If you are a small business, YOUR MARKETING SUCKS! How the hell do I know that? Because after working with thousands of small business and companies over the last eleven years and because I am a small business I can tell you that every single small businesses marketing plan is terrible! Why?
If you are in a rush and just want to get to the ideas then scroll down to the ideas but be warned you are wasting your money!
If you are a small business, YOUR MARKETING SUCKS! How the hell do I know that? Because after working with thousands of small business and companies over the last eleven years and because I am a small business I can tell you that every single small businesses marketing plan is terrible! Why?
Small businesses do not have the time to focus on implementing a proper marketing plan because they are too busy trying to run and grow their small business. When you run your own company, you are the Chief Everything Officer. Managing, Recruiting, disciplining staff is just one full time job that you do. On top of that you might be responsible for invoicing, credit control, admin, raising quotes, selling, inventory, I.T and Oh yes also delivering your product or service to your customer. So amongst the endless hours of work, somewhere you have to fit in a marketing or advertising plan too. So what do you do? Well most small businesses usually have a marketing plan that looks something like this:
1. Do some Google or Facebook ads- then either leave it on repeat or quit because you have no idea whether it's working or not.
2. Spend some money on local or classified ads in the local paper- again you have no idea whether it worked or not so you either repeat or quit.
3. Try something else, it might be Billboards, Posters, radio, email send out, trade press etc etc.
Then muddle on, hey sales are okay and we had a small uplift so I'm doing alright, right? WRONG!
If you are spending any money on advertising STOP right now! I know that might sound ridiculous coming from someone who runs an advertising company but unless you understand exactly whether each £ you spend is resulting in more than £1 in sales and what that amount is then you are literally setting fire to your money and if you keep doing that you will go bust! Imagine going to the bank and withdrawing £10 form the cash machine. Now take that crisp, new printed ten pounds note, strike a match and let it burn baby. Now go and withdraw hundreds of ten pound notes and turn them all into a smoldering, charred pile of ash. If you don't track your sales and profit from your ad spend then that's exactly what you are doing in your business every year. So how do I work out my sales from advertising you ask? Well I’m going to show you.
THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT NUMBER YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START ADVERTISING YOUR SMALL BUSINESS:
Before you spend another penny on advertising and before we start talking about effective advertising ideas let's get your house in order first. So the first thing you need to know is: What is the Average Customer Lifetime Value in pounds? The reason this number is critical to your business is if you can work out how much each customer is worth to you in revenue and profit over a 1-3 year period then you can work out how much you can afford to spend on advertising and marketing your services to those customers. Let me give you a quick example:
If you spend £100 on an advert and you work out that the ACLV is £600 in revenue and £300 in profit over a 3 year period then it's easy to see that each customer is worth £100 a year in profit to you. So if you buy one advert and that advert brings in 3 new customers then you have just made £200 profit on a £100 advert (3 x £100 profit from 3 new customers minus £100 ad cost equals £200 profit). So you now know that even if you spent all of your ad budget on the same adverts for every £1 you spend on ads, you are making £2 in profit. So in that scenario, what would you do? I hope the answer is double your ad spend because that would be the right answer! If you are making £2 for every £1 you spend, you are on a rocket ship to the planet gazillions!
To work out your average customer lifetime value go through all of your customers for the last 1-3 years (three is ideal as it tells you if customers are still buying from you three years ago and how much they have spent with you over that period of time) Then take the total revenue for the period of time you are measuring and divide it by the total number of customers and that will give you your Average Customer Lifetime Value.
If you need some help with how to work out your ACLV just drop me an email and I can send you a pdf on how to do that.
Now just before you put your order in for your tropical island and before you start spending money on advertising again. What is the next thing you need to know? That’s right…
How can I track sales from advertising?
Now we know how much money we make from a customer we now need to work out how to track the sales from an advert. If you are like most small businesses, your sales come from a variety of sources: Phonecalls, emails, people walking through the door, filling in contact us forms.
The easiest way of tracking your sales is to do the following and this is CRITICAL! What I’m about to tell you, will make the difference in your business between living and dying!!! Its that important!!!
Let's address online first:
You must have a website, I know this is sounds like playground advice but you'd be amazed how many businesses still don't. If you need a website, check out Wix.com they make it easy to set up. If you don't want to do it yourself, drop me a line and I can put you in touch with a web designer who can do it for you.
If you have a website, install Google Analytics. Google Analytics is free and it provides amazing insights into what people are doing on your website and where they came from. Here's a link to get you started.
Once you have installed Google Analytics then install Google Search Tools. Google Search Tools tells you exactly what people searched for when they were looking for your website. Again it’s free and the information is essential to growing your business. Now you need to install Google Funnels. Google Funnels, tells you exactly where customers came from online and where they went on your website before they placed an order. Here is a great article about how and why to set up your Google funnels, I know this might feel complicated and hard work but I promise you, your efforts will pay you back exponentially.
If you want someone to set all this up for you, drop me a line and I know someone who can come to your business and do it for you and walk you through it all for £300 plus VAT which is probably the best investment you will ever make in your business. If you want more information on how to set this up yourself, just drop me an email and I can send you a PDF and some links to do it, it will probably take you about 2-3 hours.
OK now you have a way of tracking online what people do once they reach your website but before they get to your website we need to create a special page that we can direct people to that tells us which advert they came from. This is called a landing page. A landing page is advert specific so if you run an advert on a billboard or a classified ad or even a radio ad, you can direct people to this page. DO NOT RUN AN ADVERT WITH YOUR WEBSITE ADDRESS ON! What? You have spent all this money creating a beautiful website and now you want me to advertise and not even tell people about the website? Yes that's right! You want to direct people to the landing page that is specifically about the product or service you are selling and then when people go to the landing page they will automatically be directed to the correct page on your website but now we can track where they came from. Let's say you sell doormats, you create a landing page with the easy to remember web address doormatsale.com. When you run that advert with that landing page, anyone who visits that page has come from that advert, the page automatically redirects people to your website and Google tracks those people and tells you if they purchased from you. What does that then tell you? It tells you which customer saw your advert and how much they spent with you.
Emails and walk ins
What if somebody makes an enquiry through an email? If they have been on your website as a result of the advert then Google Funnels will be tracking them anyway so you don't need to worry about where they came from.
What if they walk through the door, well you need to go old school and one of the first questions you should ask any customer is where did you find us? If they saw your advert then googled you, then they will be tracked on your website
Let's say you run an advert and you want people to call you instead of going to the landing page. No problem! You can set up a phone number that's specific to that advert. Yellow pages and Autotrader have been offering that service for years so you can see that the enquiries have come from their adverts. Well now you can do it yourself and it's as cheap as chips to do. Companies like Sonetel let you set up local phone numbers for as little as £5 that you can then answer on your mobile. Just run the advert with the special phone number on. If the phone rings it's a customer from the advert! Just make a note of anyone who calls and if they buy from you, put the revenue against the advert.
OK, so now you know:
How much each customer is worth to your business
Where the customers are coming from
Which advert is producing customers
How much profit you are making on each advert
Once you have all this crucial information you are ready to start looking at new advertising ideas!
20 of the Best Outdoor Advertising Ideas for Small Businesses
Ever heard of the Pareto Principle? Im sure you have it's the old 80/20 rule where 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Why am I telling you this? If you are a local business looking to attract local customers then what I’m about to list as the Number 1 small business outdoor advertising idea is….. Google. Google!!!???? WTF! I've just read your article about advertising and I've set myself up and now I finally get to the outdoor advertising ideas and you are still talking about Google! Why? Because it’s the most effective FREE outdoor advertising idea for small businesses!
1.Google My Business
Google My Business is a free tool for local businesses to get found by local customers who are looking for your services or products. Best of all , it's easy simple and free. So how does it work?
Think about when you needed to find a Restaurant or pharmacy or dog groomer or solicitors or tyr repair business in your local area, you pull out your smart phone type your search into Google and up pops three or four businesses on a little map on google with the names of the company. You click on the closest one to you and up pops their details and several handy headings. Directions to the business, Address, opening hours, reviews and even a handy button to press to call direct and speak with them. What you are seeing there is a Google My Business listing and for you to get found you need to register your business with Google, tell them about your company and great things you do and add some striking photos for customers to find when they are searching for your services.
Think about the last time you drove somewhere, can you remember the billboard adverts you saw on the route? Chances are probably not. The biggest reasons that billboards are used for Outdoor Advertising by brands are: It’s easy, it’s a quick way of allegedly getting lots of eyeballs on your brand and if you advertise on enough of them then it might work. (In the ad worlds this is called “reach” and this is what media owners sell their adverts with) Those are all terrible reasons for you to advertise on a billboard! The number one reason that you should advertise on any media is because it makes you money. Most small businesses cannot afford to advertise on hundreds or thousands of billboards so the attraction of reach is limited and if you are advertising just to create “brand awareness” then again you should think again before you go bankrupt. Okay so now we understand why Billboards are terrible, why are they in this list? Because if done properly billboards can sell you more product and here’s how to do it:
Here's a couple of companies who deal with small business billboard advertising
First: Only Advertise on a billboard that is on a main road that is within three miles of your business, with tonnes of dwell time not passing traffic. If you ever drive past North Birmingham on the M6, you will drive past Walsall football club who have somehow managed to persuade the local council to build billboards on their stadium property right next to the motorway. That stretch of the motorway is one of the busiest in the U.K and the billboards must get hundreds of thousands of eyeballs driving past those billboards every day. At 70 mph, you would probably view the billboard for about half a second. Do you want people who have never heard of you to buy from you? Try doing it in half a second. Chances of getting even one thousandth of a percent of those eyeballs to convert into a sale, pretty much zero. So when buying billboard space, you want people close to your business sitting in traffic lights looking at your advert for at least four seconds. Four seconds is the minimum time a film or tv show will show a shot for so you can understand and take it in. Anything above four seconds and your prospective audience is now taking in your message consciously or subconsciously.
Second: Ensure your message and product sale is direct and bold and simple. Don’t be advertising your firm of Solicitors, nobody cares who you are or about your logo. But the stressed out Executive who has just found out his wife is having an affair will be interested in your advert for “DADS!-Fast Divorces Done Simply by Local Solicitors -Visit quickiedivorce.com to start today”.
Third: Be memorable! If you are going to advertise your product or service on a billboard, create a way of people remembering. Selling cars? Stick one to the billboard! Hardware store selling nails and screws? Write your message with bolts and screws! Use your product or service to create your message in a fun or extreme way and not only will people remember it, they will talk about it too.
Fourth: Use a strong call to action and make the advert trackable: We talked about this already but never advertise your company, nobody cares about you except you so only advertise the benefit of your product or service. Remember nobody wants to buy a drill people only want a 6mm hole. Always write your advert with WIIFM in mind (What's In It For Me as the buyer) and tell them how to contact you today immediately.
3. Fly posters
No not the dog eared- half hanging off posters you see gum pasted illegally to disused buildings. No I’m talking about fly posters that still maintain the urban look and feel and appeal to a certain demographic audience (E.G young persons, students, music aficionados, trend drivers, people who typically will spend money on going out, drinking, eating and fashion). There are several companies who hire wall spaces and sign rotundas that have planning permission for ads and you can advertise cheaply in these spaces and they will print and post your posters for you.
Check out Legal Fly Posting
If Billboards or poster sites aren't getting your customers attention any more because they have their eyes glued to their smart phones then this could be the answer for you. Local, targeted wifi spots that consumers get free wifi from in return for viewing your clickable advert on their screens. Several companies now offer wifi advertising for specific locations and audiences. Looking to attract commuters on the tube to your local business, no problem! Malls, public transport stations and even cinemas are now offering advertising space on their wifi networks for you to target your potential customers. In addition if you have a retail space or office, you can set up your own Free wifi service in return for customers logging on and seeing your latest offer. You can even go guerilla! Let's say you want to attract coffee lovers into your cafe offering gourmet caffeine experiences, there are companies who will go and sit in the local Costa coffee with a wifi broadcastr hidden in their rucksack. When people go to logon to Costas wifi, your free wifi service pops up as an alternative, “COFFEE LOVERS FREE WIFI”. When they login they see your ad coupon offering a free cuppa fancy coffee before using your free wifi. They get free wifi you get access to local coffee experience lovers.
5. Clean Advertising
If you want to attract hyper local consumers to your business or service or you want target a very specific audience then Clean Advertising needs to be considered. Its beauty lies in its simplicity and targeting. Clean Advertising companies offering the service, use your artwork to create an advert in a stencil format, then put the stencil down on dirty pavements in specified locations before cleaning over the top with an industrial cleaning machine. When the stencil is lifted, you are left with a bold contrast of clean advert on dirty pavement. The biggest benefit of Clean Ads is you can place the ads pretty much where you need them. Are you a local garage or car repair shop offering great service at preferential rates for servicing on BMW’s?. Who are your target customers? BMW drivers of course, so where do you find them? BMW dealerships. No problem, just place Clean Ads outside the dealerships close to the entrance and exits. Targeting students for your next course intake at your college or University? Where do prospective students hang out? At Senior schools and the bus stops leading to and from the schools….
6. Murals or Graffiti Advertising
Wall murals are an awesome way to attract customers to your business, whether it's the front of your own business premises or a locally hired wall space. Blank walls are blank canvases for brilliantly talented artists to paint a representation of your product or service. Also when was the last time you saw someone taking photos of your billboard or sign? Doesn't happen! But with Graffiti Advertising, even the process of creating the advert creates lots of attention, so set up a timelapse camera and stick the footage on your website and watch art come to life over several days. Talented artists can be found online or check out the Wall Mural advertising services here:
7. Rain Advertising
TRAVEL AGENTS! Are you looking for an innovative way to get more customers? How about an advert which only appears when it rains? When the sun is out, no-one thinks about going on holiday but when it's wet and miserable people just want to get away from it all. With Rain Advertising, your ads are turned into stencils and the stencils are placed on pavements before a special water resistant solution is applied. It's totally invisible in the dry but when it rains your ads appear like magic! How about Financial advisors….? “Saving for a rainy day?” Is a great message for a rain advert and think about the online PR you can create with a short video of the ads appearing in the wet...
Check out the video of rain ads
8. Chalk or Vinyl Advertising
Chalk and vinyl Street Ads are brilliant for when you own the property or you have permission from local councils to place the adverts. Whether its signposting people to your event or letting people know where your new store is….
9. Walking Billboards
The tricky thing about Pavement Advertising is councils don’t like you doing it. Just search for Pavement signs on Google and you will read story after story about councils banning A boards and pavement boards. So what do you do to advertise your local business? Well apart from these other 19 ideas you can always pay someone to walk about with your adverts on. Yes, Sandwich board men are as old as dinosaurs but they are still about because they work. When was the last time you saw Spider Man holding a Domino's sign? Not that long ago. In the States they have sign spinners but good luck trying to find one in the U.K! How about a modern take on the idea. Why not approach local colleges or senior schools and creating a design competition for local art students, the winner gets an Ipad. They each have to design an eye catching T-shirt for your business and wear it for a day, the winner is the person with the most likes or share on social media. In addition to the online buzz you are generating, you also have 30 students walking around your local area wearing your adverts...
10. Projection Advertising
Have you seen videos of those amazing building projections where the front of a building looks like it's collapsing or a giant face emerges from it? Well They cost about £30,000 for each minute of projection. How about the PR stunt carried out by FHM magazine where they projected the naked Gail Porter on the front of the houses of parliament? This is projection advertising at its best but how can you use projections to advertise your business? You could pay a team of professionals to do it or you could do it yourself, if you have a shop front of building premises you could use gobo projectors to shine your advert straight onto the pavement in front of your business. Projectors start for as little as £200 and they are brilliant at grabbing people's attention at night.
11. 3d Street Art
We already talked about using street artists to create art in advertising for your business with wall murals but if your budget stretches to it then you should think about 3d street art. The mesmerising optical illusions make the pavement look like it's cracked into a giant hole or people can interact with the art and look like they are tiny standing on top of giant objects. Artwork is painted onto a vinyl and then the vinyl can be used on any hard surface to stop passersby in their tracks and create a natural, easy conversation about your product or service. In addition to the experiential marketing value, the artwork provides stunning opportunities for selfies and selfies get shared online creating more opportunity for your product or service to be seen. Finally, local newspapers and TV love 3d street art, they create brilliant photo opps for their papers and is an easy win for you to get featured in the media.
Watch people's rection to 3d street art in London
12. Empty Shop Windows
Streetskins was a company that offered adverts on the front of shop window shutters. When the local businesses closed for the day they would pull down the ads over the front of their shutters and go home for the night. Nice idea! But the ads would get vandalised or weren't that effective as they were only viewed at night with limited footfall. Instead, why not approach local commercial estate agents and ask if you can rent the outside shop windows of local retail units that are up for rent? You only need access to the outside of the window and you can pay a local sign company to put vinyl graphics on the windows. The landlord and agent make some money from the store whilst it's up fro rent and you get an amazing opportunity to advertise your product or service at eyeball level in your local area. A fair offer to rent the window should be £100-200 a week plus installation
13. Grass Advertising
Grass or Field Advertising provides a great opportunity to create a short term adverts whilst also generating a great story about your product or service. Gillette did it with Roger Federer creating the World's biggest shave but you could hire a local farmer's field and a team of art students with paint sprayers to create a brilliant advert for very little outlay in return for maximum publicity.
14. Static Cling flyers
Static cling flyers are a fun way to get your adverts in front of people with lots of dwell time. Static cling flyers are like stickers that only adhere using static electricity. So they will stick to any smooth surface such as windows, bus stops, phone boxes, back o bus seats, cashpoint machines. Obviously I’m sure you will be seeking permission from their owners to place the flyers….
15. Guerilla Advertising
The opportunity for guerilla advertising opportunities are limited by your imagination. Typically the wilder the idea and the simpler the execution the better! Here are a few ideas but I’m sure you can come up with loads: Advertising a drug advice service by dropping adverts folded into coke wraps in toilets and bars, Advertise your local wine shop opening with wine neck labels placed on fancy bottles of wine in your local supermarkets, Bike repair shops, place plastic bike seat covers on the seats of Boris bikes, E-cigarette company paints the local incinerator chimney in the colours of their brand, local barbers offers haircuts to local dogs with a free one for their owners too. Mexican restaurant places static cling flyers on the front of pub hand dryers, “IF you can finish our extra hot chilli you can dry your own hands”... Bring this Flyer for FREE>>>> X
16. Bluetooth Advertising
Just like Wifi Advertising you can engage with consumers ourt and about via their smarthphones. A few years ago Apple introduced ibeacon technology. They are tiny, portable low power bluetoot transmitters that communicate with passing iphones. If you have an app for your customers, you can place ibeacons that activate offers on your customers phones when they are close by or better still on their way in to a local rival store...
Do you know who your customer avatar is? A customer avatar is a tightly focused representation of who your model customer is based on who your previous customers are. What do you know about your customers? Do you know what their problems are? Do you know how old they are, what gender, are they parents? In a relationship, do you know what they like to drink, eat, do with their kids, preferred brands, what do they go, what do they do in their spare time, what newspapers and magazines do they read, do they go to the gym or stay home and watch movies, which websites do they love, what sports do they enjoy? If you don't know the answers to these questions or you are just starting out then you need to create a custom avatar and add in answers based on guess work, once you start finding out the answers to questions replace the guesses with accurate answers and over time you will start to build an accurate profile of who your customer is. Why is this important? Because without this avatar you won't know where to advertise and you will be guessing and guessing is expensive and not effective. So if you do have an accurate answer to the above questions and more then you will start to understand where you can find sponsorship opportunities. Let's say you are an artist and want to sell your beautiful animal and pet portraits. Where do all pet lovers go at some point in their pets lives… Yes that’s right the vets! Vets have waiting rooms which means dwell time and when was the last time you went to a verts and saw stunning handpainted pictures of beloved dogs and carts adorn their walls? Never. And yet a vet is a local business looking for opportunities to increase revenue and please their customers aren't they? So why aren't you doing an affiliate deal with your local vets in return for them displaying your artwork and putting your advert on their monthly newsletter.
18. Vehicle Ads
Getting your van or car wrapped is one of the best investments you could ever pay for in your business. Alright nobody wants to drive the furry dog van in Dumb and Dumber but the attention your business will get is immense. Don’t just put your name and contact details on the vehicle, make the ad specific, measurable, trackable and most importantly noticeable! I still remember seeing the local service and handyman driving round my neighbourhood with a giant plastic screwdriver attached to his roof now 0800- REPAIRS… If you can’t afford to pay for a full wrap then ask your vinyl wrap specialist to wrap the back doors of your van in white vinyl and use whiteboard markers to update your offers every week. Also don't just think about your own vehicles, why not offer customers a special deal if they stick an advert sticker in their car window for a month…? Go and approach your local pizza or takeaway business and offer them a deal to sponsor the back windows of their delivery vehicles. Likewise most courier companies are one man bands who are scraping out a living doing 50 drops a day for Amazon customers.. Pay them to wrap or signwrite their van with your offer....
19. Phonebox Advertising
Mobile phones might have killed phone boxes but there is a reason why you still see them on many street corners, they are transporters for adverts. Phone Boxes are a cost effective way of getting your service or product in front of targeted audiences at eye level height, cheaper than billboards and arguably more effective if done right. If you can’t afford to buy phonebox adverts, then think about creating your own...
20. Outdoor Events
I'm not talking about becoming a sponsor at the next British Open, I’m talking about looking for cheap and effective opportunities to advertise your product or service at a local level that also pays back to your local community. Schools are dying for funds, so if you are a local kids party organiser then you should be offering a free bouncy castle to their school fete in return for giving a flyer and coupon to every parent. Likewise why not offer the school a hamper to raffle in return for offering a wines and cheese tasting stand at the next PTA meeting? Football and sports teams, town councils, local community groups are all starved of cash and would welcome an opportunity to work with a local business like yours in return for some much need fiscal assistance.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article, I hope you get some great value out of it and if you have any comments or want some help with your next marketing campaign, drop me a line and get in touch