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How to Increase Cost-effectiveness

in Small Business Marketing


For an independent business to succeed long-term, it must invest steadily in marketing. This must not just involve allocating a marketing budget cost-effectively. Rather, successful marketing also requires shrewdness in the investment of time, attention, and effort. The on-going success of many companies in many industries over many years has proven this. Yet, most small businesses seek maximum returns on a shoestring budget as soon as possible.


This article reviews three common tips, then considers a more fundamental approach to frugal effectiveness for any small business.


option: frequent announcements of news

Some advise companies of all sizes to announce it to the world whenever anything possibly newsworthy happens in the company. If others pick it up or pass it on, then it could amount to free publicity. All announcements through social media seem virtually free.


In practice, this is generally not so useful. True relevance and worthiness of public attention generally do not come about frequently. This is particularly true under the eyes of professional news editors, who typically use a small minority of the tips and news releases they receive. Announcements through social media do not always amount to true publicity per se. For news distributed by any means to "go viral" as a result of the news-maker's intentional effort remains both rare and elusive. Remember the law of diminishing returns. Remember the fable of the boy who cried wolf.


option: networking in the community

Some say that in-person networking in the community is the best way to get new business. This way, you get to meet people and to develop new relationships, which could lead to business directly or through referrals. After all, everybody prefers to do business with people they like and trust, especially after having met face-to-face.

While these statements ring true, bringing in sufficient new business from networking takes an extraordinary combination of charm and persistence.


Those who seek new customers at business mixers and conferences often find that most people they meet have the same intent: to get new business not to find a new supplier. Working the room at grand openings, parties, and annual general meetings takes relentless assertiveness and untiring sincerity. The chances of significant payback are often low.


Success at networking in the community requires an unusual blend of charisma, adaptiveness, and perseverance. Additional time and energy with some acquaintances might eventually lead to sales and/or referrals. Despite the often-low financial cost, any company seeking profitable new business at low overall cost should understand this.


option: just getting your name out there

Some suggest that simply keeping the company’s name before the market’s eyes is essential to success. This, too, is easier said than proven profitable for a small business.


Many find that applying this truism on a modest budget becomes hard to justify on the basis of measurable return on investment. Even those who maintain an active social media presence find that awareness-based marketing can involve a high overall cost per sale. Moreover, those using permission-based e-mail distribution lists to maintain brand awareness — even with actual timely news and truly special offers — risk developing a reputation for clogging up recipients' in-boxes.


"There must be a way."

Once making frequent announcements of news proves unreliable; once networking in the community proves best for very persistent, charming extroverts; once repeatedly casting a wide net proves hard to justify, a common objective reappears. More good sales at lower cost per sale call for a more targeted and more fundamental approach.


two pillars

To rise to this challenge effectively starts from:

  • certainty about your ideal-client profile(s).
  • a key message that intuitively positions your product or service as the best remedy for the problem(s) that your ideal client wants solved now.

focus: the customers you want more of

An ideal-client profile covers the essential characteristics that your best customers share. If your clientele falls into multiple categories, then identify an ideal-client profile for each.


A salon and spa, for example, might have an ideal client for hairstyling and manicure-pedicure work. This would differ from the ideal client for massage and bodywork. Expect notable differences between young men for hairstyling (as a group) and retired women for massage and bodywork (as a group). Consider each ideal-client profile a distinct bullseye for targeted marketing.


focus: how they find you irreplaceable

For each ideal-client profile, a shared view of the customer experience can be found: why they consider your company the go-to source for a specific form of satisfaction. To discover this clearly, remember this axiom of statistical reliability:

  • The higher the sample size, the lower the margin of error.

Learning why your best customers bypass your competitors, like defining your ideal-client profile(s), requires gathering and wisely interpreting market intelligence. This is best done with the care of an unbiased expert.


the right promise to the right people in the right way

With a credible, meaningful, authentic key message ideally expressed in words that your best clients actually use any business could claim its turf as must-see experts, or the leading product, or the preferred source for high value.


Getting to know your ideal clients should reveal how to reach more people like them. This should include how to communicate key messages to the target market effectively.


bullseye in one shot

If the company’s key message is like an arrow and the ideal client like the bullseye of the target market, then effective, economical marketing is like archery. Be a good archer and succeed, even on a shoestring budget.


– Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.


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