Most companies don’t have an unlimited marketing budget. The question becomes, “How do you spend your marketing dollars most effectively?”
Who should see your ads?
Any discussion about marketing should start with a high-level strategic talk. The first question you have to answer is: who is my customer?
Do anything you can to find out information about your local marketplace. You can buy reports (like these from Cubit) that give you a ton of data: ages, home values, household income, presence of children, education level, etc. You can get them for your state by county and city.
You should also consider surveying your existing customer base. Try sending them surveys to get this same demographic information via a service like SurveyMonkey or pay a marketing company to analyze your existing customer database.
This information tells you essential information about your local market that helps you craft effective messages. This is important because you want to make sure the ads you put out will resonate with your potential customers. The point of this is to make sure you’re not sending ads to people who are never going to buy from you.
Brand Awareness Versus Lead Generation
There are two reasons to put an ad (any kind of ad) out: brand awareness and lead generation.
Brand awareness advertising is creating ads for people who aren’t yet familiar with your company. You should not expect these to make the phone ring immediately.
Consumers generally need several interactions (called “touches” in marketing jargon) before they trust your company enough to contact you for a quote. Brand awareness (also called “branding”) ads are designed to get those “touches” in, so when they’re ready to buy, they call you. Good examples of traditional brand awareness ads are billboards and magazine ads.
Lead generation ads capture the attention of a person ready to buy. You’re putting your message in front of them at the moment they’re shopping for what you offer. They’ve recognized their need, they have cash in hand and your (hopefully) perfectly timed message arrives.
An excellent example of a traditional lead generation (or “lead gen”) ad is direct mail.
Where to spend money online to attract new customers?
With our knowledge of our target customers and branding versus lead gen in mind, the question is, where do you spend money on finding new customers?
There are two places that businesses generally pay for ads on the internet: social media and search engines.
Hopefully, your research into your existing customers and your market showed you trends. Those trends will help you learn more about where to spend your marketing dollars on social media.
If you do work that produces excellent visuals (like design/build), a place like Instagram might work well. If you do residential work, Facebook might be your best option. For companies doing B2C, you might consider LinkedIn.
Consider what social media channels your intended audience is using. Middle-aged audiences likely use Facebook, while younger audiences are more likely on Instagram. Professional audiences (business owners, for example) are best targeted on LinkedIn.
As a general rule, social media advertising should be considered a brand ad.
Pay-Per-Click or Search Engine Marketing (PPC or SEM)
This type of advertising is designed to capture people’s attention at the moment they’re looking.
When they have a need or are doing research, they use a search engine to look for a business. You bid for specific “keywords.” Then, your company’s ads and messages are presented to them based on the terms for which they are searching.
If you’re a design/build company, you might want to bid on words like “patio builders near me.” If you run a tree care company, you should consider bidding on terms like “tree pruning” or “tree trimming in my city.”
The most common place to place these ads is Google, but it’s also costly. You’ll get less traffic (meaning fewer leads) and pay less per lead on Microsoft’s Ad network (Bing).
You should also investigate Google’s Local Service Ad product. The short version is that Google agrees to back consumers if a dispute with your business should pop up. The best benefit is that you only pay for a lead (call or form submission) rather than a click.
Because of the nature of this type of ad, it is very much a lead gen spend.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a term that encompasses activities you do online on your website and other websites that helps your business show up better online.
There are a lot of very technical tasks that need to be done on your website. There are also many places where your information needs to be updated and maintained across the internet. Both are critical for effective SEO efforts. This blog is a good starting point. Your best bet is to hire a professional to help you manage all of this.
There are many places where you might consider investing money in paid ads or investing the time to create posts and build a following. Facebook has free options, as does Instagram. Consider asking for acceptance into local “neighborhood” groups on Facebook or Nextdoor. There are also large communities of people interested in landscaping, lawn care, and tree care on Reddit.
These options are usually free and may lead to sources of referrals that are largely untapped by other companies in your market.