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Diversify the Eggs in Your Marketing Basket

Don't ever become so reliant on one form of marketing that, if it ceased, your business could go the way of the dodo.
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What would happen if your principal manner of marketing your product were to vanish overnight? Could your business adapt? Would it survive? This is a question that every successful business should repeatedly ask itself.

Why? Because a little bit of healthy paranoia is a good thing.

All too often I have seen marketing strategies that place too much emphasis on one manner of driving business to the company without a concern for diversification of those efforts. In the short run this strategy can pay off. But almost always if the company fails to spread its marketing efforts across multiple channels disaster may be just around the corner.

For instance, let’s say you run a restaurant just off of Interstate 95 in Richmond, Virginia.  One day you decide to bite the bullet and spend the money on a billboard that all passing motorists will be able to view just before your exit. The sign says, “World’s Best Burgers, Exit Now!” It brings you success beyond your wildest dreams. Business booms. You take out a loan to expand. You hire more cooks and waiters. You’re making more money than you ever imagined.

But then the billboard lease comes up for renewal. The owner states he is selling the land to a developer who is going to put up condos. You begin to scramble. What do you do?  You enter denial. Surely your restaurant is so popular it doesn’t need this silly sign anymore. You’ve made it, haven’t you? But as the sign falls so too does business. Before long you are standing in an empty restaurant with your now empty dreams. The only sign remaining is the one hanging on your door: Closed for Business.

Don’t let your billboard be taken away. Should you enjoy your success? Absolutely. Should you ever rest on prior marketing success? Never.

What can help you to avoid the pitfalls of our restaurateur? Like with everything in business, diversify. That is not to say that you do not enjoy the fruits of a known successful campaign. You do. But where diversification is feasible, make it happen to alleviate the burden upon your business should one avenue of marketing ever be taken away.

I have always employed a rule in any business in which I have been associated that I never want more than 10% of our business to come from one specific marketing campaign.  Why? Well, like our restaurateur who relied exclusively on one avenue most businesses can sustain a decrease in inbound traffic by 10 or 20%, but 100%? That would be all she wrote.

So how do you do this? You must constantly think, “Who is my potential customer base and how do I reach them?”

Returning to our restaurateur, rather than simply assuming his sole billboard would always be there he should have assumed it would not and prepared for that day. What could he have done? Well, if he recognized that his customer base is generally interstate motorists traveling up and down the I-95 corridor through Richmond on their way North and South rather than simply relying on one billboard he could have purchased ads on multiple billboards miles out from his location so as to minimize the impact of losing that one.  He could have left simple surveys on the table asking his clientele where they are traveling to and from to learn more about why they are in his restaurant. Assuming a large portion were AAA members on their way to Walt Disney World from the Northeast he could have then began advertising in AAA magazine or other tourism periodicals targeted for Northeast drivers offering discounts for those who stop in and enjoy his hospitality on the way.  Would these simply efforts have been enough to bring him within the 10% rule.  Of course not. But they demonstrate the type of thinking that will get you there if you put your mind to it.

So when looking at your marketing strategy, take these simple steps to diversify and expand your base to avoid the trap of our unfortunate restaurateur:

1.  Identify:  Identify your target consumers.

2.  List:  List your existing marketing efforts.

3.  Understand:  Understand why your current marketing efforts are, or are not, working to bring in the target customers you are reaching.

4.  Explore:  Once you know who your target customers are and understand how they are learning about your goods or services, explore new manners to have your targeted message reach them.

In short, learn to diversify the eggs in your marketing basket. If you are successful, you will not only grow your business but you will also be in a better position to weather any storm encountered should one manner of advertising go the way of the dodo.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Mar 20, 2012

MATTHEW SWYERS | Columnist | Founder, The Trademark Company

Matthew Swyers is the founder of The Trademark Company, a Web-based law firm specializing in protecting the trademark rights of small to medium-size businesses. The company is ranked No. 138 on the 2011 Inc. 500.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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