Marketing Do's and Don'ts – By Steven Appelbaum, President and CEO of ABC
Media & PR Contact
Angela PeÃ±a, Director of Media and Public Relations
|As small business owners, trainers will come across, consider or be approached with numerous marketing ideas. Some are worth considering, some should be considered with caution and others quite frankly should be avoided. This article will focus on a few of these ideas.
Things to Avoid
Companies that promise top of page one placement on large search engines.
Major search engines like Google have places at the top of each of their pages called sponsored links. Sponsored links are paid for by the companies being listed. Directly below the sponsored link portion of each page are the free links. These are sometimes called natural searches. Many companies claim that they have inside information they can utilize to help get your website placed at the top of the first page where the natural searches begin. While many companies may make this promise, unless they are prepared to offer a money-back guarantee should you not receive the exact placement promised, I strongly suggest you steer clear. Some of these companies charge thousands and thousands of dollars each month with no real guarantee of success. This is not to suggest that every company of this type is deceitful; but I would be extremely careful and make sure what is promised verbally is written into your contract.
I cannot stress this strongly enough. Often sales people will make promises over the phone or in person, but when they hand you their contract, the promises don't appear anywhere in writing. Often when you ask such people why their promises don't appear in the contract, you'll receive an answer like "don't worry about it" or "don't you trust me" or, my personal favorite, "I made you the promise and you can take that to the bank". The challenge is that sometimes if you don't get what you need and have to make a complaint, the person you complain to is not the same person who sold you the service. This new person has no knowledge of the promises made by the sales person and often the sales person has moved on to sell swampland or whatever, leaving you with nothing more than what was agreed to in writing. Even if the sales person is still with the company, often they have a very different recollection of what was promised than you do, so save yourself untold aggravation and get important promises in writing. Companies that are not prepared to do this are companies you should be prepared to walk away from.
TV/Cable Production Companies
Both myself and a number of trainers I know have been approached by TV/Cable Production Companies claiming that they are creating a pet show that will be aired nationally on cable and that you will be featured as an expert on the show. They go on to discuss in long and glorious detail about the quality of the production and the fact that it is nationwide. A production of this type will often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and because of the expense, the production company wants you to pay a part of the production cost. Usually this "part" runs between $7,000 to $20,000. Assuming you have that much capitol to invest, you should know that no production company I know of offering this type of deal would guarantee which markets the completed show would air in. Will it air in New York or will it air in Fargo, North Dakota? Not that there's anything wrong with Fargo, but there's a big difference in the size of those markets. These companies also can't guarantee when the show will air. 7:00 PM is a whole lot different than 4:00 AM. Some production companies can't even guarantee IF the show will air or how much of you will actually appear in the finished product. You might only appear for two minutes. A reputable company wishing to produce a show that features trainers will already have investors lined up for production. They make money here as well as on the ads sold to companies wishing to advertise products to the viewers of the show. They do not make money by charging the people they are supposed to be telling a story about for the privilege of appearing. Be extremely skeptical of this type of deal.
Things to be cautious about
As the world moves more and more online, greater amounts of advertisements are sent via the internet. There are companies that specialize in direct e-mail and huge volumes of e-mail can be sent at a fraction the cost of snail mail. Recently, Animal Behavior College tried an e-mail campaign of this type. The company we worked with sent out 175,000 e-mails, but this was throughout the entire United States, something a typical trainer won't want to do as they are focused on a much smaller location. This is a relevant point, as I believe the response rate for these types of e-mail campaigns to be much less than 1%. For what it's worth, our results were disappointing, although we might consider trying it again.
I believe the yellow pages as we know them will all but disappear in the next ten or fifteen years. Instead, everyone will get their information online and the yellow pages will simply move to the internet. However, right now the yellow pages still exist and many people still use them in their big, cumbersome book form. So, the question is, are they worth advertising in? My answer is they are certainly worth being listed in, but be careful about big ads as they can be very expensive. As such it is prudent to determine that your price point justifies the cost of your ads.
For example: when I was training in the Los Angeles area, I considered purchasing half page ads in the yellow pages. LA is a big place, and the areas I wanted to cover were not contained in a single book. I had to advertise in four books in order to get the coverage I wanted. At this time, a competitor of mine was running full page ads in some of these books and half page ads in the others. He had done this for at least five or six years. I knew this because, thinking I was a smart guy, I got my hands on old yellow pages to see who was advertising then and who continued to advertise up to the present date. I figured people that would purchase the same or larger advertisements year after year would only do so if their ads were successful. If it worked for him, why wouldn't it work for me? I remember in the mid-80's twenty-two years ago, paying close to $3,000 per month in yellow page advertising. That was a lot of money. Did it work? Well, not really. What I hadn't considered was the fact that my big competitor was charging two or three times as much as I was. I had to sell far more programs than he did in order to recoup my costs, much less make a profit. If you're a trainer who charges per session or does primarily group classes, there's an excellent probability that big ads in the yellow pages won't really pay for themselves. Be careful, although like I said at the beginning, getting listed, that is paying for a small classified ad is almost always worth the cost.
Things worth trying
Take a class
I recommend anybody in business today take a class on website placement. While there are no guarantees, it helps to know what types of key words, links, and other techniques you can utilize on your website to improve your placement on natural searches.
I also heard an interesting story a few months back about YouTube. It seems as though a musician who gives guitar lessons recorded one of his lessons and put it on YouTube. According to the article, tens of thousands of people have watched his lessons and are clamoring for more. I'm not sure exactly how this can be used to generate business yet, but I flat-out guarantee there's a way and the trainer or trainers that figure it out will have yet another highly-effective method of generating business.
Hopefully this helps, and until next time, I wish all of you good luck and good training.