Decide when and how to ramp up your marketing

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you're talking to the right market.

WE OPERATE a serviced apartment business in a regional NSW city. We're considering a four to six month marketing campaign to raise our profile in the region. To date we sponsor a rugby union club and one of their teams, which play in seven other towns. We'd like to expand on this "toe in the water" and attempt to further promote our property. Our research shows that many people don't understand what serviced apartments are. In the past we've considered marketing through radio, regional TV, papers and billboards. What do you think is the most cost-effective marketing tool for our business?

IT SOUNDS like you have some spare money and you're looking to increase awareness over a specified time frame. So the first thing you need to think about is when you'd like to ramp up your marketing activity. Businesses such as yours often have a busy time and a slower time, and usually the slower time offers the better opportunity as it allows you to smooth out the ebbs and flows of your business.

Once you decide the when, you need to figure out the how. Thirty-second ads on regional TV can be effective in increasing awareness of your brand, but if you're looking to educate people on serviced apartments and their benefits, you're better off taking an ad in the newspaper. Print often offers better cut-through if your goal is to educate potential customers. Most regional newspapers are looking for content so don't be afraid to do a deal and ask for some editorial or advertorial to go with your ad spend.

If you choose radio or TV, make sure you have your story right. Thirty seconds goes by fast, so be sharp, concise and don't forget the contact details! Whatever you choose to do, make sure you're talking to the right market. There is no sense spending money on advertising if you don't have a clear idea of who you're targeting.

OVER the past three years, I've created a market resource for local business. It's online-based and includes detailed demographic information under 12 headings including mortgage and rent payments. There is also data on industry spending (pharmacy, alcohol, fresh fruit and veg), information on local media opportunities and a mail list for local businesses. The system was developed to assist some friends and family in various small businesses but sales are slower than expected. Do you have any suggestions on generating immediate sales growth?

IS THIS an actual business model or was this something you offered to your friends that you now want to build a business from? When you developed this for your mates, was it a service that they paid you for?

I'm asking you these questions because you need to take a hard look at your offering and have a clear direction of where you want to go with it. With research data, you have to be prepared to build an awareness program, because you're not going to gain revenue without spending money to get the word out.

Your target market is small business owners who are usually conscious of every penny and will likely be hesitant parting with their hard-earned unless they can see it as having real value for their business. I'd suggest finding some local influencer groups who you can provide free data in exchange for their word-of-mouth power.

Local government bodies and the small business chamber could be good places to start.

In your case, sales won't come if you're not out there building awareness, so be prepared to make some marketing investments to initiate the growth you're after. Mark Bouris is executive chairman of Yellow Brick Road, a wealth management company and small business adviser offering products and services for home loans, financial planning, insurance, superannuation, investments, accounting and tax through

If you have a question for Mark Bouris, email it to the MySmallBusiness editor, Larissa Ham, at

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