Is Most Marketing by Small Businesses KILLING THEM?


I just collected my mail. As usual, more than 80% of it was junk. Marketing junk.

What did I do with it? Threw it in the garbage without reading it. Same as you do. Only it made me think about this article, which I guess might be of some use, unintended by the morons who send me all that useless direct mail.

When I open a local newspaper, the first thing I do is chuck away all the god-awful leaflets and flyers hidden inside it. Same with anything people put in my mailbox or tuck behind the latch on my door. Out with the BS!

Now, I'm ready to accept that someone, somewhere must read that kind of unwanted garbage. Maybe even thinks it's useful. Hell, it's a free country. If no one read it, surely (please God) people would stop sending it. Wouldn't they?

Why this matters

Most of the stuff is sent by huge corporations. They get a response rate of probably less than a fraction of a percent -- say 1 person in every 300-400 -- but that's okay. They send out so many millions of mailing pieces it adds up to a measurable number of possible customers.

Besides, they treat it as just another cost of doing business. They can afford it out of their vast profits.

But you, the small business owner, can't afford that kind of cost:return ratio. Nor can you send out millions of unwanted marketing messages (Thank God!)

Sending out 5000 would be a very big deal (printing costs, distribution costs...). 10,000 would probably be too expensive on any grounds. So a response of maybe under 10 people -- not SALES, just a response of any kind -- isn't going to make you feel good.

Playing the Numbers

Marketing is a big numbers game, and getting ever more so. Look how many people signed up for the "Do Not Call List" to get rid of those loathsome telemarketers who always call at a meal time.

As soon as consumers have choice, their first action is to dump any kind of marketing. Technology is giving them more and more of that choice.

They can block pop-ups on the Internet. Kill spam (to some extent, but there will be better ways soon), use their TiVo to remove TV adverts. You have to persuade people to let you give them marketing messages (that's "permission marketing"). Mostly, they won't, unless you offer them something they really want in return.

Here's the good news

What people want is simple: useful, FREE information, with no catch.

Offer them that and they'll "pay" for it by letting to add just a smidgeon of marketing.

Give them what they find useful; as much of it as you can. Don't cheat either by doling out a bit, then trying to make them pay for the rest. That's like your lover giving you a kiss, then asking for fifty bucks for any more (and you know what business that is, right?).

Marketing used to be trapping people into reading what suits you, the seller. No more.

Unless you have megabucks available to smother the market in the hope of finding a few saps still willing to go along with that game, marketing today is persuading people that you're worth listening to when THEY want to and on THEIR terms.

And that means giving them plenty in return.

Now the best news

You don't need megabucks to do this. All you need is willingness, a real concern to be useful to your customers and a web site.

Share your passions. Invite your customers to talk with you and with each other. Keep handing out truly useful information.

They'll flock to your site and reward you with enough trust to consider your marketing message. Because they're not fools. They know you're in business to sell things.

And they like to buy, especially from people they like. They just hate being sold to.

Adrian W. Savage writes for people who want help with the daily dilemmas they face at work. He has contributed more than 25 articles to leading British and American publications and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Chicago Tribune.


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