Why Marketing Doesn’t Work, Layering and the Sales Funnel

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Marketing doesn’t work. I hear it all the time. I’ve never understood it though. Marketing DOES work if you do it right. Marketing is like playing a game of chess. It’s strategic. It’s planned. It’s not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda thing.

I think the challenge faced by most small business owners is that they are so overwhelmed by the everyday running of their business they don’t stop long enough to realize what they perceive to be marketing isn’t marketing at all. Endless product promotion posts on Facebook, and occasionally sponsoring a little league team isn’t marketing. That’s throwing stuff at a wall only to find that nothing sticks. This can leave small business owners feeling frustrated and taken advantage of. 

What is marketing then?

Marketing 101. Product, price, promotion, place, the 4 P’s They’re the conerstone of marketing.. We can assume since you have a business you’ve got product, price, and place covered. So for the purposes of this post, we’re focusing on promotion – which is what most people think about when they think “marketing.”

Real marketing is all about layers of exposure. Repeated exposure on an ongoing basis with a variety of channels that creates general brand recognition, affiliation, loyalty, and finally conversion (read: sales) within your target market.

KennedyC talks about this layering from a national campaign perspective but it’s also translatable to local small business marketing initiatives. Laying ensures that the broader audience is familiar with and has interacted with your brand prior to receiving a target offer. Priming your audience in this way increases the chance of a sale.

Need something more visually descriptive? This layering is best described by the sales funnel.

4 layers of the sales funnel (problem unaware, problem aware, brand aware, customer)

As your target audience moves through the sales funnel they receive different messaging through each stage. The way in which you communicate with stage 1, problem unaware audience is much different than stage 4, customer audience. By the time they’ve worked their way down your funnel, they’ve heard your messaging in different forms multiple times from different mediums. Layering at work. You start by building general brand awareness then slowly work your way down, honing your message as you target your different audience segments.

That sounds great but how in the world do I do this for my small business? 

RELATED ARTICLE: The #1 social media mistake we see small business make   >>CLICK HERE >>

How to get your small business into a marketing plan.

Step 1. Determine who your target market is. This is Marketing/Business 101. You may know this already but if you don’t you need to figure it out. It may require a bit of research and that’s okay. It may not always be obvious. You can dig into your Facebook and Instagram analytics to get a pretty good idea. Or you can also task your employees with doing an unofficial tally over the course of a week. 

When you’re done you should have something like this. 60% female/40% male, between the ages of 25-45 with kids younger than 10 years old. This of course won’t be ALL your customers – but the description you come up with should be the majority of your customers. Think about the behaviors of these people. What local magazines do they read? What places do they frequent?

Step 2. Take this larger target market and break it up into smaller groups. In this example, a mom of a toddler will hang out in very different places than a mom of a 3rd grader (or a dad of a 3rd grader). Break your larger audience up into smaller much more targeted audiences.

Step 3. Think about the behavior of your smaller segments. Where do they hang out? Where do they get their information? Who are their friends? What other businesses do they frequent?

Step 4. Decide on a marketing budget. You know that old saying, “You’ve got to spend money to make money.” That’s true for marketing, too. Though don’t spend blindly! Return on Investment (ROI) is a real thing and you shouldn’t go throwing money at things you can’t track. There’s several ways to do this. Redeemable coupons is one. Specific ads targeting specific products/services over specific time periods is another. 

Step 5. Get out a calendar and start planning. Make sure you’re hitting each one of your segments every month. Don’t let campaigns get stagnant. After a while people will begin to ignore things they see all the time. For example, if you decide to run an ad in a magazine for a year, switch it up every month. 

PRO TIP: When placing ads take into account your average ticket. Print ads are a black hole for a lot of small businesses. If you spend $500 to place an ad in your local newspaper and place a 50% off coupon in the graphics you better start doing some math. Let’s pretend you own a coffee shop with an average ticket of $6 and an average cost of goods sold of 30%. For this offer, you’re giving up 50% which means you’re only making 20% on each ticket. Instead of making $4.20 on each ticket you’re only making $1.20. To recoup your $500 ad spend you’d have drive FOUR HUNDRED SIXTEEN new transactions to the shop. Holy coffee, Batman!  Make sure your ad spend is proportional to you average ticket. For this reason social media ads are ideal for businesses with smaller average tickets. With pay-per-click rates around $1 it’s much easier to recoup your cost.

Write your marketing plan.

Yeah, I know this seems overwhelming but it really doesn’t have to be. I’ve made you a handy-dandy workbook to help you break down this somewhat overwhelming task into a few easy steps. 

First, download the marketing plan workbook (link here) and print it out. Grab yourself a pen, pencil, highlighters, a stack of sticky notes or whatever else you think will make it easier for you to work.

marketing plan graphic


Second, get your numbers together. You need to know your annual revenue and your gross margins. If you are a new business, you may have to do some projections to figure this out. Also, look at all your SKUs and figure out which have the highest margins (hint: SKU=products). If you want to use discount offers as part of your promotional schedule, you’ll want to discount your highest margin products only!

Third, find yourself a quiet place. Okay, maybe turn on some music. Light a candle. Pour yourself a glass of wine, if that’s your thing. Whatever will help you focus. Tell your family to leave you alone for an hour.

Finally, crawl into your hidey-hole and start working through the workbook. It’ll give you instructions on what to do. 

Need Help?

If this seems like too much don’t be afraid to reach out for help! A willing friend. A spouse. All good people to bounce ideas off of! Having a third party look at your plan can really help give you good ideas you hadn’t already thought of. Even better, hire an expert! We love working with small business owners and would love to help YOU put your plan together in even greater detail than you can do on your own. We can even make sure your marketing plan aligns with your social media goals. Don’t have social media goals? We can help with that, too! Click to learn more about our small business coaching services!

The Summary

I know owning and running a small business can be overwhelming. You may be so busy working IN your business that you have a hard time working FOR your business. I get it. But PLEASE take a few minutes to work through the workbook and formulate a plan or hire someone to help you get stuff down on paper. It’s a small time/monetary investment but it not only it saves you money in the short term, in the long term your sales will thank you!


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