One of the reasons that many business owners and managers fail to execute when it comes to even basic marketing is that they see marketing as a cost – as an expense – without realizing its benefits or return.
And this, in turn, can probably be traced to something very simple: They don’t understand marketing.
The word “marketing” is connected with (and limited to) “advertising” in the minds of many business leaders. And advertising is expensive. By definition, it is visual, audible or other promotional representations of your business for which you have to pay money.
Even though it is often targeted in terms of placement to provide a business with potential exposure to members of their target markets, the return on paid advertising is often very small (or non-existent) since consumers have learned to tune out advertising across pretty much all media. To say that consumers have been bombarded with ads over the last few decades is to understate. Small wonder that we have learned to ignore the ads we see on TV, hear on the radio, which clog up our mailboxes or which frame out the articles and other information we’ve sought online.
But to limit your understanding of “marketing” to what constitutes “advertising” is to put your business at a serious disadvantage.
To give you an idea of why this perception exists in the minds of non-marketing professionals, check out infographics like this one from CreativeDesigns.com that demonstrates marketing in the 1980s vs. marketing in the 2010s. Or Brian Solis and JESS3’s “Conversation Prism” which aptly demonstrates that today’s businesses can take advantage of thousands of different marketing strategies. The trick, of course, is determining which can actually produce the best return on your marketing investment.
And that brings me to the point: 8 ways to transform your marketing from a cost center into a profit center—in reality and in the minds of non-marketing managers and co-workers:
1. Put your mouth where the money is.
No – that’s not a misstatement of the well-known phrase, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Rather it’s to make the point that you must be able to specify what you desire to accomplish or what results you want to achieve for any given marketing campaign or on any given marketing channel. And then, be prepared to track, measure and report your results on an on-going basis.
This strategy has an added bonus: by measuring and reporting real results – results that provide your business with more followers, more leads, more customers, more sales – whatever it is that you want “more” of – you will greatly increase the probability that your boss, co-workers or employees will develop a better understanding of and appreciation for what marketing “does” to benefit themselves and the business.
2. Educate internally, about what marketing “is” and on the many ways and channels where marketing occurs.
Do you attend staff meetings? Ask for (or take) 5 minutes to introduce your peers to a new aspect of marketing. Do you have daily huddles? Take 1-2 minutes to present employees with a marketing concept or tip. Offer to teach a marketing-oriented internal class or make marketing training part of your new hire orientation process. Don’t assume that all employees have a clear understanding of what marketing really is or the potential for return that well-executed marketing tactics can bring.
3. Include your marketing specialist in your product or service development meetings and discussions.
All too often, purchasing, accounting and sales managers seclude themselves with vendors and purchase in quantities of products, which are then received and put into stores; and only then, after the fact, is marketing given their marching orders to develop demand for and sale through of the same products.
When, if consulted earlier in the process, not only would marketing have the opportunity to develop a full-scale, strategic launch campaign and the opportunity build demand and educate consumers prior to its arrival, but they would also have a chance to test market the products or may even be able to provide valuable input to prevent the expenditure of valuable resources --not just the money to buy the products, but all of the time, shelf space and other valuable resources needed on what are commonly referred to as “dogs,” (a.k.a. products your customers don’t want, don’t like and won’t buy).
4. Include marketing in other processes, too.
Think about things like the disclaimers you put on your invoices or customer statements, your employee policy manual and hiring processes. Anything that impacts the customer experience should be viewed from a marketing mindset, specifically, from the customer’s point of view.
5. Conduct an analysis of all customer touch points from the customer’s point of view.
Recruit key customers to participate in focus groups. Conduct surveys to gauge customer satisfaction, potential interest in new products or services and anticipate other things that your customers want and need (that your business might be able to provide). Find out what your customers value that exists within your customer processes, what they don’t like, or what might be missing.
6. Engage in Content Marketing.
Studies* show that leads obtained by way of inbound marketing (blogging, social media and other content marketing and curation platforms) cost 61% less than outbound marketing (including traditional advertising, mailings, etc.) Not only do these leads obtained via inbound marketing cost less, but they are higher in quality, and as a result, produce more conversions. Inbound marketing gives your business the opportunity to target your ideal client types by providing relevant, interesting content, and also gives you the ability to pre-qualify these same leads to some extent through the same content.*source: www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2012/7243/inbound-marketing-leads-cost-61-less-than-outbound
7. Use SEO strategies.
I know, I know -- one hears the term “SEO” and envisions that mastering SEO and SEM strategies will necessitate learning equivalent to that of a complex computer programmer. While you can go that deep if you so desire, you need to drop that presupposition. The truth is, SEO is as much a part of marketing today as is social media, as is advertising, as is your print collateral, website or any other channel. Get smart enough so that you are incorporating basic SEO strategies into all of your online content marketing, website development and email marketing. SeoMoz.org offers a wonderful and free Beginners Guide to SEO online.
8. Do research and stay on top of emerging trends.
Marketing isn’t just responsible to help promote your business to people, it’s also responsible to find out what those people (a.k.a. customers and prospects) want. It’s also responsible to be aware of what is trending in content marketing so that your social media and blog actually provide content that draws web traffic and generates leads or stimulates in-store visits (you know, “shopping!”) It’s also responsible to keep abreast of what’s coming next and how to utilize it to help your business, like how smart marketers became aware of Pinterest and started using it for business long before the media realized that it had quietly passed up the much-heralded Google+ in terms of traffic, and engages its audience members in average minutes per visit more than almost any other social network; second only to Facebook.
Marketing is not the errand girl for the sales department or the janitorial staff for any other department when they make a mistake that impacts your customers. Marketing is not a series of activities that occur. Marketing is not reactionary. In it's most powerful and effective form, marketing will be a proactive part of all of your business decisions and will be strategically essential when it comes to the success of your business.
Transforming your marketing efforts (or how you view marketing) from cost to profit isn’t just desirable – it’s absolutely critical for your business. Marketing, done right, can help you now and be a valuable resource to help you become more profitable in the future. If you view marketing as a cost center, or as expenses, chances are you don’t really have a good grasp of what marketing is or what it’s real benefit to your business can be.
Elizabeth Kraus is the author of 365 Days of Marketing.
365 Days of Marketing is available on amazon.com or save $5 off the list price when you use the Code USH9VPJG and purchase on my site at 12monthsofmarketing.net.