• John Walker

Business Owner's Guide to Marketing

Updated: Apr 19, 2019


As a business owner or executive manager, you play a critical role in the marketing function of your organization, but it’s not necessarily the role you might think. And too often, executive level managers, with excellent intentions, do more to hurt campaigns than help them.


Here’s a guide on facilitating and supporting marketing efforts without smothering them.


Understand the fundamentals

There are three marketing ideas that will largely determine success or failure of your campaign. First, your message needs to resonate with your customers by speaking to a real need they have. Second, your communications plan needs to include the right media to break through enormous communications clutter. And lastly, the impact of your campaign will be primarily dependent on its reach, the frequency of the message, and its duration- and all of these are a function of your budget.


Messaging: Speaking to customer needs

“Got milk?” That famous advertising message didn’t address health benefits and it didn’t talk about flavor. But in some odd way it cut to the core of how we feel about milk- you just gotta have it in the refrigerator. And like all strong marketing messages, the message isn’t about the product, it’s about you, the customer.


Like milk's great campaign, your marketing message needs to speak to the customer in a way that links your product to something relevant in their life. This means that your opinion is not necessarily going to be the best guide for messaging- only consumer insights will be. And your job as an owner or senior executive is not to tell your team what you think the message should be, it’s to tell them they must create messaging that connects with your customers.


Media: Using the right channels to break through

“I Hate Steven Singer.” Ever seen these roadside billboards in the Philadelphia area? They’re from Steven Singer Jewelers and they grab your attention and don’t let go. Billboards are a perfect medium for an awareness building message meant to target a wide swatch of adults which is proof that social media should not always be the primary marketing medium.


Too often I see social media, Facebook in particular, as the default marketing platform with little consideration of others. Business owners seem to invest in social media first, often hiring a person to develop social media content, even when they don’t have a strategic marketing plan. This is a mistake.


There’s a perception that social media is a low-cost way to do marketing. But once you hire someone to do it for you full time, you’re already about 50 grand into it. Next, Facebook has very little reach without paying for advertising there. As an example, if your Facebook page has 10,000 fans and you post a message, you’ll be lucky if 650 of your fans see it. And how much did it cost you to acquire those fans, develop that content, and pay your social media manager?


So, you need to realize that Facebook is a paid advertising platform like roadside billboards or TV commercials and treat it that way. As an owner or senior executive, your team needs to do its homework on which media will give you the best return on your total investment and you’ll find that it’s unlikely to be “free” Facebook posts.


Reach, frequency and duration

Think of brands you got know through advertising. De Beers, “A Diamond is Forever.” Or, Energizer, “It keeps going and going…” How about, “For everything else, there’s Mastercard.”


Think of how many times you were exposed to these messages before they sank in? 20? 30? More? And the reality is that big brands like these started advertising decades ago when the amount of media clutter was a fraction of what it is today. So, the tens of millions that they likely spent on advertising each year back then, might need to be much more today.


The point is that the money these brands spent on advertising bought them the chance to deliver their messages to a wide swatch of consumers (reach) a high number of times (frequency). And whatever else about advertising might be complicated, reach and frequency could not be simpler- to breakthrough, you have to reach lots of consumers, lots of times and that costs money. This is true for Mastercard with its worldwide customer base and its true for you with your local or regional one.


This brings us to budgeting for marketing. I flinch when I hear business owners or senior executives say, we’re going to budget a small amount for marketing and “see what happens.” I’ve actually started to say, “Let me tell you what will happen so you don’t have to spend that money at all. Nothing will happen.”


Marketing and advertising are not trial and error enterprises anymore. Digital media enables us to measure impact and results with a high level of precision. And the basic laws of reach and frequency show that without a steady commitment to marketing, there will be low impact. As with any business strategy, the trick is to carve out a marketing program that will have high impact on a narrow enough scale to be affordable. Your job as a senior executive is to budget enough, over a long enough period of time, that your program can work. Your team needs to give you the data to calculate that.


Ultimately, business owners and senior executives need to be the sponsors and advocates of their marketing programs. And they need to ensure that the effort is approached with strategic discipline around messaging, media planning and budgeting. But, please my friends, don’t take it on yourselves to craft the message. Let the consumer guide that.


This post was written by John Walker, Founder and Principal at J. Walker Marketing. Contact John directly to discuss your marketing challenges. John@JWalkerMktg.com.

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