[My Biggest Mistake] Investing Marketing Dollars in the Wrong Places

Departments - My Biggest Mistake

Without taking the time to ensure you’re putting the right person in an open position, the negative effects can ripple throughout your firm for a long time.

November 30, 2012
Richard G. Silvani

Generating leads is vital to business growth. You can’t leave it to chance or a hit-or-miss marketing approach. I should know — after several years of hitting and missing, I am finally on the path to a solid marketing strategy that is delivering leads and strengthening the image of my company, Environmental Pest Systems in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I’m ecstatic about being on the right course, but wish I could get those years, and all those wasted marketing dollars back. Time is precious. It’s important to move thoughtfully yet rapidly, never letting procrastination stand in your way.

For example, when certain marketing efforts aren’t working, it’s important to shut them down quickly so that you can maintain a keen focus on — and invest your marketing dollars in — efforts that are producing results. Otherwise, you might as well be throwing money in the garbage.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, here are a few examples of how I would have carried out my marketing efforts to generate maximum results:

I would have invested much earlier in website development and social media.
Put simply, if you don’t have a strong Internet presence today, your business is dead in the water. Generating sales leads today is a matter of engaging consumers — attracting them to your site and inspiring them to schedule an appointment. I got a bit of a late start on building my website, but today it is a high priority. I am constantly investigating ways to strengthen its impact, and I’m working on related efforts including a blog and Facebook presence. Once I’m up and running in these areas, I’ll seek new social media opportunities. Driving traffic to your site is the first step in winning new customers.

I would have commissioned a search engine optimization (SEO) firm to develop my website.
I hired a designer to build my site in 2007. When it had been completed, I discovered that he had zero expertise in SEO. Search engine spiders couldn’t even get to our site, let alone generate leads for us. Once I identified this weakness, I hired an outstanding SEO consultant and have been working with him ever since. He has instructed me in the appropriate use of meta tags and keywords, guided me in the effective use of photography and helped me identify and tap into a new host server. Our leads are growing now, and we’re climbing upward in the search rankings. In hindsight, I would have asked my web developer at the outset about his SEO capabilities. The night-and-day difference I see in leads today clearly reflects the expertise of my current consultant.

I would not have advertised in the Yellow Pages.
Over the course of an entire year, 2009, we generated only one lead from advertising in the Yellow Pages. Clearly, our nation’s information-seeking habits have changed. Senior citizens might still refer to what was once the standard in locating reputable businesses, but these days most everyone else relies on the Internet to seek out services of any kind, including pest control. Lesson learned: Don’t invest in dinosaurs. Embrace the 21st century, and go high-tech!

I would not have invested so heavily in print communications.
Staying with the dinosaur theme for a moment, snail mail hasn’t worked well for us lately either. In our fast-paced society, consumers look to electronic sources for information. We have gotten little or no return from the letters, postcards and flyers we’ve sent. In fact, even the print ads that used to work for us in homeowners publications have gone flat in terms of leads. Today, marketing dollars are better spent producing an email campaign, developing a social media strategy or bolstering SEO.

I would not have spent money on pens, keychains, magnets, jar openers and other promotional items.
There are an untold number of items you can slap your firm’s brand on and hand out to customers. Keychains, magnets, you name it. It’s not that these items are bad — they might even ultimately help build brand familiarity — but we have found the value of these giveaways to be limited to reinforcing our relationship with established customers. No one is going to leave their current pest management company because you give them a tchotchke.

I wouldn’t buy sales lead lists.
I invested marketing dollars a few times in purchasing sales lead lists from companies specializing in this aspect of business development. Unfortunately, these lists were problematic. I found that the lists included the names of homeowners who were too early in the home-buying process to recognize the need for our services, or had been sold previously to several competitors so that by the time we called on theses “leads,” they had already committed to another pest management provider. What we’ve learned over the years is that the strongest sales leads come from the referrals of our established customers.

What I’m suggesting is that, as business owners, we need to identify what works best for us and direct the lion’s share of our energy and budget toward those efforts. In our Fort Lauderdale market, we aren’t seeing big returns on traditional forms of marketing. That’s fine with me: Environmental Pest Systems is adapting and thriving. Right now, we’re reaping the rewards of our increasingly effective website and beginning to harness the power of social media. In my book, progress is always enlightening and exciting. Best of all, it helps our business grow! The proof is in our bottom line.


As told to PCT contributing writer Donna DeFranco.