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small biz coach

THE QUESTION: I have spent a lot of money on marketing but I am not sure that all of the effort is really returning any real growth. How do I know that spending money on marketing is worth it?

THE ANSWER: Most of us believe that marketing is a valuable part of growing our businesses. Yet I hear a lot of frustration from owners who feel they are spending too much money on marketing initiatives without seeing a positive result.

It can be hard to connect spending with value received. Is a sales increase or decline directly relatable to your marketing spend? You might feel that spending money on marketing is like dumping cash into a bottomless pit.

Know what you want to achieve

Probably the most important part of starting a marketing initiative is knowing what you are trying to achieve. As simple as that sounds it is difficult for most of us. Metrics like followers, likes, time on site are possible examples. Some of the common reasons may be to generate brand awareness, generating sales leads, attracting people to your websites, identifying your most lucrative target market and so forth.

The marketplace is loaded with consultants and marketing specialists that seem very appealing when they pitch their capabilities to you. Sometimes the appeal is due to the fact that they know a lot about marketing and you don't.

The best investment you can make is to spend time drilling down into who you want to appeal to and how you will attract them to buy from you. Develop some tangible measurements that will prove that you are succeeding with your initiatives. It might be difficult and time consuming but it is worth the time and frustration. Clarity is worth the effort.

Be flexible

Marketing is largely about identifying your target customers and finding a way to reach them. Today there are many tools available to us through myriad medias. It is not unusual to try a few different ways to get you to the one that works.

Companies often revamp their websites as a first step. Is that really the top priority with a marketing initiative? Websites need to be current but don't have to be leading edge. Don't be too quick to invest in any one aspect of marketing until you are clear about what you really think is a priority. Spend according to a priority plan.

Social media is likely a part of the strategy. It can be tough to know what is working and what isn't. Pictures, words, videos, social networks, business networks, Q&A sites and commerce platforms can all be part of your strategy. It's rare that you will find the right one immediately. Take heart, failure will lead you to success.

As difficult as it is, you need to develop a measurement that will clearly identify success or failure. Hits, followers, time on landing page and the like.

Take time to sort through everything and don't feel committed to just one or two. You need to experiment to find the best for your company.

Have a message

Your customers are bombarded with information every day to the point where you need to stand out from everyone else. This is an area where a good marketer can shine. Differentiation is so important. Consider that one of your metrics when you start a marketing initiative might be that your messaging is "different" and "appealing" to your target audience.

Test the messaging on a few customers before committing too deeply to it to ensure that it is reaching your intended following.

It is tempting to jump on board and start working on an expensive initiative without really knowing what you will get in return for your investment. Take the time necessary to understand what you want and how you will get there.

Your "return on time invested" can give you exponential positive results.

Brian Brennan is a senior partner at MAX Potential, an organization committed to assisting clients with the successful growth of their businesses. He actively coaches small and medium-sized business owners in all aspects of their growing companies. He is also a chair at TEC Canada

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