Bulls for sale

On my regular commute I pass a local farm; at the entrance to the farm is a sign “Bulls for sale”.

Now, I don’t know about you but I would hardly have thought that a bull was an impulse buy.  I wonder how many times a passing motorist has thought “Yea, I quite like the idea of buying a bull and having it roaming around the garden”.  I would wager not many.

Or how about the husband heading home from a day at work getting a call from his wife “Hello, darling, I went to the store today but forgot to get a bull; could you pick one up on your way home?”

My only hope is that the farmer isn’t relying on this as his sole method of advertising otherwise business is likely to be slow.

But it also raises a question – how many different ways of advertising your business are you using?

I’ve come across a number of companies who use only a single method of getting their message out there, either because it’s the only way they know or because they say it works well for them so they don’t need to do anything else.

My answer to that is if you haven’t tried other ways then how do you know that there aren’t three or four other ways which will be even better than what you’re doing now?

Well, the only way you’re going to find out is by trying different things.  To put a bit of structure to that process here are a few pointers to going about finding new ways to market:

Have an advertising budget.  Work out how much money you can afford to spend on promoting your business.  This can be a difficult thing to determine – especially if the business is struggling; you don’t want to spend money on advertising in case you don’t get the return you need, but if you don’t advertise then you won’t get business.  Advertising should be an investment, not a cost, and having a formalized program and budget to develop your advertising will help.

Review your business from an outsider’s perspective.  What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?  What makes people buy from you?  What makes you different/better?  Look at your pricing policy, your quality range, how you service your customers, the customer experience.

Look at what your competitors are doing and compare it to what you’re doing from the point above.

Now look at all the common ways to market a business.  Websites and blogs are an obvious modern way but don’t forget the more established methods such as local papers, client referral programs, telemarketing, seminars, networking and strategic alliances with complimentary businesses (for example, florists and wedding planners).

Once you’ve done that cut your list down to the top 5 or 10 marketing ideas and split your budget between them.  Then develop a plan (people usually go for 90 days – long enough to allow testing and measuring, short enough to keep focused on), laying down what you need to do and how you’re going to approach each idea.
Test and measure.  The subject of an article in itself but basically identify where each new customer is coming from; this helps to find out what marketing is working and, just as importantly, what’s not.  You can then delete the poor ones and focus on the successful, refining the process each 90 days.

Finally, something you should be doing with every part of your business development – explain to the team what you’re doing and why.  If the team understand what’s going on then they can help (and may come up with ideas you hadn’t even considered).

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