By Adrian Swinscoe, Director, RARE Business

I wouldn’t be surprised if you were like most business owners and marketing executives in that you’ve tried dozens of marketing tips or ideas, and have been disappointed in the results from most, if not all of them.

You will probably have heard suggestions like these from your friends or business contacts:

- Do some advertising in the newspaper
- Ever tried TV ads?
- How about sending out some brochures?
- Have you been networking?
- Do you have a website?
- Are you running a Pay per Click campaign?
- Are you blogging?
- What about Twitter?
- Do you do direct mail?
- And on and on and on.

Without a doubt you will have had one, if not more, of these suggestions put to you at some point. These are the types of marketing suggestions that are passed from business owner to business owner every day of every week.

However, the interesting thing is that these are all ‘vehicles’ that we, as businesses, use as ways to deliver a message and attempt to communicate with our market or customers.

As they say, don’t blame the messenger! Particularly if your marketing message is weak, untargeted, untimely and ineffective.

So, if you are not getting the response that you require from your marketing then don’t be too quick to blame the vehicles. The problem could be your message and how, what and when you are delivering it.

Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean ie. the problem can lie not in what you are doing but how you do it.

Consider the coffee shop I drop into every now and again. The first few times I dropped by, I noticed something unusual. There wasn’t a hanging menu listing what was for sale, and there wasn’t even a display case of products for sale. Yes, there were dozens of bags of specialty coffees on the display shelves, and a few other, related speciality items, but that was it. When asked about this, the owner told me that the menus were on a little rack in the corner.
I’d never seen that rack before…and so, had never seen a menu.

When I opened one of her menus I was surprised at the variety she was offering. The menu told about their regular coffees, specialty coffees, sandwiches, bagels, breakfast, etc., a wide variety of products.

The problem here was that she was trying to be different and save money by making folded-paper menus and not putting up a clearly visible, hanging menu of her products…where everyone could see it. She assumed that her customers would all find her menus and would order from them. But time-after-time, I watched as customers walked in, approached the counter, and ordered coffee to go, or a bag of her specialty coffees. Rarely did I see someone find one of her menus and order additional items from the menu.

The last time I was there the owner confided that she was considering reducing her hours of business. Why? Because she wasn’t generating the kind of sales she had hoped for. She said that her location wasn’t the greatest, and that the poor economy was really hurting her sales.

I asked her to consider doing a couple of easy things she could do to change things…like make her menu more prominent…draw every patron’s attention to the fact that they made really good food…in addition to their great coffee before she started reducing her hours. She agreed to try these out and is now getting much better results.

Another example:

John ran a landscaping and lawn care service. His strategy was to send out brochures to targeted areas and then…just wait for the phone to ring. That was it.

Every once in a while John would get a call from someone who had received his brochure, but he wasn’t getting nearly enough business with this strategy to make it worthwhile.
After some thought, research and talking to a number of customers, John learned that a more targeted and pro-active strategy would produce much better results.

His new strategy was to target people who were building new homes in his marketplace. These people would soon need a lawn, and very possibly complete landscaping services. By targeting these people he stood a much better chance of acquiring lucrative projects. He also learned that timing was critical with his new strategy. If he waited too long to make initial contact, he found that one of his competitors would often beat him to the sale. His new strategy included mailing a letter and brochure as soon as he obtained the new homeowner’s name. It also included a personal visit within a week or two of their moving into their new home.

John’s new marketing strategy produced instant results.

These are a couple of examples of businesses that were doing all the right things but not in the right way or at the right time. So, if you’re not getting the results from your marketing that you want, whether it is through social media, your new website, your advertising or whatever vehicle you are using, don’t be too quick to damn the vehicle. It may be more a matter of how you are using it, the message that you are communicating, to whom and when.

Don’t be too quick to blame the messenger!

Adrian Swinscoe is Director of RARE Business - adrian@rarebusiness.co.uk