Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Marketing—What Works Now (for me, anyway)

Having moved my business to Portland from Oakland some 11 months back, I was faced with the task of attracting some new clients. Granted, I brought my core clientele with me, but any business needs to continuously market itself, indeed it is essential to recreate a business daily to survive.

Wanting to create a high profile for my custom screen printing shop in my new location, I opted for a display ad contract with the leading local “Alternative Newsweekly”, Willamette Week. I know from experience that this type of advertising is expensive, and it is unrealistic to expect a dollar for dollar return on it, but I was confident that it would successfully present my new business name, logo and selling proposition to the local market.

I was not disappointed on any count; it was expensive. While I attracted several clients from my 36 ad campaign, they have yet to pay for the ads (but they might; one new account attracted by the ad shows great promise). I am satisfied that slamming my logo and sales pitch at the local alt weekly readership for 36 of the last 48 weeks has indeed had the desired effect: Readers of Willamette Week undoubtedly know that Manx Media means quality custom T-shirt printing!

Next, I began sloggin’ away at an ambitious direct mail campaign within a couple months of getting to Portland. This is labor intensive, detail oriented work: Developing mailing lists of prospective customers and creating a series of postcards to mail to the lists, constantly updating and adding new lists while honing my marketing message. Direct mail is a big effort to properly execute, but over the years, these postcard mailings have developed into my number one tool (next to recommendations of course) for attracting new accounts. I should mention it always works best when I develop my own lists, rather than with a list purchased from a broker.

Once I had my display ad and direct mail campaigns under way, something amazing and wonderful happened—I discovered Google Ad Words. Focusing on the Portland metro area, using this online advertising service brings me quote requests from people who have searched for exactly what I am selling. And I only pay for people who actually click through to my web site. The unique tools offered by Google allow me to set my budget where I need it to be.

It is essential that my site very clearly states my selling proposition, and directs the potential client to email me for a quote, but here is the bottom line: It bloodly well works like a charm!

As the world becomes inundated with more and more advertising messages, I have noticed that direct mail returns less of a response over time. Well, I’m here to tell you that for a given budget, Google Ad Words has outperformed direct mail, and display advertising, by a ratio of at least ten to one. No lie.

It is worth noting that Yahoo and Microsoft are both nipping at Google’s heels to provide this type of focused advertising, so keep an eye on those companies offerings.

So here I am, busy as hell with tons of work. I went to Google the other day and turned my campaign off, for the time being. Whoa! Who knew? I suppose I could power up and add capacity to my business and expand and all that horseshit, but honestly, I’d rather smoke a fatty and draw some comics!