Do Marketing — And Do It Right

Small companies that grow successfully know that each stage of expansion involves different resources, needs and challenges. Businesses that don’t realize this face stagnation — or worse, failure — with a lot of frustration along the way.

This is particularly true when it comes to marketing. When a company is in its infancy, its marketing efforts are often low-cost and revolve around the owner. For example, attending networking events (which can cost less than $100 per week) allows a company founder to engage in conversation with prospective clients, as opposed to the prospect’s learning about the company through a print ad or press release. In addition, Internet marketing, particularly pay-per-click (PPC), has appealed to smaller firms because a company can 1) easily set a budget, 2) measure return on investment and 3) do it themselves. However, with networking you are limited to getting your message out to the networks of those in the room. With PPC, you are limited to those searching for the keywords that you bid on who choose from the “sponsored links” where your PPC ad can be found.

As the company grows, other marketing tools that get the message out to a larger audience become crucial. There is no shortage of these tools: direct mail, advertising and public relations are some. While this usually means a significant investment as well as the help of an agency or consultant, remember that growth in business is always a matter of calculated risks. To minimize these risks and generate an acceptable return on investment, consider the following:

  • Use a pro -  A PR expert will know how to generate a newsworthy angle, just as an advertising firm can help you create the right message and choose the medium to deliver the message. Whether you hire a one-person consulting shop or a 100-person firm, smaller companies rarely have the internal experience to go it alone.
  • Make a commitment -  Every marketing tool needs some time to be effective. Direct mail, for example, requires you to test different lists and creative (the words and images in the direct mail piece). Advertising has to be seen several times to make an impact.
  • Make it compelling - If you want someone to call based on an ad or direct mail, make an offer that they can’t refuse. Although an advertising campaign can be used to build a brand (think Coke), smaller companies typically want their ads to generate sales activity.
  • Get to the point - Just as a good advertisement has few words, a good press release makes its point in the headline.

Taking the leap with marketing is not for every company. Your infrastructure needs to be in place first, or even the best marketing campaign is a waste of money (for example, make sure you have hired people who are well trained and know what to do when a prospect calls). But when all systems are go and you really want to grow, take the leap. Just do it wisely.