Q: I've just completed a yearlong advertising campaign designed to increase my business' sales volume. Although my sales have increased somewhat, I must admit I'm rather disappointed in the overall results. I had expected a much larger impact on sales. What can I do to improve the results of future advertising efforts?

A: Some of the most difficult things to access are the root causes for the failure of an advertising effort to produce the results we originally expected. Sometimes when our advertising falls short, it's because our expectations were too high to begin with. Other times, poor results are caused by systemic weaknesses in, and/or the misdirection of, the specific advertising campaign itself. Or perhaps you tried to market to potential customers--but they didn't share the same view of your business and its products and services that you do. When this happens, your potential customers may respond better to "conversion marketing."

Traditional marketing efforts typically focus on attempting to make a sale. In this scenario, a business's products and services are introduced to potential customers by telling them how great the products and services are, as well as the benefits of doing business with this particular company. Conversion marketing takes a completely different approach.

Rather that constantly attempting to drive increased sales as the first order of business, you may be better served by implementing the precepts of conversion marketing. Your business's marketing efforts can then be focused on the process of converting potential customers to your business's way of thinking. Once potentials customers think like you do, they are much more likely to listen to, believe and take action based on messages your advertising is delivering. You will also have paved the way for your business's future marketing efforts.

In order to successfully integrate conversion marketing, you must communicate what your business is really about to your potential customer base. In this manner, you allow them to see behind your business's entity, products and services and identify reasons why they should patronize your business.

The following examples illustrate three businesses that have successfully engaged in conversion marketing:

  • The accounting firm that goes beyond advertising that they're CPAs who do accounting and tax work. Instead, they communicate that they're sincerely interested in helping small businesses become more successful by consulting with their owners. Once potential customers understand of this new way of thinking about accounting services, they'll be much more receptive to this accounting firm's specific marketing efforts.
  • The retail shop that specializes in products that facilitate the enjoyment of wild birds. In this example, the owner implements conversion marketing by introducing the shop's potential customers to the joys of wild birding. Next, the owner personally takes potential and existing customers on regularly scheduled bird-watching walks, where the numerous benefits of bird-watching are demonstrated and enjoyed. Also, the shop distributes a monthly informational newsletter to members of the business's target market, which helps to educate this potential customer base. Once these potential customers become wild bird enthusiasts, the business's marketing becomes much more effective.
  • The Web site that provides medical information and advice to site visitors. Once site visitors discover that it's possible to receive very specific medical information and advice, they will have been converted into Internet users who have confidence in the ability of this Web site to provide highly technical information in a useful format that they can easily access anytime they have medical questions. Once converted, they will return to the site again and again, and will then be more receptive to any marketing that is also included on the medical Web site.

Once you've successfully implemented a permanent conversion marketing presence into your marketing efforts, you'll find potential customers to be much more receptive. And before long, you'll be enjoying significant growth in sales.

David Meier received an MBA in Finance from Loyola of Baltimore, and spent much of the 1970s teaching business courses; later, he created a consulting group, and for the next two decades, provided accounting and tax services to small-business owners. He is currently the founder and COO of Small Business 411, which provides small-business owners with ongoing business coaching and the knowledge and support required to enable them to become truly successful entrepreneurs. Visit the Small Business 411 site at http://www.smallbusiness411.com


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.