2008 Summer Volume 8 No. 1
Lapping the Competition with Strategic Marketing
Marketing is the engine that drives your business. And when you give your marketing more fuel, your business grows faster—even during tough times.
I remember once talking to a successful portable sanitation business owner who was proud to tell me that he thought marketing was a waste of money.
He said he grew his business on word of mouth and rarely spent anything on marketing.
This fascinated me. I asked how he did it. He smiled and repeated "word of mouth." So I asked him, "Do you have a trained sales force?"
"Yes, they’re the best in the business," he bragged.
"Are you a member of your Chamber of Commerce?"
"Definitely, I was president two years ago."
"Do you have a Yellow Pages ad?"
"Yeah, but I don’t waste a lot of money on a big display ad."
"Do you have a name decal on your toilets? Business cards? Promotional gifts? A Website?"
"Oh yeah … all of that!"
Then he reached in his pocket and gave me a very nice pen with his company brand logo on it.
The point of this story is that he spent a lot of time, energy, and money on marketing, but he associated the term "marketing" with "advertising." Advertising is only a small part of the marketing equation.
Marketing includes your sales-force activities, sales training, sales expenses, promotional items, signage, truck and restroom decals, outbound business calls to prospects, website advertising, team sponsorships, sales-presentation expenses, business cards, classified ads, t-shirts and caps. You name it— if it gets the word out, it’s marketing.
"Word of mouth" as he called it, is the best kind of marketing there is because it is authentic and believable. When a satisfied customer recommends you to a potential customer, the referral is as good as gold.
When you use personal contact and informational tools, you are seen as a resource to your customers, instead of an expense.
However, many people see this kind of marketing as just a natural part of doing business that can’t be planned and must be left to the goodwill of your customers.
As the business owner, manager, or sales rep, you can do a lot to help the process along. You can call your best customers and ask them to refer you to others. You can ask what trade associations they belong to and where they go when they meet with others in their business. You may be able to get an invitation to these meetings.
Most customers will be able to supply the names of associates or competitors that could also benefit from your service. While they are in the process of recommending you, you might want to ask for a testimonial that could be used on your website, in a brochure, or in a sales letter.
Word-of-mouth marketing is not as expensive as paid advertising, but it does require some back up expenditures. You need to give your best customers plenty of brochures, and ask if they would hand one out if and when they get a chance to refer you. You have to give out business cards every chance you get. And, everything you have printed should refer customers back to your website so that prospects can learn more about your services.
How much should I spend on marketing?
I am often asked what percentage of an operating budget should go to marketing. The answer is "that depends."
While the actual percentage will vary among businesses, it's common for a new or growing portable restroom company to spend 10 to 15 percent of the year's anticipated revenue on advertising alone with sales force and other marketing expenses additional. As a business becomes better known, this could be cut back. However, monitor the business carefully. If reduced marketing activity leads to reduced profits, it’s obvious the marketing needs to be resuscitated.
If you are trying to compete against a larger competitor that doesn't advertise much, your aggressive marketing can be highly successful in a relatively short time. This is especially true if you're in an area of growing population, in which new construction is entering the market area continually.
On the other hand, if you're the established business and find that new competitors are using extensive marketing campaigns, you may have to ramp up your percentage to maintain market share.
Although it may be possible to grow a healthy business without paid advertising, I definitely believe that it can be an important ingredient in the entire marketing mix.
Think of advertising like air support in a battle. Every general needs troops on the ground going door to door. But without air support, the troops can get turned away and stuck in their bunkers. While no battles are ever won with advertising alone, it makes your name known and that supports everything else you do.
Some useful and inexpensive places to advertise include local business journals, newsletters for contractors or tradesmen, real estate and local chamber websites, and classified sections where the builders advertise. (Builders will always check their own ad, and when they do, they may also see yours.)
A well-planned marketing strategy that is followed up by an active sales force will bring the customers to you and help drive your business faster than your competitors. But don’t take your foot off the gas just because everyone else is slowing down. If you have the resources, this is the best time to pick up market share and lap your competition.
Click here for a listing of companies offering Trucks & Accessories, Decals, Financing, Restroom Trailers, Trade Publications, Marketing, Restroom Manufacturing/Sales, Billing/Routing Systems and Insurance.
Click here for more information on effectively marketing your business to special event coordinators, and construction and agricultural businesses.
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