Success in business isn’t about always knowing what will work ahead of time. It’s about taking action, paying attention to what does work, and being flexible enough to adapt and change.
When it comes to marketing tactics like direct mail, print advertising and telemarketing, the harder you try to pick a guaranteed winner, the longer it will take you to actually get your marketing off the ground and where it belongs–out into the world.
Planning is critical, of course, but analysis can too easily replace action. A sales letter is never quite perfect enough, a mailing list never as long and accurate as it could be. In the search for perfection, for guaranteed results, nothing happens. You overanalyze your options, hoping to choose the one “right” approach. When you finally pick “the sure thing”, you put all your resources into that one tactic. If you get really lucky, it hits. But that approach is closer to gambling than it is to running a business.
No matter how perfect you try to make your marketing tactics and materials, you’ll never know how good they are until they are released into the wild. The point to marketing is not a perfect ad, but your response and sales from that ad. Until you actually test each marketing tactic, you will have absolutely no idea what will work.
Think of yourself as a marketing scientist. Your job is to discover a successful marketing mix by trying a lot of different approaches, tracking results, and keeping what works. You start with a hypothesis (target market, target message, offer, etc) and test it using as many variations as you reasonably can, depending on your budget and schedule.
Before you fall in love with any one approach, list as many tactical options as possible. Include basics like direct mail, telemarketing, email, etc., and then continue with more cutting edge approaches.
Now, run down the list. Which options are inexpensive or free? Since they are less risky, you have nothing much to lose by trying them.
A few good examples would be telemarketing (cold-calling), sales letters, speaking, submitting articles to local media, etc. These are relatively easy to implement, take little or no money, and can at least start getting the word out while you work on more complex marketing tactics.
Next, group the choices that may be more expensive or time consuming. Of these, which have the greatest potential for sales and can be rolled out quickly and in small tests?
Your experimental marketing plan will have most or all of the tactics from group A, and as many from group B as possible, starting with the least expensive to test.
The point here is to avoid blowing your entire budget on 1 or 2 tactics without having first considered all your options and tested as many methods as possible. Of course, the results from some approaches, like writing articles, will be very hard to measure in the short term. But, since these tactics take so little time and money, you can afford to automatically include them as part of a much larger long-term marketing plan. A direct mail test, on the other hand, should generate concrete measurable results almost immediately in order to justify rolling out a larger campaign.