.