September 21st, 2021
Me. Hello Michael. Can you tell us about yourself and your firm a little?
Michael. Hi Emma. I am Michael Sumner, one of the marketing consultant at Anaxstar.com and I have been a marketing consultant for about 18 years now and have worked on at least 100+ campaigns for large companies and I would guess somewhere about 1,000+ campaigns for small businesses, new startups, and entrepreneurs that wanted to bring a new product to their industry. In our team, we have many creative and experienced marketing professionals and I very much enjoy working with all of them on many projects that we are all partly involved in, on behalf of our clients.
Me. Thanks Michael. My first question for you today is: what is your number one advice to small businesses with regards to their online business and how they can succeed with their campaigning?
Michel. Thinking about past campaigns working with clients, I have to say that the most important advice for small business must be that they should “know their actual customers”. Often business owner make the mistake of thinking that everybody is their customer, and that anyone is a buyer and are interested in their product. Once you accept that everybody out there is not a potential customer of yours, then you begin to analyze who could be your customer. Then naturally, it follows to ask, who would be the BEST customer, who buys fast, recognizes your product strengths because they have been looking for just what you offer, and would choose it over others. This way of thinking allows business owners to craft a message to their specific audience and offer them a compelling case why they should choose this product over others, and inherently emphasize a value proposition which a specific audience is looking for and, in fact, are responsive towards. The sales process becomes a conversation and the message becomes influential in the process of decision making for the potential buyer.
Me. Small business owners have problems with both focusing on singular goals/objective and being forced to capitalize on short-term campaigns. How can they get themselves out of this catch 22?
Michael. Planning ahead. Marketing is about planning ahead. If you wait until the moment that you need sales to come in for your business to survive, then frankly you have already lost the game of operating a business. Marketing goals and objectives should have been done at least 1 year prior, and yes, there are many different directions a business can go when it comes to campaigning, promotional strategies, etc. but a plan must be in place at least 1 year prior to direct the motion of marketing and its subsequent direction. The path (or short-term maneuvering) can change, but the direction should be solid and deliberate. I would suggest that business owners should focus on “the biggest impact” of their marketing strategy and let that guide them throughout their execution of their marketing plan. If midway they suddenly find a “giant blind spot”, then by all mean, change the path, maneuver around the obstacles, and get your focus back on the direction you intended to go when the plan was devised. Short-term goals are often caused by distraction or diversions in marketing plans, and usually this is caused by poor performance in marketing results (or sometimes by market conditions, economic changes, or even political changes). Then the business owners are rushed to make a quick modification or a big campaign to change things around and bring in some cash flow. In this case, I would suggest it is better to focus on long-term plays, going for momentum, implementing tactics that puts the business towards larger gains – but more steady with less knee jerk reaction. The problem with short-term plays is that most small businesses tend to put all their eggs in one basket and this itself forces them to have access to less resources when a big play is called for. It is better to find a steady campaign that works and then double-down on that “working” campaign since it is already established that the working campaign is based on a proven method of generating revenue for the business.
Me. Customer retention and re-marketing is something small businesses often ask about. What is your advice and can you offer any balance between them or what degree of resource allocation small business owners should contribute to this?
Michael. Most business owners know that it takes anywhere between 4-8 times exposure (views/impressions) to get a new customer than to market more services to an existing customer. This makes it about 5 times more costly to get a new customer. The most cost-effective marketing campaigns are often repeat purchasing, cross-selling, and up-selling which reduce promotional campaigning costs and improves ROI. Most business people already know that and are implementing it somewhere in their existing marketing. I don’t need to discuss it any more than that.
Me. How much should people spend for marketing?
Michael. Well, that very much depends on the marketing plan. The marketing plan is based on what the business goals and objectives are. That will dictate what level of results are expected. The expected results indicate what level and to what degree, marketing needs to bring in leads and hence sales. Without a clear and concise plan, there is hardly ever any success. You can rely on gut-reaction and luck and brute-force marketing drive, BUT it almost never is consistent and long enduring. Ask any businessperson, and I would guess, 95% of them would agree with this.
Me. Should small businesses hire a marketing specialist in-house or get a marketing agency to do their marketing for them?
Michael. Again, depends on budget and marketing plan. To hire a competent in-house marketing professional who is experienced can cost a business somewhere about $200,000 per year (including salary, payroll taxes, benefits, office space, etc.). I have worked with clients with a budget of about $1,000 per month which is far lower than $200,000 per year. Business owners can make the decision for themselves what budget and strategy best suits their needs, and whether to hire a full-time or even a part-time employee or use a marketing agency. Most business owners I have worked with, know their business and their goals better than others.
Me. Hiring someone part-time but in-house has a lot of advantages, no?
Michael. Yes. But they also can get sick, or go on vacation, or quit. And in most cases, they are going to advise on which marketing agency to use or which ad campaign channel to buy. Business owners with a little help can often do that on their own. Unless a company is large enough it is hard to see how they can hire someone internally and make that cost-effective. That is of course, my opinion.
Me. What kind of marketing agency should small business owners choose and how to choose the best one for their needs?
Michael. There are mainly two different kinds of marketing agencies. The big ones, which have large clients, ones with budgets of about $10m or more, and the smaller accounts are given to junior agents that have 100+ accounts to manage and most will not receive a worthwhile attention that they need dedicated to them, especially at the start of their campaigning. The second type of marketing agencies are often called boutique agencies, or I call them small marketing agencies. They are usually better for small businesses and can give special attention to campaigns and follow through and make them succeed. Remember all campaigns take time to succeed and need tweaking and constant quality improvement. So it is important to choose an agency that can give you the attention your need when you first start to work with them. Once your business campaigns are running more smoothly and leads and sales are coming in, then you simply let things go forward on their own until there needs to be adjustments made to make the results as effective as you need them to be.
Me. Thank you very much for this interview and for your time.
Michael. My pleasure. Good luck with your research.