If you are like many small businesses, growing your customer base and profitability are among your top goals. But how do you do it? How do you use the new tools that generate real results? Many small businesses use the costly method of trial and error instead of taking a step back to develop a plan. How could that be?  It’s hard to know the right questions to ask when the tools for marketing and advertising are changing every day. This means precious resources end up being spent on tactics that can’t work because they are not in alignment with all the other efforts and activities to maximize every dollar spent.

This leads to a “false negative” resulting in a general distrust of “all things marketing”.  This is a problem, because marketing is one of the core pillars on which every successful business is built.  Do you have a website?  Why?  You need a way to communicate your products. That’s marketing.  Do you have a brochure? Why? You need a way to communicate your benefits. That’s marketing.

“But we get our business through referrals.”

Firms that say they rely on referrals and walk-in traffic are actually engaged in “word of mouth” marketing.  Which is different from advertising.

NOTE:  Advertising and marketing are not the same thing. Advertising is the placement of ads in either a print, digital and television or radio medium primarily.  It can also include signage or even your building. Advertising gives your business the ability to create “Reach and Impact”. Marketing are the words and imagery that humanize and communicate the value proposition.

The truth about marketing is that all revenue begins with it because marketing is the process of acquiring a customer.  It includes decisions on pricing, locations, offers, promotions, advertising, public relations, tradeshows, events and a whole lot more that we are about to show you.

The first and most important thing you need to know about marketing is how much it costs your business to get a customer. Unfortunately, most business people cannot answer this question.  But without knowing the answer to the question, you are left guessing about how much you spend, what marketing efforts will be effective and what tactics will drive a Return on Investment (ROI) for you.


On average, a lead can cost anywhere from $53 to $1000, depending on the Life Time Value of that customer. Knowing the difference is critical. It will help you lay out a realistic budget for your marketing efforts, based on the hidden costs you already spend. Here are a few tips on how to calculate what you spend to acquire a lead:

1: Add up all the leads you receive in a month.  This needs to be an average month.  It is better to get all the leads of a year but we can estimate using an average month and multiplying by 12.

2: Add up every cost and activity you used last year to get customers.  Did you use an event?  Did you go to a tradeshow?  Do you have sales people’s salaries? Did you do any advertising? Did you get your name in the paper? Did you build a website?  Did you use Pay Per Click on Google? Be honest, you need to figure out every effort you made and the cost associated with it for the year, then divide by 12.

3: Divide your cost per month by your leads per month.  This will give you an average number of your cost per lead. Some months may be higher and lower, but you want the average. You will be surprised at the number at the end.

Whether your number is $40 per customer or $10,000, now you know what will make sense from a marketing perspective.  You will also know what it costs to add sales people as a marketing expense (tough way to get leads) versus investing in a marketing and advertising campaign.  Here we’ve provide some comparative costs of tactics small business use across some popular advertising channels.


Here are six examples including costs:

Door hangers:


Deliver 10,000 =     $1500

Printing 10K =          $650

Design fee =              $499

List Management =  $0


Total = $2649

Post Cards


Deliver 10,000 =      $2650

Print 10k at 4×6 =    $489

Design fee =              $750

Mailing List =            $99


Total = $3988



Deliver 10,000 =     $250

Printing =                   $0

Design fee =              $499

List Management =  $1050


Total = $1799

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


Delivers interested visitors

Printing =                   $0

Campaign Cost =      $500 / month

List management =  $0


Total = $1500 for at least 3 months

Pay Per Click


Deliver 100 clicks = $350 average

Printing  =                   $0

Design Fee =              $100 one time

List Management =   $100


Total = $550

Social Media – Facebook as PPC


Deliver 100 clicks = $500 average

Printing =                    $0

Design Fee =              $499

List Management =   $100


Total = $1199

Now the next thing is to take the expected results from each of these mediums and figure out a cost per lead.  I’ll give you an example.  We know that post cards yield a 1% lead rate out of all those sent.  On 10,000 post cards, you should expect 100 leads. Dividing the total cost by 100, we see that your cost per lead is $39.88.  Now postcards are effective for some kinds of businesses and not for others.  This is where expert knowledge comes in.  But you can see from the example above that each of these methods of marketing come with a different cost per lead and therefore a different ROI.

Here are some facts to help you.  Email is still very effective  The problem for e-mail is getting the addresses.  For a B2C operation you must use opt-in lists which drastically reduces your options to buy good lists.  It is a bit easier for B2B companies since the SPAM act does not apply.

SEO can be done for anyone with a website.  E-mail can be done for anyone with a good list, which is why you should gather e-mails carefully and nurture them as they are the best lead option.  Next, we’ll talk about SEO and PPC.

Google is very adamant that pay per click (PPC) marketing has no bearing on your SEO results.  My experience as a marketer tells me otherwise. PPC is an excellent strategy if you are in a competitive marketplace for getting to the top of Google.  Simply, if you can’t get there naturally (SEO), then pay for it!  There are also a number of other excellent strategies to use PPC for, but that is the topic of another post.

Pay per Click can get you customers.  It is effective since you only pay when someone “clicks” your ad and a “visit” is delivered to your website.  The problem comes in when you don’t think about where they are delivered or what you want them to do on arrival.  This makes a big difference in your results in PPC.  You can convert lookers into buyers with good website and landing page strategy.

The next medium most business owners ask questions about is social media.  But is it   The truth is: you will get out of it what you put into it.  Social Media requires constant care and content.  It requires a different thought about messaging, value positioning and product offerings.  The key is to make it “conversational”. Preferably, free service, thought leadership, content sharing and contests are excellent topics.  Content, especially original content, creates real engagement on social media. It needs to be interesting and relevant to your audience.

Social media spending in the United States is expected to exceed $17.34 billion in 2020.  It is easy to do social wrong and hard to do it right. It needs someone to monitor it and to respond effectively.  Social can be the trickiest of marketing endeavors, but it is becoming an expected one.  Have you taken control of your social media?  If you don’t your competition and customers will.

The bigger issue is how do you do these effectively?  All these media have benefits and times to use them, but when and how to takes some expertise.  We will examine the how next.  The truth is that these different marketing tactics actually work well together but all need an underlying framework for you to be able to engage the customer and convert them effectively.  This is where your website and landing pages come in.

In the following diagram we illustrate how your website and landing pages interact with the various tactics (online ads, social media or in-store collateral) we have been discussing.  Landing pages are a controlled entry point with both specific messaging and call-to-action that is desired from a prospect once they get there.  Your overall website is the key “proof point” to anyone doing general research.  So, the difference is that a landing page is there to get the prospect to respond – to really do something.  Call to Actions could be to download a white paper or to fill out a contact form.  These are designed to give value to the prospect but also value to your company.

Here, promotion stands for any of the tactics we have discussed including postcards and e-mails; partner sites represent places you have good placements like news articles or a chamber of commerce mention and search engine rank refers to SEO.

This shows you the importance of how the various tactics work together.  Marketing consistency is a key foundation to marketing.  Your landing page, website, SEO and tactics must all work together to bring you leads.  This culminates in your call to action – what gets someone to click or fill out a form.  This is your critical last step in order to get leads in today’s environment.  More often than not, you need to provide value to your prospect to get them to give you their information.

So what do you do first? What ideas do you pick?  The key is to have a plan.  Make a plan with a trusted advisor, just as you would with legal issues or your taxes.  Get a reputable marketing company that isn’t going to just tell you that you need a new website.

Select a marketing advisor with the following criteria:

  • Do they have experience in creating successful “go-to-market” plans?
  • Do they understand the media and channels that you utilize or that you may want to take advantage of?
  • Do they have unique and different ideas?
  • Do they have customers that recommend them?
  • Do they have industry awards that speak to the quality of their work?

Once you have selected a marketing agency, utilize them to help you create a plan. Do not just go out and create some ads or a new website until you know why you are doing these activities.

Lastly, how do you measure whether it is working?  Remember, you should measure marketing on leads – not just closed sales (this will also help you evaluate your sales cycle in the future to help optimize this area of your business).

  1. Are you keeping a budget consistent with your cost per lead?
  2. Is your cost per lead decreasing?
  3. Are your leads increasing per month?
  4. Is your awareness increasing? Are more people hearing about you?
  5. Is your reach increasing? Are you in more places you can be found?

These are the basics of several popular methods of advertising and marketing.  There are many more.  This is a primer on measurement and results.

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