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Spending Too Much on Advertising

Posted by paul rice on: 2007-07-22 23:03:17

Self SEO > Affiliate Marketing Articles

So everyone tells you that the only way to get ahead in business is to advertise. Well, that's true, but you need to make sure that you stick to inexpensive advertising methods when you're starting out. Spending hundreds of dollars for an ad in the local newspaper might turn out to get you very few new customers, and you will have spent your entire advertising budget on it.

Make your money go further with leaflets, direct mail or email -- these are easily targetable campaign methods with high response rates and low costs. Remember that it is always better to spend money on an offer than on an ad, and always better to spend money on an ad than on a delivery method.

Being Too Nice.

When you're running your own business, it can be tempting to be everyone's friend, giving discounts at the drop of a hat and making sure that you don't hassle or inconvenience anyone. That's all well and good, until you find that your Good Samaritan act has just halved your profit margin without lowering the cost to the customer by very much at all.

Sometimes, you need to realise that you've got to be harsh to make a profit. Give people discounts to encourage them to buy or to come back, not because you like them or feel sorry for them. Don't be afraid to be ruthless in your pursuit of home business success. Nice guys don't finish last, but they are running in a different race -- one with much less prize money. If that doesn't bother you, of course, then feel free to go for it.

Not Using the Phone.

You'd be surprised just how common phone fears are -- if you're scared of the phone, you're not alone by any means. Many people are terrified of making phone calls, and avoid them wherever possible. I have seen more than one home business owner reduced to tears on the phone and trying desperately to hide it from the customer.

You need to try your best to overcome your fears, as talking to customers on the phone is almost as good as meeting them for real. Letters and emails are useless by comparison. The best way to overcome phone fears varies from person to person, but it can often be as simple as making the phone fun, by calling friends and relatives often for a while and getting used to it. Alternatively, try working in telemarketing for a while -- if that doesn't make normal phone use look like a walk in the park by comparison, then nothing will.

Hiring Professionals for Everything.

It can be tempting to think that, since you're starting out, you should just find a company or person to do every little thing you need. People seem to especially overspend on design services.

You might think it'd be great to have fancy graphics all over your website, but would it really increase sales? If I saw it, it would put me right off. Likewise, a slick brochure often fails to say anything more than 'I'm going to charge you a premium to pay for my expensive brochures'. Don't hire someone unless you can demonstrate that the service they're going to provide will increase your profits by more than the amount you're spending -- if you're not sure, try it yourself first, and you can always upgrade it later.

Reviewing Your Performance.

So you've made it through your first year. When you quit your job, you probably thought you'd escaped performance reviews for good, but I've got some bad news for you. It's actually a really good idea to review your performance at your own company, to take a look back and see what you did wrong and what you did right.

Did You Make a Profit or a Loss?

The first, and most important, question to answer is this: what does your balance sheet look like? You need to honestly add up all the numbers -- don't be tempted to add on money that you think you're a few days from getting, or take away bad purchases that proved useful in your personal life, for example. Hopefully you kept electronic records, so this shouldn't be too much trouble.

Once you know how you did, you need to look at how to do better. If you made a loss (as almost everyone does in their first year), what can you do about it? Where did the money go? If you made a profit then, well, congratulations! But you still need to think about how much of your profit to re-invest in the business, and how you can increase your profits next year. Remember that money makes money: once you're making a profit, wise investment can make it grow exponentially.

How Many Customers Did You Get?

Now, take a look at your customer database. What's the total number of people who dealt with you this year? How many is that per day, and how much did each one spend? Once you have this information, you can work out how much customers were paying you overall weekly, daily or even hourly. If it seems like a lot more than you saw, you need to ask yourself if you spent too much of their money on expenses. If it seems like hardly anything, then you're in trouble. Sorry to be blunt, but either you need to consider raising your prices, or you're just not doing enough marketing or working hard enough.

How Many Came Back?

Of course, a more important metric than the total number of customers you had last year is how many of them came back more than once. Work out what percentage of your business that was repeat business -- note that this means you count someone twice if they bought from you three times overall, three times if they bought from you four, and so on.

An easy way to do this is to simply take your number that says how many times a customer has dealt with you, subtract one from all of them, and then add it up. Once you know the raw amount of repeat business, you need to divide it by your total number of customers and then multiply by 100. This gives you a percentage. If your repeat business is lower than 20% or so of your total business, this is cause for concern. Are you doing enough to stay in touch with your existing customers?

What Did Customer Complaints Say?

I hope you kept hold of every customer complaint you got, even if you fixed it at the time. You need to take a good look over what you did right, what you did wrong and what you messed up. I know you dealt with things as they came up, but looking back over everything can help you to see the big picture. It's all too easy to miss quite simple patterns when you're in the thick of it day-to-day, and looking at the complaints can reveal a trend that you weren't expecting.

What Have You Learned?

It can be useful to write yourself out a list of lessons at the end of the year, even if it's things like 'quarter-page magazine ads are just as effective as half-page ones' or 'make lunch later in the day so you eat it faster'. Your accumulated knowledge is valuable: you've paid for it in cash and in sweat, so make sure you don't forget it. See if you can come up with a list of positive things to do next year to make your business even better!
Once You're Established: Planning Your Growth.

If you've got a profit-making home business on your hands, the next step is growth -- expansion into new markets and new products. But how can you grow when the physical space you have is so restricted?

Outsource More.

A typical problem when your business starts to grow is that you find yourself spending a lot of time on all the small administrative tasks your growth creates, leaving you with less time to do all the extra work you're getting.

The answer is to start outsourcing those small, time-consuming tasks, like bookkeeping, invoicing and the rest. Outsourcing lets you concentrate on what you're best at while getting the other things done by professionals. They'll have a system in place that lets them do what you're taking hours over in a matter of minutes -- after all, it's what they do. Don't forget, though, that you need to hold outsourced work to the same standard of quality you hold your own to, since your customers won't be making the distinction.

Create a Growth Plan.

Remember that business plan you made when you started it all? Well, growing your business isn't that different to starting a new one: you still need to plan ahead, and know what you're doing. Take out your existing business plan and look at what needs to be brought up to date, what still stands, and what needs to be added.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you turn your business plan into a growth plan is this: don't forget your core focus. Tempting as it can be to diversify into all sorts of areas as a way to grow, you don't have experience in these areas -- try to do more of what you know, and keep new things to a minimum.

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