"March is a terrible time to run a direct-mail campaign to CPAs-they're all busy doing taxes!" says Robert Ramsay, who quickly found out how to waste his marketing dollars when he launched his business in 1997. Starting his company as CXWeb, a Web design and hosting company, Ramsay, now 30, set out to sell Web sites to CPAs in March 1999. Zero leads and $500 later, he figured out his two missteps: bad timing and bad timing. First of all, he dropped his direct-mail piece in March, not exactly a leisurely time for accountants. Plus, most CPAs were not interested in a Web presence in early 1999.
Re-launched as SmallBizPlanet.com in October 1999, the Atlanta company has turned over a new leaf. "We now look into much more market research before starting a marketing campaign, even a small one," says Ramsay. "You can't know your market too well."
For those of us on limited budgets, even a few hundred dollars down the tube is intolerable. Learning from the victories and stumbles of your fellow business marketers can save you some sweet cash.
Take heart: Starting on the wrong marketing foot isn't terminal. SmallBizPlanet turned things around when Ramsay and his cohorts started attending conferences wearing blue denim shirts emblazoned with a bright yellow logo. Something as simple as spending $3,000 to attend conferences has netted the small-business portal about $10,000 in sales. "I have learned more about our target market and have generated sales leads while standing in elevators and waiting in line for food," notes Ramsay. "Sales have come from conversations started by the fact I was wearing a shirt with a bright dotcom logo on it. We've learned that the personal attention available at conferences is a great way to sell an intangible product like Internet services."
Kimberly McCall is the president of McCallMedia & Marketing Inc., a marketing, public relations and business communications agency in Portland, Maine. Contact her at(207)761-7792 or visit www.marketingangel.com.