Marketing for success

8 steps to ensure worthwhile returns on investment

By Jeffrey Spear

There are many things you can do to grow your business and attract sales. When it comes to marketing, most people think of advertising, websites, and perhaps even costumed dancers holding signs on the street corner.

While these are credible marketing tactics, you need to consider whether or not your business benefited from this activity, and if the results warranted and/or offset the costs for implementation.

Unless the answer to both is an undeniable “yes,” you’ll want to reconsider your marketing and promotional plans.

Step 1: Seek qualified help

To get things started, find a marketing specialist who can evaluate your competitive landscape, define a unique selling proposition, and develop an appropriate marketing plan. One advantage to this is it will be an unbiased set of eyes and ears that can evaluate your marketing activities from a fresh perspective.

Make sure to ask about the successes this supplier has created for other clients. If they cannot provide statistical evidence of results, find someone else. At the very least, obtain client references to confirm their effectiveness.

Step 2: Establish goals

Marketing can contribute to your bottom line in many ways. For new businesses and brands, it generates awareness and provokes inquiry. For established operators, and while it still supports awareness and inquiry, marketing can help increase market share, deepen brand understanding, and/or persuade buyers to change brand preferences.

The important thing is to define what you expect in advance, making sure your goals are feasible, clearly defined, and agreed upon by senior management. Subsequently, communicate these goals to your marketing team, making sure promotional messages and tactics are in alignment with and responsive to these confirmed objectives.

Step 3: Make a plan

Delivering the right message at the right time aimed at the right audience takes careful research and analysis. So does evaluating your sales cycle, identifying seasonal peaks and valleys, and crafting an appropriate marketing response.

There may be other variables to consider such as anticipated introductions of new products, ongoing improvements and upgrades to core offerings, intrusive competitive challenges, etc. Each of these situations could significantly influence the direction of your marketing program.

Anticipating and responding to these dynamics with a thoroughly researched and expertly planned marketing program will help you satisfy your business and marketing objectives with greater efficiency.

Step 4: Choose your weapon

It’s equally important to employ the right tactics. Whether it’s advertising, trade shows, Web-based promotions, or even a dancing chicken, what you select and the rationale behind those decisions will make a huge difference in the results you record.

When it comes to technology, please keep in mind that there is far more hype than reality about what works and what doesn’t. That being said, and especially if your key audience spends a significant amount of time online, you’ll want to investigate, confirm effectiveness, and prioritize online marketing opportunities.

In many cases, a more integrated approach—one that links traditional and technology-driven tactics—may be the best solution. In this regard, a print or broadcast message may ask audiences to visit your website, or your website, blog, or online ad could direct readers to your store or ask them to call.

Step 5: Have a budget

It’s easy to see how marketing can become a costly proposition. In order to avoid wasteful or ineffective spending, and to create investments that translate into meaningful outcomes, it is essential to have a budget.

Even when resources are limited, there are ways to generate worthwhile returns on investment. This is where the service provider you have selected can get involved. While advertising sales reps may be biased, your marketing advisor can take a holistic approach—evaluating opportunities based on the budgets you’ve set and the outcomes you expect.

While you may not be able to afford everything, you can prioritize essential activities and delay others. While growth may take a bit longer, you want to be sure your marketing investments are properly planned and managed so you can avoid damaging pitfalls and disappointments.

Step 6: Be delightful

It is human nature to spend more time doing things that are enjoyable and emotionally pleasing. In this regard, and regardless of the tactics you embrace, find ways to appeal to the senses and deliver positive experiences. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling office supplies, legal services, retirement packages, or tropical adventures, as long as your marketing approach engages your audience in an enjoyable, memorable, and delightful way, you are sure to generate favorable responses.

Step 7: Watch what you’re doing

The only way you can prove return on investment is to track and statistically evaluate the impact of the tactics you employ. While some are easier to track than others, there are lots of ways to acquire evidence of performance.

These days, most interactive activity is traceable through a variety of online services that quantify Web visitors, confirm delivery of e-mails, and monitor click-throughs. For public relations, there are a number of print and broadcast “clipping services” that provide tangible evidence of performance.

When it comes to advertising and direct mail, the process requires a bit more in terms of logistical planning. Again, the marketing advisor you work with should be able to recommend and develop effective tracking mechanisms for every tactic.

Step 8: Confirm success

Once you’ve tracked and recorded outcomes, you can construct mathematical formulas that assign a dollar value to your achievements. For example: If you spend $1,000 on a trade show and you meet 1,000 visitors, the cost per contact is one dollar. Going one step further, and if you secure 10 qualified leads, your cost per lead becomes $100. Finally, and after contracts are signed, you will be able to calculate the revenue generated per marketing dollar spent.

Similar calculations can be applied to Web visitors, phone inquiries, coupon redemptions, etc. and will confirm just how effective your marketing investments have been.

As you can see, there’s a lot of work that goes into a truly effective marketing program. When you plan ahead, define goals, set budgets, employ qualified marketing professionals, and take the time to delight your audience, the outcomes can be rewarding.

As long as you track, evaluate, and quantify your efforts, you’ll be able to justify marketing activities and confirm worthwhile returns on investment.

Jeffrey Spear is president of Studio Spear, a leading national marketing consultancy that approaches consumer products and brands—from research and planning to packaging, point-of-sale display, and promotions—in ways that generate undeniable interest. He can be reached at 904-685-2135 or 866-787-8761,, or through

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