I have been in business for a long time. Over the years, marketing has changed quite a bit. From TV and radio ads to Yellow Page ads, direct mail, variable data direct mail and now the various forms of internet and social media marketing, it has been difficult to stay on top of what works best.
Having spent over 20 years in the printing industry (and not being in the industry any more), I can tell you that print ads just don’t produce like they used to. Personalized variable data mailings provided a huge leap in response %. However, they are so common now that most of us just throw them away too, don’t we? To be honest, I would not recommend spending much, if any, on print marketing other than business cards (apologies to my friends still in the industry).
Where to spend your ad budgets? It’s all about the web, my friends. SEO (search engine optimization) is important but don’t blow your entire budget on that. There are a lot of simple free, or nearly-free, things that you can do for that. The key is to make sure, if you own a small business, that you are on the 1st search page when a smart phone searches you nearby. Don’t worry if you aren’t on the 1st page of a search in LA for your Wisconsin business. They won’t be a customer anytime soon.
Where you really want to focus is on Facebook. 70% of Facebook users log in every day. Couple that with all the demographic data that Facebook collects (themselves or via business partners) and you can target your marketing very specifically at reasonable prices. I have just begun to learn about this and the potential is amazing (if a not a bit scary with respect to the data Facebook has on each of us). I paid for a service to help me do it the right way. It was under $500 to learn how to do it. There are email marketing subscriptions that I will need to purchase, but they are not terribly expensive, either. Time will tell just how effective this will be, but it seems to make good sense to me to skip paying for ink-on-paper and target my “ideal customers” using all that demographic data. I expect it to minimize my cost per new client. Once I work out the kinks on my more established business, I will set out to work on my newer business. It’s going to be interesting.