DIY Marketing? Don’t Put the Cart Before The Horse

I recently had a conversation with a client who had just started out their new business. They were considering all types of marketing devices to try and get their first clients. Business cards, flyers, rack cards, refrigerator magnets—all typical straight forward things you would think, but their business model largely depended on sales generated by their website.

I wondered why they were focusing on physical marketing products and not digital ones, especially considering that with physical marketing products like rack cards, getting feedback on how effective they are is difficult. It seemed to me that if you’re on a tight budget and you’ve already spent a significant amount of time and money on creating a website, that it would make sense to drive people to the website via the internet and not via physical promotional materials. It’s cheaper to market and advertise online and you can get direct, immediate feedback on if it’s working or not.

And here’s the thing:

If you’re starting a business and a website and you think you’re ready to start marketing and advertising, you can create all the rack cards, flyers, magazine ads, internet ads, social media campaigns and on and on, but if your website isn’t converting then you’re going to be wasting your money.

And this is what I call putting the cart before the horse. The cart being your promotional material, and the horse being your website’s ability to convert and I’ve seen it too many times to beginner as well as veteran business people.

I think what happens is that we get so excited and anxious to start bringing in sales and new customers, that we don’t give our website’s ability to convert the absolute critical importance that it deserves. And I’ll be honest, building a successful website is a lot of work and it can get pretty taxing and even old at times, but moving on to the next phases of marketing and advertising before it’s ready is business suicide.

Consider the following:
You print 1000 rack cards and distribute them to 25 different places. From those 25 different places about 10 people per day (this is much more than I think will actually do this), will actually read the cards. So lets say that everyday 250 people take and read the rack cards. Of those 250 people, only 10% of those people actually go to the website, so that’s 25 people per day visiting the site. The way the site is, I don’t think we should expect a greater than 1% conversion rate.

That means that out of every 100 people that visit your site, MAYBE 1 person actually places an order. With a poorly converting website it wouldn’t be uncommon for that number to be even higher, upwards of 1 in every 300 visitors. Which sounds crazy, but it happens all the time.

You can print and distribute thousands of rack cards only to get a few visitors to your site, get thousands of clicks from an online ad campaign and at the end of it all we here  are crickets.

Maybe you get 1 or 2 clients a month and with that kind of revenue you most likely not even going to be covering the cost of printing—and that’s not even factoring in the time and cost of design, distribution, planning, etc.

BUT if you have a website that converts well, it’s like a leverage effect. You have positive leverage so that if you put $1000 in, you get $1500 back vs. putting $1000 in and getting $200 back.

If your website doesn’t convert well, you will never get a return. You will only lose money on marketing and promotion.

I know, more than most, just how much time, thought, and energy goes into a website. And it’s a commendable thing to get it to a point where it’s presentable. At that point we’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting, but the harsh reality is that our prospective customers wont care about how much time, thought, or money we’ve spent. All they’ll care about is, 1) is the product or service what they need, 2) do they believe that it can provided to them how and when they want it. The answer is going to depend almost completely on how your offerings and business are presented on the website and how well that converts viewers into leads and sales.

What I think most of us should do, instead of dumping money into printed marketing and promotional material that can’t be tracked, is:

Focus on getting the website and messaging tuned to convert well and then advertise online.

Your graphic design costs will be the same except you wont have the additional costs of printing, shipping, and then distributing the printed material. Whatever you have designed for online promotions like flyers can be adapted for print later if you feel that’s still a route you want to go. OR—do that AND proceed with your printed marketing materials, but do the printed things after you’ve already driven traffic to the site through online promotional means and have gotten a feel for the conversion rate of those designs and how they’re received. Advertising online is cheaper and faster AND you can track its effectiveness. The opposite is true for printed promotions.

There are a lot of pitfalls that can be made when starting out a business and every business is different. For some businesses a website isn’t that important, but for many it is extremely important. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to build a website that converts well. It just takes experience, understanding, planning and execution. It’s just as easy to overthink and over develop a website as it is to rush it and move on before it’s ready or to fail to put enough resources into it for it to have a chance of being successful. Again, it really depends on the nature of your business and your market.

I sincerely hope this article was helpful and I wish you the best in your business endeavors! If you have any question, please don’t hesitate to contact me!