Steps along the way

When I was a magazine editor, there was a small mechanical components company which booked a quarter-page advert in the magazine three times a year, without fail, and without spending time negotiating prices with ad reps. The owner said: “I book ads in a large number of magazines which I like. I have no idea what works and what doesn’t, but enquiries keep coming in, so something out there is doing a good job. I can’t justify the time to find out which it is, and while that remains the case, the ‘shotgun blast’ will continue to be my preferred way of working.”

In these days of be swamped by data from all sides, it’s easy to view this approach with wry amusement. But wait a minute. Maybe our friend was inadvertently on to something. Maybe the ‘shotgun approach’ worked because of the wide-ranging nature of the advertising. The thinking might have been: “whatever magazine my prospects read, if I advertise in them all, occasionally, they’ll all see my ads”. But the reality might have been that prospects who only read one magazine would probably have missed the occasional ads …whereas those prospects who read lots of magazines would almost certainly see them, and more than once too. And perhaps it was those people where the enquiries were coming from.

This is very relevant now that so much of your prospective new business comes in through online sources. The proportion of prospects who use multiple online services is probably greater than the number who read multiple magazines in the past. Maybe it takes more than putting all your eggs in the basket of the service which appears to offer the best RoI. Maybe your enquirers are people who keep bumping into you again and again.

Irritatingly, of course, this makes measurement of the best enquiry sources really hard. It could be that an email promotion produced some terrific enquiries. But how did you get the names on to your email list in the first place? Maybe someone clicked on an ad. But did they choose your ad from the list in front of them because they remembered your name from an article of yours which they’d read some time before? Or a post on a LinkedIn group?

I don’t doubt that more than ever, it’s a combination of promotional activities, particularly online, which gets results. It’s useful to know what the final step before contact was, but we shouldn’t forget how many others there might have been on the way.

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