By Robert Tuomi
(WINDSOR, ON) – One of the impediments that often gets in the way of success for many a small business is the opinions of their owners. Usually these owners have limited to no business experience yet seem to know just about everything there is about being in business, even if, in reality, they don’t.
One area that often gets mishandled or even ignored is promotion. While some companies do spend some money often much of it is not measured so the results are never really known or understood. It is because of this failure on their part that they prove their own prophecy that promotion doesn’t work and does not generate results and, sadly, their businesses collapse.
Admittedly, promotion is often only one of the reasons that a business will fail. There are so many others including poor locations, product selection, pricing, service, etc. Some operators try to muddle through without a strategy or plan for their operations and eventually run out of resources and end up closing down because customers don’t beat a trail to their doors. Often these closures, particularly retail ones, are in locations which do not deliver enough foot traffic. For businesses that don’t have enough people passing their stores, or their offices, they really have no other option but to craft effective and measurable promotion.
Location is an interesting aspect, particularly for retailers. Renting space in a high traffic mall often solves the foot traffic problem, but the costs are high. Accommodation on a street or strip mall can be cheaper but additional money is needed to finance promotional budgets that generate store visitors.
Another aspect of marketing reality is that customers are quite forgetful and can forget about stores quite easily. Advertising helps remind them. Promotion starts by trying to get customers to try a product or service. When enough trials have taken place the emphasis moves to reminding people of the operation’s existence.
Detroit’s Free Press reported May 6 that many of the most popular and successful businesses, such as Walmart, McDonalds, Subway to name a few, tend, “to have large advertising budgets. According to (Placed retail data firm CEO David) Shim, ‘From our perspective, [advertising] dollars do matter in terms of driving traffic in the store.’ In fact, seven of the 10 most popular stores were among the top-spenders on advertising nationwide in 2011 and 2012, according to Advertising Age, a magazine providing market and industry data.”
If advertising is not effective why do companies with the most sales carry out very costly promotion? it really questions the folly of starting any business without a solid measureable program. Promotion includes advertising, events, flyers, public relations, publicity, social media, mail drops and anything else to generate awareness and sales. Most often start-ups do not have the inside talent that is needed nor a willingness to source out very capable outsiders, to develop effective promotional programs, so they end up wasting good money on failed programs.
This is most apparent in the awkward visual identities that often grace new businesses. Some are so ineffective they are actually counter-productive to the extent of being hard to read or decipher. In many cases the image of a business sets the stage for success. Promotion amplifies the image to attract buyers.
Effective promotion is not about a single element, such as a fancy slogan or a nice radio jingle. It is about a comprehensive strategy which covers all bases which also is designed to capture any existing synergies. Promotion that is done well is also less costly because there is less waste. And promotion that is done against very rigid parameters is much easier to measure and to provide the proper guidance for adjustments.
One way to figure out what to do is to simply study the largest companies and emulate them, on a smaller scale of course. It only works, however, if time is spent to understand what promotion is all about so as to be able to clearly map out what the large companies are doing. Even though promotional strategies are highly competitive and guarded the fact is that whatever a company does it always ends up in public view.
This is not to say that the strategies of large companies always work. There are times when they don’t and it is usually when they forget about marketing’s many rules. While imitation is the best way, some small business owners are too modest and might feel that if they try to copy the best around they could be seen to be putting on airs particularly if they try to look bigger and more professional.
If this is a concern, these owners should remember the old saying of not dressing for their current jobs but for the next promotion. By going one step further they can create just the right, hard-working image to build customer comfort. A poor image suffers the danger of telegraphs that the business is small and could be gone by week’s end.
Promoting themselves at a level well above what they are today is not a bad way to generate the business needed to get to the next level.
If you have a question about marketing, you’ve come to the right place. Let us know and we’ll give you an answer to help your business.