By Richard B. Kelsky
Can you think of any business, large or small, that does absolutely zero marketing? I can: check cashing.
If you’re doing nothing but waiting for business to “come back,” you better have a lot of food and water in your store. That’s a going-out-of-business strategy.
Marketing is the only remaining opportunity.
Big Guys Are Spending
The best way to prove the value of marketing is to look at companies planning to survive the current economic climate. Virtually every one of them is continuing to spend money on marketing.
When it comes to check cashing, the story has been quite different. By and large, neighborhood financial service centers have done nothing in the way of advertising or marketing. Sure, some folks have started the process by cleaning up their storefronts and lobbies, and FiSCA has an ongoing effort to raise the bar when it comes to store appearance. But when it comes to real marketing, the cupboard has been bare.
Types of Programs
The first thing to consider about marketing is cost. And that is what scares most people out of doing it. While the number and types of marketing programs are limitless, as a starting point, I’ll break them into three major types.
1. Promoting your name and business without reducing prices.
2. Running a sale.
3. Providing loyalty rewards
For those with a longer range vision (and perhaps deeper pockets), in some cases the goal may be to maintain and increase one’s customer base and volume regardless of whether increased profits are achieved in the short run — building business value and competitive position (i.e., taking share from the other guy at a time when the market pie may not be growing, or may even be shrinking).
Beyond cost and basic program types, marketing is a multi-faceted effort, so here are some other factors to consider as you move forward:
Marketing risks can be controlled. The key is not to “knee jerk” into one program or another — and to understand the costs, upsides and downsides up front. Poorly thought out programs can reduce margin without producing the aggregate positive results sought.
Program design is important. It’s often best to work with a professional to pen out a program, calculate its costs and the effects of any reduced margins, and determine the sales level needed to offset all those costs.
In this way you enter the process with your eyes open and measurable targets.
Marketing takes time. Typically, ads that do not feature immediate promotions don’t draw customers on an immediate basis. Even those that offer discounts may take some time and repetition. Mind share ads take a lot of repetition.
The same story happens every day in check cashing. Ever change one of your stores from 9-to-6 to 24 hours? The general rule is that it takes 6 to 12 months to see a material impact on the business. Some check cashers have gone back to 9-to-6 after only 60 days, concluding that 24-hours stores don’t work in their area.
Got the idea? Good intentions, wrong conclusions.
Programs need to be planned, implemented, reinforced and repeated, monitored and analyzed. Without all of these components you will reach incorrect conclusions that will take you off the track of growing your business.
Planning. While I strongly suggest getting professional assistance, there are some programs that you can obviously handle yourself. Help or no help, the program needs to have a plan.
A plan means a goal, a method, and mathematical support — intuition and inspiration may be exciting, but the numbers need to work.
Implementation. Any marketing program must be implemented externally and internally. That means customer communication and employee communication. To reach your customers, you may choose local papers, signage, handouts, radio, or Internet. That choice will depend upon where you are located, your customer demographics, available promotional outlets, and what you can afford.
Internally, you need to teach your tellers how the program works and the benefits it gives your customers, and provide the tools to reinforce the program.
Reinforcement and repetition. One sign inside your store is not a marketing program. Likewise, if you let your tellers know about the program in a single email, you’re doomed to marketing failure.
Monitoring. A marketing program needs to be measured. This is not the analysis after the program has ended — it is while the program is in effectIn this way you may augment and adjust certain components of the program along the way in order to achieve the original goals.
Analysis. After the program ends, you need to conduct a comprehensive program review. Did the program achieve its goals? What percentage of customers utilized the program? Did all stores and tellers perform equally? This can be done in many ways.
Negative, Positive Costs
In short, poor design, implementation, reinforcement, monitoring and analysis will cost you. You can manage some of that cost with a little professional assistance.
For those who are lucky enough to come up with a good program on their own, monitoring and analysis are often overlooked — leading to wrong conclusions based upon “feelings” and “intuition,” which can irreparably damage your future marketing efforts. And it is easy to reach wrong conclusions.
Every company has gone the wrong way with one campaign or another. And you can be sure they spent a lot of money in the process. There was “New Coke,” and McDonald’s “I’d Hit It,” and Bill Gates crashing software before a live audience.
But what you didn’t see was those companies walking away from marketing. On the contrary, when they had a failure, they stepped it up the next time.
Richard Kelsky is co-founder and president of TellerMetrix,Inc. a New Jersey-based provider of POS software and systems to check cashers, payday lenders and retail banks. He is also a New York and Connecticut Bar member, a Polytechnic Institute of New York and New York Law School grad, a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and a frequent lecturer on legal, compliance, and technology issues. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org