Two Big Reasons to Consider Search Engine Marketing (Google advertising)

August 30th, 2009

Just in case you don’t know, search engine marketing or SEM refers to the paid ads that appear at the top of Google, Yahoo, or MSN (Bing) when you search for something on those search engines.

There are a lot of marketing channels out there – direct mail, e-mail, print ads, tradeshows, and many more. But of all the channels, SEM is one of my favorites and it’s one you should strongly consider two big reasons.
1. Affordable and controllable. It’s hard for a lot of small businesses to afford traditional marketing programs like print advertising or TV commercials. Google advertising literally starts at $5. While that would be silly, you can realistically start for as little as $500 or $1,000 depending on your business. You can control how much you spend every day and even how much you spend for each search phrase on which you’d like to bid. If it works for you, it’s quick and easy to scale up to generate more business.
2. SEM targets shoppers when they’re looking for you. Unlike traditional advertising where you blast your message to the world and hope some of them are interested, search engine marketing serves your message to people when they’re specifically looking for your product or service. Not only are they interested, but they’re also in research/shopping mode. Virtually no other channel can offer that the way that SEM can.

I will say that SEM may not make sense for every business model, especially if you have very small margins, but it’s still worth examining to be sure.  Before you implement search engine marketing, take a look a the next few posts so you can avoid some of the most common SEM money-wasting mistakes. Until then, thank you for reading.

Not all customers are created equal. Stop treating them like they are.

August 30th, 2009

How do you prioritize customer complaints or requests? I’m not talking about little things like a restaurant manager letting a customer send back a glass of wine he didn’t enjoy. I’m talking about more serious issues or request that will require real resources to implement like bringing back an old menu item you used to have or adding more cardio equipment to your gym or extending your business hours. Do you figure that if one or two people ask for it, you should probably do it? Perhaps you deal with the customers that complain the loudest or most often? I’d like to suggest that if you’re not taking into account the profitability of the customer making the request, there’s a good chance you’re making a mistake.

Think about your business for a minute. Does every one of your customers spend the same amount with you on products where you make the same margin? Does every customer refer the same amount of business? Do they cost the same to maintain through customer service costs? Whether you have 10 customers or a million, I’d bet good money that some of your customers are more profitable than others. In many cases, it’s shocking to see how much of your profit is driven by such a small percentage of your clients.

Despite the frequent reality of this situation, so many companies treat everyone the same (or worse, treat their most profitable customers the worst because they’re not the ones complaining). If you do a customer satisfaction survey (and if you don’t, read my next blog posting), do you break out the satisfaction scores and comments for your most profitable customers and take actions to make sure you’re scoring as high as possible with this group? For that matter, can you even identify who your most profitable customers are? And by the way, while your largest customers can often be your most profitable customers, I can promise you that’s not always the case.

I’ve seen this in both large companies and small businesses, but it’s extra important for small business owners simply because you have fewer resources to go around. If you allocate your customer service and development time/dollars equally, you’re under-serving and in turn risking the relationship with your most important customers. I urge you to take some time to think about your best customers and figure out how you’re going to delight them and keep them coming back.

For a deeper look into customer satisfaction and retention strategies, check out my Customer Loyalty White Paper. I hope you find this and my other posts interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and on what you’re doing in your business. Until next time, thank you for reading.

Welcome to the Small Business Marketing Blog!

August 19th, 2009

I’m glad you’re here.  This blog, and this company for that matter, was founded on the idea that there are a lot of small business owners that are experts in their craft (dentists, architects, chefs), but need some help when it comes to marketing.  If you’re interested in ideas to generate new business or maximize the value of your current customer base, keep reading.

I recently had three different small business owners complain to me that business was slow.  When I asked about how they market their business, they all either responded with “nothing” or “repeat business and word of mouth referrals”.  It occurred to me that these businesses didn’t need (and couldn’t afford) a slew of expensive specialists, but rather some marketing basics to help them get started.  When you’re starting with nothing, the 80/20 rule can make a serious impact.

This blog will be packed with ideas, best practices, and common mistakes to avoid.  If you’re not a small business owner, you may still find this helpful.  I know I love to hear about what other marketers are up to.  And feel free to post your thoughts, even if you don’t agree with me.  I certainly haven’t seen everything, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I hope you find this valuable.  Thanks for reading.