How to Manage Your Marketing Mix

Here’s the deal: advertisement is not marketing. It’s like saying you want to have a garden, but you’re only willing to plant the flowers. Forget about watering, fertilizer, good soil, weeding and sunshine. You don’t need them, right?
Wrong. And the same goes for generating revenue. Done in a vacuum, none of these tactics will get you what you want. For contracting and home improvement services – where your relationship with your target audience develops based on them trusting you – it’s all about layering your “market touches” in a way that incrementally builds trust over time. Too much, too close, too soon, and you scare people off.

Instead, you have to know what strategy to use and when, based on clear objectives. Each strategy has a different purpose. Here’s a quick look at how to make the right choice.

Advertisement is getting the word out about your firm through paid- for ads or commercials in the media, including print, radio, television and internet. You advertise to…

  • * establish awareness
  • * build interest in the market
  • * educate
  • * interrupt
  • * change attitudes about your brand or another’s brand
  • * influence perceptions
  • * meet a longer-term objective (like raising awareness)

Advertisement tends to be very expensive. Done well -with good messaging, good design, and a big enough budget to be consistent over time – it can be effective. But blowing a big piece of your overall marketing budget on an ad or two is a HUGE waste of money.

Public Relations is getting the word out about your firm through the press, including articles about you (not by you) and interviews with you. These can appear in print, as a story in the media, and online. You use Public Relations to…

* build credibility (and sometimes trust) through a third-party (the press)
* move up a level in the eyes of your target audience and clients
* align publicly (i.e., with a cause)
* generate buzz (i.e., pre-launch)
* get “free” attention

Getting good publicity requires a knack for WIIFM-oriented messaging (What’s In It For Me?). You have to pass the “who cares?” test every time. If you start a press release, for example, with “ABC Company is pleased to announce…,” you’re DEAD in the water. Good relationship- building skills with the press are also a must. PR is often something to crank up once you have the tools in place to “catch” the attention you’ll garner, including a website laden with value and a decent keep- in-touch system.

Promotion is getting the word out through articles/ columns/newsletters that you write, talks you give, networking, sponsorships, events, committee work, referrals you give and get, follow-up meetings, thank you notes, and calls. You promote to…

* encourage your target audience to try you (i.e., visit your website for a valuable download, to subscribe to your free e- newsletter)
* invite your target audience to an event (real or virtual)
* give stuff away (trials)
* introduce a new offer
* meet a shorter-term objective (like fill a workshop)
* test new ideas (i.e., run a poll)
* invite interaction (i.e., to an online discussion forum)

Promotion tends to be the most effective way for contractors and home improvement professionals to build trust in the marketplace. The arsenal of options in your promotional tool kit is both extensive and affordable. Get a basic system of online and offline promotional tactics in place – anchored by a value-packed website to act as your “revenue hub” – and you’re in good shape.

You also have tactical choices to make for each strategy: online vs. offline, print/graphic vs. audio/visual, live (in person) vs. virtual, and so on. Here are some rules of (green) thumb to guide you:

* deploy the WIIFM factor at all times
* unless you have the backing of a big corporate marketing budget, promotion and PR tend to be your smartest investments
* online is generally more cost-effective than print
* permission-based approach is a must for professional services
* don’t randomly try tactics. Have a plan that moves your target audience from Stranger to Acquaintance to Friend to Lover to Loyal Partner (see my article, “How to Earn the Right” for more on this key success factor)

If you want awareness, interest, trusted advisor status, and credibility, you need all three strategies – Advertisement, Public Relations, and Promotion – in your marketing mix. For most firms, having a solid promotional strategy in place first is the smartest ROI. Add public relations and advertisement to the mix next, and your garden will flourish and grow.

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