How to select the best marketing mix: pros, cons, and tips for telling people about your business – includes related article on how people get business – tutorial

Daniel P. Dern

How to Select the Best Marketing Mix

Your marketing campaign is that set of activities that you use to get the word out – get the right people to know who you are, what you do, and where to find you. (Then your sales campaign takes over and converts prospects into customers.)

You can try to wing it.

But going through the same planning process as larger companies before launching your marketing campaign will pay off – perhaps by reducing your costs, and almost assuredly in getting better results for the same investment of time and money.

During the past several years I’ve advised software developers, physical therapists, dance instructors, dog trainers, consultants, and other small, usually service-oriented businesses on setting up their own marketing campaigns. Here’s what campaigns are all about, and how you can make your marketing work for you.


You can’t hit a target if you don’t know what you’re aiming at or where the target is. So before you define your marketing campaign, do your homework:

* Clearly identify your products and services. Example: neon art and signage; pre-school day care by ex-teachers.

* Define your business goals, and then set prices or rates. How much total business do you want? What mix of products and services do you want to sell?

* Identify your prospect base by geography, income, age, type of organization or individual, and line of business (for example, nonprofit organizations with annual revenues of $100,000 to $750,000).

* Understand your prospect base. What periodicals do they read? What events do they attend? Where do they get information?

It’s also important to figure out whether people are already familiar with whatever you do and whether the need for your product or service has already been established – or whether you have to do education and motivation as well as self-promotion.

For example, if you’re in an established business, like dance instruction or desktop publishing, you want to make sure people know about and can find you.

For newer products or services – such as veterinary chiropractic – you may have to build market awareness to establish what it is and why it’s useful. Being the educator has its advantages. While you have to make more of an effort, you get to tell the story in ways most favorable to your approach, since a new type of business is more noteworthy than an established one.

Armed with your analysis of potential targets and your goals in hitting them, you’re ready to look at the available methods or vehicles for your message.


The goal of marketing is to get your message both directly to prospects and to information redistributors – a term I coined to describe intermediate sources between you and your prospects. This encompasses the media (newspapers, radio, television, and so on) and others who pass it along to your prospects (consultants, analysts, market-research groups, and your existing clients and customers).

You present your message to information redistributors and your prospects through various marketing vehicles. The vehicles you choose, and how much you use them, make up your marketing campaign. Each vehicle comes with pros and cons, which often depend on your particular goals. While much of this probably isn’t new to you, you’ll want to explore all these areas to come up with your best marketing mix.

Advertising. Paying someone to pass along your message to a particular audience. Examples: newspaper and magazine ads (print) and radio ads (voice); also display advertising, such as billboards, yellow-pages ad space, and sponsorship of sports teams.

Pros: Can reach many people – ideal for generating customers in large numbers and creating or maintaining visibility.

Cons: Can be very expensive; requires long-term commitment for best results.

Tips: See what your peers do. Negotiate for good deals. Concentrate on more coverage in fewer outlets, rather than spreading yourself too thin. Look for easy ways to check the success of specific ads and outlets – coupons, discounts, and specials.

Public relations. Getting someone to pass along your message without paying them. Examples: writing feature articles and columns for trade and local newspapers, issuing press releases, and being quoted or interviewed.

Pros: Can be very inexpensive, may even generate money. Can be done as individual actions. Has reusable value – articles can be used as reprints, mail pieces, and handouts and in newsletters.

Cons: Unpredictable value. Can require time and commitment. No guarantee that what you do will be used by publications.

Tips: Get to know the journalists who write about your area; come up with helpful or controversial topics. Kick off your PR campaign with letters to the editor or phone calls, perhaps resulting in brief quotes and interviews. Turn press coverage into handouts and mail pieces.

Direct marketing. Targeting prospects personally. Examples: phone calls, direct mail, and door-to-door canvassing.

Pros: Can reach prospects in most focused form. Often generates best leads relative to cost and effort.

Cons: Can be expensive; requires a lot of time and effort. Not right for some people or businesses.

Tips: Learn to qualify prospects quickly. Follow up promptly with mailings, letters, samples, particularly in response to specific requests. Keep good records; consider using a contact-management program.

Events. Attending, participating in, or exhibiting. Examples: trade shows, conferences, and seminars.

Pros: Very good for exposure. If you don’t exhibit, often highly affordable.

Cons: Very unpredictable results; can be time-consuming and draining, with costly travel expenses.

Tips: Prepare. Pick a few shows in your field to attend regularly. Meet as many people as possible to cultivate contacts.

Collateral. Materials you print up and hand out. Examples: brochures, pamphlets, newsletters, reprints, coupons, fliers, and business cards.

Pros: Can be inexpensive, especially if the pieces can serve many purposes and you create them using desktop publishing.

Cons: Can be expensive putting together a desktop-publishing system. Can take time, until you get the hang of it. Needs periodic updating; inventory needs to be managed carefully.

Tips: Think carefully before overcommitting to an expensive item that will go out of date. Look for pieces that can be their own mailer.

Other. Various advertising specialties. Examples: bumper stickers, calendars, coffee mugs, key rings, and other gewgaws; skywriting and blimps; contests, surveys, and joint marketing efforts.

Pros: Can help attract attention; gives you an easy way to leave your name and address with prospects.

Cons: May not be a good way to spend money; not appropriate for all businesses. Can take up valuable storage room.

Tips: Look for small, inexpensive, useful items – pens, coffee cups, letter openers. As with collateral, look for things that don’t readily go out of date.

Talk. One other vehicle, often forgotten, is word of mouth, from friends, contacts, and satisfied customers. Don’t overlook it – word of mouth is inexpensive, yet it’s often the most powerful marketing tool, according to many people I talked with. And often your work speaks for itself. Examples: “Where did you learn to dance like that?” “That’s a great neon sign you’ve got there.” “How did you cater this great party on such short notice?”

Pros: Inexpensive, often effective.

Cons: Can spread negative opinions even faster than positive ones.

Tips: Set a good example. Don’t badmouth competition, but pass on opinions of other (noncompeting) businesses you like. Consider some form of thanks to customers who refer new ones – even if it’s just a signed note.


Some people, remarkably, don’t market. Some don’t need to – a status to be envied, but a dangerous one, in that when luck changes, they have to start from scratch, just when they need results most and have the least time to put into marketing. Others do need to be marketing, but aren’t – and may not be getting enough business.

As a wrap-up, here are six quick tips for any marketing campaign:

* Expect to invest an average of an hour a day, every day, in marketing.

* Always be ready. Answer the phone with a cheerful, positive voice; always carry business cards.

* Do follow-ups promptly.

* Remember that marketing rarely has overnight results. It can take months, even years, to establish yourself.

* Don’t spend money you don’t have.

* Use outside services judiciously – mostly where you want to save time or where special-purpose equipment is needed.

No two campaigns will be alike. Even though your business may be the same as somebody else’s, you may have different philosophies, budgets, or capacities to undertake advertising or public speaking or phone calls. Only experience will teach you which marketing approaches work best for you, in terms of your ability to do them and in delivering results.

PHOTO : Ken Greenberg, owner of Krypton Neon, a neon signange and art studio, markets his specialty services through a combination of yellow-pages ad space and word of mouth.

COPYRIGHT 1991 Freedom Technology Media Group

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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