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Marketing / Business marketing

Marketing freeways. How to avoid gridlocks.

New marketing freeways open up, but gradually get crowded until they become gridlocked. Find out ways to get your marketing moving again.

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Yellow Pages used to be the marketing freeway 

Not so long ago the Yellow Pages was the place for small businesses to advertise. Remember those thick books that were so heavy you could use them as a door stopper? Ten years ago I had clients spending $80,000 per year in those tomes. For that investment, you had the privilege of fighting for attention with a small box or bold line advert, against multinationals with big-budget, big colour ads. It was the marketing equivalent of traffic gridlock: expensive and slow but nowhere else to go. 

Eventually we cancelled Yellow Pages because every new customer from that source was a net loss. 

Google Adwords offered another route 

Enter Google Adwords, who opened up a new business marketing freeway: barely any traffic, fast, cheaper and profitable. Advertising budgets were gleefully slashed, new metrics were available and we had a lot more control. 

But as the months and years passed, more traffic started using the new freeway, costs crept up and (sure enough) the freeway is now a car park. The Google budget is now pushing the old Yellow Pages budget, so we are looking for new sustainable alternatives. 

"The next marketing freeway is under construction right now, even if we don’t know what it is yet. Be ready to take the exit."

Be vigilant. Read the signs. 

For small business marketers this is a pattern that happens over and over. New marketing freeways open up but gradually get crowded until they become a gridlock. In the end, profitability is challenged, and the messages get lost in the noise. 

Facebook has reached saturation as well, with too many promotions and questionable returns. Traditional forms of marketing reached gridlock a long time ago. 

It would be easy to throw your hands in the air, but vigilance is essential to ensure your marketing keeps evolving and not stuck in the jam. Getting back to marketing basics is key to success (and sanity): a strong brand, strong relationships and a real understanding of both your market position and client base. 

Planning all your activities proactively and knowing your returns are key elements, since ultimately you will incorporate the gridlocked channels into your marketing mix. 

Want more articles like this? Check out the business marketing section.

Tips to get your marketing moving again:

  • Build a community around your business in every way, incorporating new technology and old fashioned customer service.
  • Work on developing your brand so that your market know and feel your values. Make sure your brand cuts through the noise.
  • Build marketing value into your product by making your offerings rave-worthy.
  • Use as many cheap and free methods as you can, so you can afford to be present in as many channels as possible.
  • Analyse your marketing spend and return with great diligence. There is great power in making decisions armed with information.
  • Watch the trends, they will keep changing.
  • Don’t be reactive. Make a plan and stick to it.
  • Keep learning, so you know what is happening in the marketplace and how your business should respond to it.
  • Get help if you need it, but be knowledgeable so that you don’t get ripped off.
  • Be wary of clever salespeople offering ‘instant’ success or seemingly unbelievable results. 

The next marketing freeway is under construction right now, even if we don’t know what it is yet. Be ready to take the exit when it opens, because first movers get a better ride for a while. In the long term, your big picture marketing plan will see you to success.

Warren Harmer

is author of Business Planning for Small Business. As a business adviser and coach, Warren offers instructive ‘how to’ information to make business ownership easier, less stressful and more enjoyable.

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