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The right ways to explore new marketing ideas

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As more and more businesses emerge vying for your attention -- and your marketing dollars -- many shop owners are literally being bombarded with ads and calls and e-mails filled with what feels like a million new ideas.

New ideas are great, but since they all cost something, the problem is figuring out which are the good ones and which are just another passing fad… or worse, which are horrible ideas.

Wading through all the options popping up literally every day can be intimidating -- there are so many options from marketers selling old fashioned services or offering new technologies. Every one of these companies claims to have the best possible way to make you rich. So what’s a shop owner to do? How does he or she sort out all these different marketing techniques, from direct mail to e-mail, or from (network) television and cable to Twitter or some kind of other social media? There has to be a way to know which one is the best, right?

Keep a few basics in mind

Yes, there is a way. But that way starts with recognizing that there isn’t “one” right way. To get the most out of marketing, what needs to be done is to keep a few basic ideas in mind.

The first and most important of these basics is: Do not abandon what already works. This is a major mistake businesses make when trying to beef up their bottom lines through improvements to marketing. Of course, it’s important to stay on top of marketing trends, and… it’s important to find and deploy new marketing techniques. But too often, businesses get completely caught up in the “next new thing” they find or get talked into. This is almost always a total nightmare.

If you have marketing you’ve been doing that is getting you results, keep it. At least keep it until you can prove to yourself that a new idea will for sure be better. Think of it like this: Imagine you have a twenty dollar bill in your hand right now. It is a little old because you’ve had it for a while, but it’s still a twenty dollar bill. Someone comes up to you with a shiny handful of newly minted one-dollar coins. The coins sparkle and sound nicely metallic when shaken in the hand.

Are you going to trade your old twenty in for what’s glittering there? Do you even know how much money that is? What if it’s only eight bucks? The truth is, you wouldn’t trade it until you knew how much it was. And an even better solution would be to figure out how you could get both.

You can. The trick is discipline. You can’t get caught up in the shiny coins of every new marketing strategy that comes along. But you can -- and should -- try new marketing ideas in addition to what you have that works. Keep what you know is effective and add the new idea to your larger marketing strategy.

In a best-case scenario, the new program will be as good as or better than what you were already doing. Great. Now you’re doing twice as well, or you’re in a position to change or do other things. But more often than not, the “next great thing” isn’t, and what was supposed to be your “eight dollars” is really only six or four. Not quite what you expected it to be. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, either. If you still have what you were already doing continuing to work for you, then adding to it is great. Adding four to twenty is fine. It’s replacing twenty with four that is a disaster.

Now, you’ll notice that in my example with the twenty dollar bill and the coins, I’m talking in specific dollar amounts. Yes, that was money I made up to make my point, but the fact that I’m using real figures matters. If you can’t verify, for sure, how effective your marketing is, don’t do it. Period. If you have no clear understanding of how your marketing efforts are working and why, then you can’t make good decisions about it at all. You have to know, for sure, in real numbers that you can verify.

Testing and tracking can be tough. Some things are harder to test than others, but a good marketing company can produce verifiable results for you. Find companies you trust to deal with, but hold them accountable and scrutinize their results.

A handful of shiny coins means nothing until you count them out and make sure they are real. Knowing what is actually working and not just what you were promised when you said “OK” is the difference between successfully improving your marketing program and throwing money away.

One last thing I’d like to cover is the concept of coordination in marketing. More isn’t necessarily better if it’s not done properly. Having two or three different marketing approaches in play is great, but none of them will be as effective as they could be if they aren’t working together as part of a larger marketing strategy. Having a “PennySaver” ad with a “$10 off brake service” coupon out at the same time you run a radio commercial advertising “Buy one shock or strut and get a second half price” is not a coordinated marketing campaign. Sure, both might work to some degree, but neither is reinforcing the other to help provide a better overall result.

It’s the same with spending time one month sending out follow-up reminders for unsold technician recommendations and then using the same time next month keeping your shop’s FaceBook up to date. Yes, you’re doing multiple forms of marketing, but they aren’t working together, they aren’t “dancing.” You want your marketing to work together like Tango dancers, not some guys in a mosh pit thrashing spastically.

The industry is changing. Technology is changing too. It’s critical that you stay on top of what works best when you are doing your shop marketing. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about trying out the new marketing ideas.

Make sure you don’t abandon what you know works. Use new ideas to augment your overall strategy. Test what you are doing so you know it works. And be sure to coordinate your marketing so it all works well together. Doing these things will help you get the most out of your marketing.

For more information on CustomerLink Systems Inc., visit www.customerlink.com.

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