Very few businesses can survive on their internet traffic alone. Unless your business model is based entirely around the internet – like an online florist – you will find yourself wondering about “non-internet marketing”.
You will wonder whether its works, in this internet age, where research tells us that 90% of purchase decisions are informed by the internet.
The easy answer is, yes the alternatives are still relevant, and people continue to use them. People still send letters, there's ads in the newspapers, and the radio and TV are stuffed with ads. Look around – signage is everywhere, adverts on buses, bus shelters, there are motor scooters which drag adverts on small trailers. There's even software that'll send an advert to your phone as you walk past the shop, and television screens on petrol bowsers.
So clearly; all that non-internet advertising must be working, otherwise it wouldn't exist. However, each of these options has an advantage for some type of products, and for some demographics – a dedicated cyclist is unlikely to see a petrol bowser, for example. But, a campaign trying to get people to cycle more? That would be very relevant, if drivers are pay $2 a litre for petrol.
The point is, before you can judge whether non-internet advertising would be effective, you need to match the demographics of your clients with the researched impact of any marketing option, otherwise, you are just bouncing from one idea to the next – sure, maybe it'll work, but there's a bigger chance that it won't.
The internet is very crowded and highly competitive and, unless your business model is actually built around the internet – like an online florist – most SMEs find the internet alone is not sufficient to generate enough revenue. For example, a typical small business might find only 30% of business comes through the internet – 30% comes from existing clients, and 30% might come from referrals.
The advantage with non-internet marketing is that it can provide a high quality sales experience to the consumer. If you can contact a customer with no competitors nearby, you can stay on-message without discussing cost, and avoid getting into a bidding game.
That's the part that the internet doesn't do well in – even if you are on the first Google page, you are immersed in a sea of competitors. As they say, two's company, but three is definitely a crowd in advertising.
For any channel to work, you need to develop a consistent message. The goal is to create a series of consumer messages that work together to create a good impression. Marketing is rarely one-off – it’s always the result of a several messages that you have delivered to the client.
But developing a good message is relatively hard for SME's. Often they can't see beyond their own business, or they don't really know why people buy from them, and they don't see what competitors are doing. If you are in this situation, a marketing plan is a must-do-first activity.
A professional plan will give you extraordinary depths of researched and statistical knowledge about your existing clients. Once you know what your existing clients look like, you can use non-internet channels to attract more of them.
A marketing plan will also help you build a message that can be applied consistently throughout all your customer communications. This may sound basic, but if people hear different messages from you, it’s hard to remember and it becomes confusing.
It’s essential, because it teaches the core reasons of why people buy something. What messages work? What are the big sails-fails? How to handle objections, how to close a sale, how to pick a dud opportunity - and drop it.
If you want to improve your conversion rate, or write better adverts, or overcome objections, this is a must-do for business owners.
There's nothing so effective as following the leader. If they are the leader in your jungle, it makes absolute sense to do what they do, and get a position right next to them, in the media in which they advertise. It makes sense because they have more experience and, if you can get side by side exposure, then you'll be stealing some of their market share.
Finding a mentor is suggested by every get-rich manual. We are not born with business knowledge, and getting it through experience requires that you fail a few times – perhaps often.
Find yourself a marketing mentor. Mentoring has worked so well, it has spawned organisations who “sell” mentoring – they will locate and match you to an expert – for a fee. It is well worth it – it reduces costs, and almost guarantees success.
This will always be the cheapest way to get more sales. A sale to a new customer costs six times more than a return customer. News letters, email campaigns, telemarketing, loyalty programs and sales promotions can be highly effective – the consistent flow of impressions helps build a memorable brand. Print is effective because it stays longer on the desktop. Gifts and promotions are effective, like pens, mousemats and cups – things that will lie around the office, with your advertising. Don't forget onhold messages, too.
You cannot survive on new clients alone - if you are not running a consistent, sophisticated program to your existent clients, your business will suffer tremendously.
If you run a home-based business, then a letterbox drop is ideal. Computer repairs and tradesmen services, for example. But aim for the smallest job to start with – replace a tile, rather than a roof, because this establishes trust.
Letterbox drops are also good for very localised consumption, like accountants, shops, dentists and medical centres. A letterbox drop is highly effective where the service is used by every household – everyone sees a doctor, for example. But it must be regular, and have an inducement to act immediately (first visit free).
The rise of the internet has caused newspaper readership to decline. In response, newspapers are driving towards more localisation, and producing lift-outs or sections from within your local area. It is debatable how effective newspapers are, except among the older demographic who don't have access to the internet. Unless the readership can be proven (very different to distribution) then you can get similar impact from letterbox drops. How to find out? Ring a few of the advertisers and ask them if their ads are working!
These are increasingly important because they are both printed and online. Usually, they are tightly focused on a particular demographic (like camping, sport, computers etc), so you can be assured that, if your product is relevant, a high proportion of readers will have an interest. Walk into a larger sized newsagent – there might be 200 magazine titles, most of which are online as well, and sell most copied through subscription. It can be invisible, but powerful.
For radio to work, your audience must be in a situation where they can stop what they are doing, note down the number and call you. The older demographic are the only group in this situation. This is not a bad thing – over 55's have far more consuming power than young families, but they are less impulsive. They focus on price and trust.
Otherwise, if you are aiming at younger groups, then get prepared to hammer a highly repetitive advertisement with enough quirkiness to create memory – this is a big task, when every advertiser is doing the same. Unless you can stand out, and get remembered, it’s a waste. But, again, call up a few advertisers and ask them if it works!
Generally, Television for small business is a waste. You won't see any adverts for small business in city areas, because of the cost – and in regional TV, your advert might be broadcast literally hundreds of miles, far out of range of your customers. For example, an advert on Lismore TV can be seen from Wyong up to Tweed Heads.
If you are a business to business operation, then this can be one of the most effective channels. While it can be a struggle to get through the walls of the corporation, your small business customers don't have such protections. You can get immediate access to the person who makes the decisions, and get emails and contact details.
The caveat on this is … it’s expensive. If your product is a low cost, once-off sale, then the cost will not justify the returns. But, if your service is high-priced, or recurrent, then the $20 you spend today may earn $10,000 over the next few years.
There are a variety of social interactions in any community – sporting groups, charities, business networks and formalised social networks can provide a small business with endless opportunities to get involved quickly and deeply with the community. If your business sells to the local community, then exposure through sponsorship and leadership can create a solid rusted-on market. Networking groups, business associations, chambers of commerce, referral programs, strategic alliances and sponsorships all help.