The most recent issue of McKinsey Quarterly, subtitled “The Future of Marketing” caught my eye when it arrived. I have been an interested observer in the profound changes in advertising and marketing over the past several years. I’m sure you have noticed it too. I believe the continued growth of social media will bring great advantages back to small and medium-sized businesses.
In my prior experience as the CFO of a $100 million business, some of the most difficult budget discussions concerned marketing and advertising expenses. During my tenure, these expenses ranged from a high of approximately 2.0% of sales to a low of 0.75%. These discussions always seemed to explore tactics that could be employed to make a larger impact at lower costs. Social media is a great enhancement. Below, are three items to consider in maximizing your advertising and marketing efforts on a decreasing budget.
Maximize touch-points – Every contact with a customer or potential customer is a marketing opportunity. You probably recall the 1993 book, Raving Fans. Its message is just as relevant today as it was in 1993. The book extols the value of creating an excellent experience for the customer. The opportunities for creating a great experience abound even more in today’s social media environment. Consider assigning at least one person in every customer-facing department as your representative. Customers and potential customers that are most excited about your products enjoy participating in online discussions about your products. Your most experienced and knowledgeable staff members are welcome in these discussions.
Engage – Focus on the ways you can engage current and potential customers in a bilateral exchange—offer honest advice, recommend solutions and collect valuable input on what is important to market participants. Previously, it was more difficult and expensive to discover what your market was thinking. Today, any small to medium-sized business owner or manager that can get plugged into social media discussions can get an enormous amount of market information from the most enthusiastic market participants. Consider establishing measurements and targets for social media engagement.
Find synergies – Traditional advertising and marketing still has its place. The key to maximizing the impact of both traditional and social media is to discover the ways that each can enhance the other. Traditional media is still the area where the business has some element of control over the message. Use traditional media to “nudge” the social media discussion—use social media to find the message that resonates and incorporate it into traditional media.
For those of you wanting to explore this issue further, try reading two books in the same week and compare and contrast them. Read Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles (1993) and The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk (2011).