The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

So you've got tools - now what?

Mark Kawabe - Monday, March 15, 2010

Entrepreneurs are always looking for new ways to promote themselves. I like new. Facebook and the social media tools that have sprung up in the last decade are "new". YouTube was new. There will always be something new for us to use to promote ourselves and our businesses. That's exciting.

What's not so exciting is the eventual realization that you actually have to DO something with these new tools for them to have any effect. A client of mine was pondering starting a blog until he noted that he would have to "feed the monster" new content regularly over a long period of time for the blog to have an effect. Yep. That's how it works - with any promotional tool we have in our toolboxes.

It doesn't matter whether you're talking about social media, networking or good ol' word-of-mouth marketing. YOU have to do something for those methods to work. Any program that says it will do it all for you with no input whatsoever from you is lying. If you're not participating, your results will be pathetic.

Unfortunately, in our "take-no-responsibility-for-anything" society, many business people do just that when it comes to something "not working" for them. This is true whether they're spending money on a newspaper, radio or TV ad campaign, joining a networking group like the Chamber of Commerce, BNI or other groups (locally KNOW it ALL Niagara and the Small Business Club Niagara come to mind) or things they control like their flyers, coupons or websites. If these methods don't "work" for the business, the tool is often the thing blamed.

I think there are two underlying causes of failure for any marketing endeavour.

1) Understanding HOW the "tool" works.

2) Committing to use the "tool".

These points illustrated:

Business owner A buys a single ad in a newspaper.

Business owner B buys a series of ads in the same newspaper.

Business owner A gets no response from his single ad.

Business owner B gets increased brand awareness and eventually some customers he can track came from the newspaper from his coupons and asking how people learned about him.

Business owner A didn't understand how newspaper advertising works. His experience suggests newspaper advertising doesn't work and as a result he blames the newspaper for taking his money.

Shared responsibilityYou can see this happening over and over again with any marketing tool. If you don't understand HOW to use a method to promote your business, learn all about it first. Then make the committment to using that method properly for a set period of time and set measurable and reasonable short and longer-term performance targets. Consistently test your approach and try different things to see if the method can work better for you. Only then can you accurately determine whether any given method was effective.

Most of the time there are two parties responsible for your marketing success or failure. The first is YOU. The second is the representatives of the marketing vehicle you've chosen to use. This could be your sales rep at the newspaper, phone directory or radio station, or the customer service representative of your networking group, Chamber of Commerce or the marketing company you've hired. You BOTH have a responsibility to ensure YOU know how to use the system effectively so you can make informed decisions about your marketing activities.

Of course, if you're talking about some self-directed activity like social media marketing, then it's just you who's to blame. At least the pain of failure on Facebook doesn't cost you anything. When you're paying for something, you expect it to work. Just make sure you know what you're getting into or take the time to learn. Good marketing organizations will take the time to educate you on what you should be doing to use their tools effectively. Others will assume you know what you're doing.

To paraphrase Tom Lehrer: "Marketing is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends what you put into it."

Choose well.




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