Monday, July 11, 2011

The Good, the Bad, the ROI

By Krista Chapman

What started as a cheerful saunter, has you entering a murky forest.  Trees tower above, dense brush encircles your feet and it is difficult to see where next to step.  A sharp snap of a branch, then an unfamiliar noise... fear starts to set in, uncertainty and doubt.  On the hunt for brides and you have seemingly lost your way.  The emails have slowed, brides are not booking and money is tight.  Now you're scrambling, buying on impulse and throwing money at cheap bridal shows or last minute advertising promotions, hoping to find the right path.  You're in survival mode and the forest conspires against you.  Marketing to bride is far from a walk in the woods... you need a plan, you need a goal and you need to make sure you're maximizing investments.  How do you find the meadow over yonder, the one that promises safety and success?

Rule number one.  The money you spend on marketing and advertising is not about actions taken, the number of times you have tweeted within the last 24 hours or feeling accomplished because you rattled off an email to a lead list in less than 20 minutes (with no apparent purpose).  It not about blaming others when you can't close a sale or ignoring the changes in the market because your reputation should speak for itself.  It's not about a haphazard marketing plan that simply has you showing up. 

It is about ROI...  Return on investment.  How much return will you get on the money spent for a magazine ad, online upgrade, Google Adwords, bridal show booth or that membership to a vendor organization?  How many potential clients need to find your company through these investments for it to pay off?    How much money do you need to make?  Only kind-of, sort-of know... wrong answer.  You might as well put your moody Tween in charge of company marketing because her impulse purchases of trendy clothing and Hello Kitty camping gear are likely to last as long as your next revenue surge.  One needs a map before they head off to the forest.  

So...  where's your map?  You know, the map that you follow to continue growing (or more simply staying in) your business.  Seriously, do you have a sense of direction beyond the first turn?  I'm willing to bet that you left that map in your car, thinking that instinct will lead the way.  When the course feels right, we stay the course.  But how do you know what feels right if you don't know where you're headed?  The good news?  The car is behind you and you're on a trail; you're buying advertisements, participating in a bridal show and networking with other vendors.  The bad news... following this dimming instinctual feeling, you're no sooner lost, trampling expensive paths, far from your bridal oasis.  Hiking the Appalachian Trail is generally unsuccessful without having taken the time to plan your journey.  Likewise, creating and understanding a marketing budget is crucial to the success of a business.  In addition, repeating previous mistakes (like leaving that map in your car) seems somewhat silly, now doesn't it?  But if you haven't taken the time to research, revisit and rework, I'm betting the same fruitless advertising method will again eat any profits it produces.

Ideally, a marketing plan to brides will have your company in as many publications, online resources, bridal shows and boutiques as possible.  Being such a fickle brunch (and unlikely to become a repeat client), brides produce a lower ROI than marketing to corporate clients so the more exposure the better.  But when times get tough, one should not simply decide to cut to more meager portions across the board.  If you have your plan and have done the math, the answer is simple.  You cut those programs that give the lowest (or worst) return on your investment.  How do you know which are working?  Create a how-did-you-hear-about-us chart listing the places you have advertising dollars invested.  As a bride calls or submits an online request, note how she found your company.  Are most of your brides coming from one source?  It's probably time to upgrade your investment for increased exposure here.  Assistant spending all her time promoting your company on facebook with no results?  Maybe it's time to shift her time to something that works.  Did a bridal show cost you $400 less but the return was a dismal number of brides?  It's not rocket science... it's basic math, A plus B does not equal a good use of your marketing dollars.

More Bad News... yes, there's more bad news.  Question:  What two things kill you the quickest when lost in the woods?  Answer:  pride and impulse.  The answers are the same when you consider how a marketing plan strays off course.  Remember our sales chain and the weakest link?  If you have hundreds of brides ringing you up but only book a small number, you need to swallow your pride and look at your closing strategies.  A humble survivor will recognize when they are to blame for choosing the wrong direction, turn around and try another way.  Additionally, the humble survivor increases his chances of success by thinking carefully about their next move, considering the risks and rewards of investing in this path versus that one.  While you will make mistakes, spending money on programs that don't work, the key is recognizing when you're being impulsive.  Buying something because it's the newest, latest and greatest or your friends say it's cool, brings us back to our pre-pubescent girl scout.  Even she knows not to jump off a bridge if all her friends are doing it.

All said, perhaps I am a bit bias... after all, I work for a marketing company that, in my opinion, does a bang up job bringing brides and businesses together.  I saw tremendous success working with The Pink Bride as a vendor and now see overwhelming dedication working with The Pink Bride as an employee.  More than anything, I see a company that only finds success when others do.  Our job is to show you the path to your personal meadow of success, leaving you to enjoy the walk.
Contact our sales team to find out how The Pink Bride can maximize your ROI, 865-531-3941   Images courtesy of Getty Images.