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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May 15, 201812:00 AM EST

Marketing pro: Buy right ‘ladder’ for your business

Marketing expert tells SMC members to invest marketing dollars effectively, be prepared for new customers.
by: Andrew Warfield Staff Writer

If you want to climb a wall to get to your customers, invest in the right-sized ladder.

That analogy was the recurring theme to last month’s Sales & Marketing Council’s roundtable discussion at NEFBA headquarters featuring Mike White, founder of Client Focused Media. 

With an assist from Wally Conway, president of HomePro Home Inspections, White’s message to Realtors and homebuilders’ site agents was to not only invest marketing dollars to grow their business, but also to invest them wisely in order to earn the desired return on investment. 

More than about determining an effective marketing budget and placing those dollars in vehicles that will drive the target audience to your door, firms must also be prepared when those new customers come calling.

“Data is coming in but, there is no conversion,” said White about scenarios where marketing drives more business than can be serviced.

“The owner invested money to capture leads, but the employees are not adequately answering calls,” he said. “More than the external message, is your company set up to take in the leads? You’re only as good as your worst employee.”

Marketing firms can’t address staffing issues, but they can help increase business.

Whether internet, print, broadcast or social media, effective use of marketing dollars is critical to success.

Smaller homebuilders, for example, may choose to use limited marketing dollars to target a smaller demographic. National homebuilders with larger budgets, conversely, will market on a variety of platforms. 

Conway said it’s all about buying a tall enough ladder to reach the customers on the other side of the imaginary wall. Otherwise, you’re throwing good money after bad.

“Say you have a 20-foot wall, and on the other side are all the customers you could dream of. You hire a consultant about getting over walls and they say you need a 22-foot ladder,” said Conway. “If you cheap out and buy a shorter ladder, you can’t get there. What you see time and again is people don’t spend what needs to be spent. They spend only what they are willing to lose and then they find out that it doesn’t work.”

Every organization, Conway and White suggested, must invest in the size ladder they need to reach their customers. In turn, they must also be ready for those who scale the wall, or they might as well not invest in the ladder at all. Hire trustworthy employees and delegate responsibilities to maximize marketing campaigns.

“You don’t have time to do it all yourself,” White said.”You have to find someone you trust enough to get the job done. If the system is breaking down, you lose customers. Letting go of control is difficult for those who start small companies and are rapidly growing. If you’re not scaling bandwidth along with growth, what is going to happen, Wally?”

Conway answered, “The wall is going to get taller.”

While marketing strategies can fail to produce the desired results because organizations are not equipped to handle the volume generated, others do so because the efforts are not effectively targeted toward the desired demographic. For smaller firms, find the media your clients consume, White advised, and focus your limited dollars there.

He said brief, mass-market campaigns can be effective in the short term, but brand awareness layered over long periods of time tend to yield more lasting results. And beyond direct advertising, brand awareness campaigns extend to event sponsorships, giveaways, charitable work and others to keep your name in the forefront. 

Those activities also should be targeted toward your desired audience. If you’re looking to attract the rising tide of millennial homebuyers, for example, don’t advertise on a classical radio station or spend sponsorship dollars on a symphony in the park concert.

Homebuilders and Realtors should partner with their vendors where applicable in order to take advantage of each others’ exposures to different audiences. 

“Always leverage your vendors to your benefit,” White said. “They have big networks. They’re doing social media. If you do a video, it should be on all your vendors’ websites. You should request that because they want your business. You’re not asking a lot. You’re giving them good content and you will become a resource to your vendors.”

Finally, don’t be afraid to invest more in marketing than the amount with which you feel comfortable. Underspending and achieving no results, White and Conway agreed, is worse than spending enough to realize return on investment.

Back to the ladder analogy, Conway said, “If we needed a 22-footer and bought a 24-footer, we overspent but we got there. If we got a 19-footer, every single dime we spent was wasted. 

“I don’t fear overspending,” Conway added. “I fear underperforming. I can recover from an overspend, but

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