I have made mention often, particularly in this post, that as a small business marketer, my marketing options are really only constrained by a small business budget. The choices I have, unfettered by big corporate policy are exciting, and I am constantly bombarded with possibilities.
One facet of marketing that is often presented, and which I typically ignore, is the “Big Bad Site/Publication Advertising Pitch.” Due to my small business budget, I can’t afford to shell out 10k a month in ad spend for a PPM display ad, or a full page print ad for a broad-target publication. But primarily, anytime a big company comes after a small one, I can’t help but wonder why they want my money so badly. Consequently I usually don’t even bother even reading the proposals from said offers.
But there was this one time…
I should have known better, but I was courted, promised some pretty sweet results, and most importantly, assured that I would have long-lasting web visibility for my target audience. This company, which shall remain nameless, is a World-wide Business targeted news and information website with representation in something like 16 countries, and local writers in 13 of them.
So even though I approached this opportunity with the usual level of skepticism, the Account Rep provided some pretty convincing data, and a feasible first-time price point, to convince me to try and advertising campaign for three months. The assets included a crafted campaign focused on our Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) software and its unique ability to create a single hardware independent image that can be easily deployed to any PC regardless of manufacturer. Case Studies we provided were to support this campaign, which would correspond to targeted display ads linking to a custom designed micro-site packed with great links and content.
Fully admitting that I chose poorly, but without expounding on the details, the main problem with this ad campaign was that the assets were randomly hosted on their site with no continuity, and the display ads only appeared on our content. Needless to say, the return versus spend was abysmal.
The part that really escalated feelings of regret over having made a poor decision, was that when I contacted my rep to try and get some metrics from the campaign, she totally blew me off. Even after everything was finished, and I wrote a respectful, but data-packed email clearly expressing my tremendous disappointment with the outcome of the campaign given what she told me I could expect, she completely ignored me.
I take full responsibility for going against my better judgment of dealing with big companies offering advertising to small companies, and if I possessed a lesser degree of business tact I would be smearing this company’s name everywhere I could. But I simply must lament yet another case where a Big Bad Company duped a small business, didn’t deliver on any of the promised results, and then completely ignored them because they knew there was nothing the small business could do about it.
Needless to say, making this poor decision once is all I need to never make it again.
As a small business marketer, the tools and platforms I choose or can afford haven't necessarily had the capacity to grow at the same pace as our business needs. It has been a continual challenge to find the right tool for the right phase of business development. Recently, none more so than our Marketing Automation (MA) tool.
When I first started to look for the ideal Marketing Automation provider for Big Bang a little over three years ago, our company had no internal sales, relied heavily on our sole distributor for most everything, and had just hired me to do internal marketing for the first time. So initially I needed the tool to help me get a deeper handle on web visits than Google Analytics was capable of, develop and run email marketing campaigns, and provide the ability to begin creating landing pages and other lead capture assets. We didn't even have a CRM back then.
The MA company I chose was fairly new to the game, a small company like we, and even though their product may not have contained all the greatest features and functionality, the price was right and they were more than willing to work with us in a very personally.
Over the next couple years, our two companies continued to grow. Big Bang changed the status of our sole distributor to primary, hired someone internally to start developing sales and a sales channel, and continued to increase the number of contacts and customers that we were dealing with directly. All the while, our marketing automation provider continued to develop their product and grow their customer base.
But as time went on, continued sales, product, and infrastructure growth again changed the direction our company was heading, and after firing our distributor, we had to pretty much restructure everything internally from the ground up. I began to see that our business needs were going to quickly outgrow the capabilities of our MA provider. The clearer my marketing strategy became, and the more efficiently I was able to execute, the more obvious it became that I would need a tool that was able to do a whole lot more.
I no longer had the time to build landing pages and trigger campaign emails from scratch. I needed accurate and logical lead scoring. I really needed a customizable dashboard and easy reporting capabilities, and most of all, I needed to be able to do all of these things and more a whole lot more quickly.
So I switched.
It certainly wasn't an easy process. The time and effort required for the implementation of a new MA platform is significant. But the time invested now to get the new tool operating efficiently will be more than rewarded, not just in my time, or my ability to more efficiently manage our digital marketing efforts, but in the trackable, reportable, and measurable increase in sales.
Ultimately I had to decide if the headache of changing platforms was worth it. But if I am able to begin a higher quality dialogue, or generate quicker interaction from consistent and well-delivered content, and ultimately increase sales while saving myself some time, all the while having the revenue to justify it, then I think the answer is obvious.
Working in Small Business environment where the sky-is-the-limit is a great thing. But with no real restrictions, policy, or boundaries, and only company philosophy/mission and small business budget to guide, how does a marketer successfully implement strategy?
This quandary is pretty much at the forefront of my thought process just about every day. I'll be honest, when I first started doing marketing for a small business several years ago, I was like the proverbial kid in a candy store. 'Oh look, shiny social media over there'.' What's that? Unfettered communication possibilities with customers?' 'No ominous corporate policy to dictate budget?' 'I can put anything I want on the website?'
I was so over-joyed by the open cookie jar that is small business marketing possibilities, that initially I jumped head-first into every option I could find. And for the shortest amount of time, even though I had established my own budget, I thought I was in heaven singing up for every forum, every social media app, blasting out emails, launching new display ads, and signing up for new trade shows.
It didn't take long before I was over my head trying to keep track of how many different tools I was trying to utilize. Not only were organization and logistics a nightmare, but my grandiose plans of delivering solid content to my target market to drive sales were completely clouded over. The worst part, was that as the sole person responsible for anything related to marketing, web, etc., I didn't have near enough hours in the day to effectively keep up with everything.
Fast forward 3 plus years later and as I mentioned above, pretty much every day I think about my marketing strategy and where each of the countless tools and ideas I have at my disposal might best fit. There is never a shortage of new marketing opportunities, between constantly advancing technology, to the "helpful" support guys at the office coming up with clever ideas while testing our latest software release, it becomes difficult to prioritize.
"Helpful" Marketing Ideas from the Support Guys
In this way I think that sky-is-the-limit small business marketing is pretty unique. Without the typical mid-size and enterprise policies and protocols as a guide, it's pretty easy for the abundant possibilities to overwhelm and cloud over one's goals.
The key for me as Small Business Marketer is to develop a clearly defined marketing strategy at the beginning of the year, allow for flexibility along the way, but always analyze whether implementation of a new idea or tool helps me most effectively and efficiently accomplish my goals.
I still have a list of all the tools and ideas that I think have pretty cool potential. But for now, instead of a limitless sky, I gladly go about my marketing under a self-built roof. (Don't worry, it's retractable)
About Big Bang Blog
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|About Adam Murphy -
Adam is the President and Owner of Big Bang LLC and espouses a pretty progressive small business philosophy based primarily around hiring the right people and getting the hell out of their way.
|About Nate Bauer -
Nate is the Marketing Director for Big Bang LLC and pretty much spends his days tip-toeing on the pinnacle of how to most effectively implement strategy given the wide open cookie jar of small business marketing possibilities.
|About Kelley Burian - @kelleyburian
Kelley is the Sales Director for Big Bang LLC. Responsible for everything from GSA contracts, resellers and international customers, she has her hands full doing whatever she can to make sure our valued clients are thrilled with our fantastic products.