One thing you don't want to learn from Apple

Pieterjan Schouppe - Managing Director

Copying the Nikes and Amazons of this world introduces one of the major pitfalls for local businesses. It’s a widespread phenomenon that lies at the heart of why most SMEs are left with financial indigestion.

Illustration: Plant a Flag
Illustration: Plant a Flag

As a small business owner, you’ve no doubt given some thought to marketing and advertising. You want sales and you want them now. Since time is scarce and you don't want to spend it on reinventing the wheel, you start looking at what large successful competitors do and mimic their strategies.

After all, they've already proven their success. Apple knows exactly how to tap into your emotions and Nike is on top of everyone’s mind when looking to buy.

It seems logical. However, copying the big boys can set you on the wrong path. Here's why.

Big brands spray

Big brands embed their image in your mind. It’s called branding and it's designed to create brand awareness.

Beautiful visuals and strong campaigns are constantly sprayed at anyone and everyone, routinely reminding potential customers about the company, its products and its services. The idea is simple: the more often you run ads for your brand, the more likely people will think of you when they are in the I-want-to-buy-stage.

This type of mass marketing is effective, but it’s definitely the most time-consuming and expensive way to market. To give you an idea: Amazon spent $5 billion on advertising in 2016, in 2017 they no longer wanted to share their expenses.

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"For SMEs, this approach has come to be known as spray & pray marketing"

You are not Amazon, nor is Plant a Flag. Being an SME ourselves, we simply don’t have the budget or the time for these types of ads. Moreover, the few times we would run our ad, would be nothing more than a drop in the ocean. Can you see the tiny little wave? That’s why for small businesses, this approach has come to be known as “spray & pray marketing”. Amen.

Small brands go for direct response

So which strategy should you employ as an SME? Direct response marketing is the answer. It prompts well-targeted potential customers with a definitive call to action. From asking a potential customer to join an mailing list to urging them to place an order.

Over the years I've helped some of the most forward-thinking SMEs deeply resonate with their audiences. The main goal: getting a direct response.

The benefits of direct response marketing

It generates leads
Your marketing messages become lead generating tools rather than just name recognition tools.

It’s trackable
When someone responds, you know which ad was responsible. How’s that for a return on investment?

It’s affordable
You create immediate traffic. With the wide reach of online channels, direct response marketing is relatively cheap.

How to call for action

Grab their attention
Everything starts with your subject line: make it short, attention-grabbing and aim it directly at your target audience. Let this be your first task, because it will determine whether or not anyone will actually read your message or click your ad.

Make a special offer & demand a response
Make a special offer in your main text and clearly describe what solution you're offering. Set a cutoff. You know people’s tendency to procrastinate. Create a sense of urgency. A time limit or limited supply pushes customers to take action now.

Tell your customer exactly what to do
If your prospective customers need to enter their email address, tell them exactly where to type it. If they need to click on a link, make sure the link can’t be missed.

Give freebies
Everybody loves free stuff. If you’re a winemaker, a great way to kick off the barbecue season is to offer a buy 4 get 2 free action. Attach a euro value, this allows customers to quantify what they’re actually getting.

Build a series of follow-up ‘feelers’ through different channels. Not everyone will convert immediately, so nurture your slow-to-mature prospects. They should be hearing from you regularly.

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"Cut the crap, purge the junk and your direct marketing efforts will pull through"

Ready to rumble?

Keep your business on a strict direct-response marketing diet for at least 6 months. Cut the crap, purge the junk and your marketing efforts will pay off. Don’t let anything else slip through the cracks. Direct response marketing is the most affordable and effective way for you to reach your audience.

Pieterjan Schoupe
Tim De Sutter
Sam Verhaert
Nils Vanden Berghe
Tessa Laget
Thibaud Streignart
Simen De Troch
Thijs Vervloessem
Joost Renson
Els Gillisjans
Margo Cockmartin