Too often I hear about business owners spending money on a promotional activity because it will “raise awareness”. I don’t often like this as an objective: it’s not enough on its own to drive sales and, for a small business, can be difficult to measure. Marketing resources are precious so must be targeted. A more specific objective – for example, increasing your prospect base or conversion rate – is much easier to measure and monitor, allowing you to learn and adapt your activities.
I’ve written elsewhere about how “raising awareness” is not a good enough reason in itself for a small business to throw money at marketing activities but what objectives should you set for your next promotional push?
There are two reasons why I don’t like “raising awareness” as a marketing objective for a small business. The first is that awareness itself is not enough to drive sales (which is, after all, the reason you’re marketing your business, isn’t it?). It is necessary, of course, but without a plan to take potential customers from that point to buying from you, chucking money at “raising awareness” is chucking money down the drain.
The second reason is that it’s a very rare occasion when this is measurable. How many small businesses have a clear idea of the level of awareness of their business to start with? This is the sort of things big brands measure when someone stops you in the street and asks you to name brands in a particular sector – they’ll be out again after their next advertising campaign to see what difference it has made. But it’s not a practical option for smaller businesses.
Marketing resources are precious for the small business so they need to be tightly targeted and that means having specific aims and choosing your tools accordingly. Here are some ideas…
Increasing your prospect base
In fairness, raising awareness plays its part here but you should also think about increasing their understanding of why you should be their supplier of choice. Capturing contact details separates those with a passing interest from those who are real prospects.
Increasing your customer base
Your campaign might be about taking people from cold to being customers or it might be about converting those prospects into buyers. The time (and effort) it takes to convert a prospect depends on many factors, not least the type of business you are in. Don’t underestimate how long it might take if the decision is a complex one.
Increasing profitability per customer
It’s a marketing truism that it costs several times as much to sell to a new customer as to an existing one so your marketing activities could be aimed at up-selling or cross-selling or simply encouraging straightforward repeat business.
Gaining/reinforcing competitive advantage
You have got a competitive advantage, haven’t you? A Value Proposition (or USP, whatever you want to call it) that spells out why people should buy from you and not a competitor? It’s all too easy for this point of difference to get lost in a mish-mash of marketing activities and, if competitors are making a big noise themselves, then it’s important that your message is strong and clear.
Supporting and strengthening positioning
Related to the above, your positioning is about what your market believes about you – the position that you hold in their minds. It should make you stand out against your competitors and is a great way to differentiate your business, particularly in “samey” sectors.
Increasing market understanding
Maybe a bit of test marketing is the order of the day. If you want to test a new product or service or try out a new proposition, it might not matter if your marketing activity “fails” in terms of generating new business if it helps you learn more about what your market wants and you can adapt accordingly.
Entering a new market
A different ball game and a classic case of where “raising awareness” is a vital part of generating new business in a new market – but, don’t forget, you need to be following through on that. Think about breaking this objective down into more measurable goals.