Online Marketing: Cost vs Effort Diagram

2019-01-25 - Anduro Marketing - Online Marketing_ Cost vs Effort Diagram.png

I have been doing online marketing for our company and for our clients for a long time - I don’t care to say how long, but long. The other day it dawned on me that some tactics that we use are easy to do and other tasks take a lot of work. Similarly, some marketing activities are very inexpensive, while other campaigns require a significant investment. 

Based on this premise, I developed a 2-by-2 diagram to illustrate both continuums and marketing tactics that are associated with different points on the axes. After I created the diagram, I realized that there was a natural progression through the different tactics.  I'll start by explaining the 2 axes, then I'll describe each quadrant, and finally outline one way of progressing through the different quadrants and related tactics. 

Cost Axis
It should be no news to anyone that some marketing tactics are cheap and require very little investment, whereas other campaigns can be dauntingly expensive. Of course, your comfort level with how much you are willing to invest usually depends on your expected rate of return. 

Most business owners that I talk to say that they are willing to invest in marketing if there is a reasonable return at a reasonable cost per customer acquisition. But when I ask them to invest a few thousand dollars each month, quite a few people get cold feet. Usually, they have had one too many experiences where they invested in marketing and nothing happened, or they got very little return. This experience of little or even negative return creates anxiety and rightly so. My thinking is that if you have been burnt in the past, then most likely, you invested too much too quickly. 

My suggestion is to cut back on your marketing investments and focus on tactics that are cheaper but require more effort. At least, lost effort is not lost money. 

Effort Axis
Of course, there is a trade-off. If you reduce your investment in marketing too much you won't acquire any new customers and some of your existing customers will drift away to your competitors. If you don't want a drop in revenue and you don't want to invest money in marketing they the only alternative is to put in more effort - often lots of effort. 

As you can see from the diagram, some tactics are easy to do and take very little effort. Other tactics require a high level of commitment, time and energy. 

I should note before I get too deep into the tactics for each quadrant that my assumption is that you have registered a domain name and that you have a responsive website that looks great, works well, and portrays your company accurately. Not all companies require a website, but most do and if your company is bigger than a solepreneur then you need a well-functioning website. 

Quadrant A - Low Cost / Low Effort
This is where you should start. The dollar investment is low and the time invested is relatively low. Let’s look at each tactic in this quadrant.

1) Google My Business
Google has already done a lot of the work for you. More than likely if you go to Google Maps and search for your company, it will be listed. The listing will have the company name, the address and a phone number. All you have to do is claim it, check the details, and add some photos. There can be more to do later like optimizing the listing and getting reviews, but this is a good place to start. 

2) Customer Reviews
What can be easier than getting your customers to write reviews for you? Simple and cheap. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but getting customers to work on your behalf by writing reviews is a great way to build your online reputation and draw in new customers. To speed up the process and get a higher number of reviews, we encourage our clients to do the following:

  • Create a card about the size of a postcard with the addresses of the sites that you want customers to review

  • Hand the card out to anyone who you think will give you a good review

  • Add an incentive like a coffee card to encourage more customers to do the review

  • Send out an email to your customer list asking for a review

Here is a link to an example of a review request card developed by one of our clients and how to deal with negative reviews:
Here is a link to a case study that I wrote a few years ago: 

3) Posting on Social Media Platforms
For companies whose customers are consumers, post to the following platforms:

  • Facebook

  • Instagram

  • Pinterest

  • YouTube

If your clients are other business, then you may want to do one or all of those platforms in addition to LinkedIn. 

Of course, there is more to it that selecting a couple platforms and posting. You need topics that are relevant to your audience, stories that are interesting, images that are eye-catching, and videos that are engaging. That’s where the effort comes in. 

Note: If you can take a short cut from A (easy and cheap) to D (easy and expensive) and many companies do but be very careful, you can spend a lot of money very quickly with a very poor return. 

Quadrant B: Low Cost / High Effort
If you have mastered the tactics in the first quadrant then you can move on to tactics that at still require very little investment in money but take more time and effort. 

4) Blogging and eNewsletter
Blogging is cheap. Pick a topic, write a bunch of paragraphs, add a picture and publish. Done. Okay, I hear you. It’s not quite that simple. This blog post and enewsletter is taking me upwards of 6 hours. I started the diagram on paper, then I created a version on Google Slides, next I sent it to a few friends for review, which led to some revisions, and now I’m writing the text. But you get the idea: cheap but brutal when it comes to time.

5) Handheld Videos
Again creating handheld videos is cheap. Grab your iPhone or Droid, pick a subject, take the shot, and publish to YouTube. If you want to get fancy, you can embed the video back to your blog post. Here’s an example that I did recently: Longview Lull: Longview Jerky Shop 
Here is video interview by Mario Toneguzzi with his Calgary news site, Five questions with Tony Spoletini of Spolumbos

6) Search Engine Optimization
The beauty of SEO, if you optimize your pages correctly, is that you get a bump in visitors for free, AND you get a credibility boost. However, SEO takes time and skill. You can learn to do this yourself, you can take a course or you can hire -- us. We would be happy to help you out.

Note: Again you can take a short cut from Quadrant B to Quadrant C but the level of risk increases. For example, if you don’t have an adequate lead nurturing campaign in place that is automated, you can spend a lot of money driving people to your website and you lose them all to a competitor that has an offer and drip marketing campaign that results in prospects learning more about the company and what they are offering. 

Quadrant C: High Cost / High Effort
This is the worst quadrant because you get pressure from both cost and effort. Not all is doom and gloom. Marketing automation should lead to less time, eventually, and better conversion rates, Higher quality videos should lead to a wider reach and more prospects.

7) Lead Nurturing 
The idea with marketing automation software is to set up a landing page, with a compelling offer, collect the email addresses of those who respond, and then using automated emails you nurture these prospects toward a sale. Let me tell you, this is easier than you would ever hope. You have to have every component just right including:

  • Target audience

  • Interrupt message

  • Landing page

  • Compelling offer

  • Email messages

  • Open rates

  • Click through rates

  • Conversion rates

  • And what technology to use for each step in the process

It can get overwhelming quite quickly and quite easily. And for most entrepreneurs and small business owners, this is a long way from their forte. The end result is that they end up wasting time, effort and money. It is better to hire a professional, either or in-house as a consultant. BTW, we do marketing automation and lead nurturing for our clients - hire us. 

8) Professional Videos
If done right, these can go viral. Let me give you 2 examples:
WestJet Christmas Miracle: Real-time Giving - 48,461,746 views, Wow! - 2,893,120 views, Impressive for a local camera store

Again, not easy to do but not ridiculously expensive either. In both cases, the companies used employees, their own equipment and a cheap location. Admittedly, Westjet did a bit of PR to “prime-the-pump” but still this is incredible exposure for them at a very low cost per view - much cheaper than a paid ad during the Super Bowl. Likewise, The Camera Store, has leveraged the audience for this video into views for the product reviews that they do, more visits to their website and store, and a solid reputation here in Calgary. 

Quadrant D: High Cost / Low Effort
Oddly, this is where many companies start. We often get contacted by companies that want to do Google Search ads, Google Display ads, or Facebook ads long before they have done all the background work to build a reputation and manage the acquired leads. They seem to be stuck in marketing tactics of the 00’s - before social media and marketing automation. They think they can get customers with minimal effort. On a rare occasion, this “branding” approach will work but often with smaller companies they can drop $10,000 on a pay-per-click campaign and get nothing. And telling these managers ahead of time can be futile - they just want to spend money and get easy wins. 

Like I said, sometimes it works to spend a bunch of money but often it doesn’t. You can’t boost-a-post and expect results if the post is crappy. You can’t expect a positive ROI if your website is ugly and sloppy. You can’t expect everyone to buy on impulse - prospects have to be educated and nurtured. Your products won’t sell if your reputation is in the toilet. 

9) Online Advertising
There are 2 reasons why you might want to invest in advertising. The first is to have a prospect click on the ad and go to a landing page or your website. This should lead to a sale right away, or if you have a lead nurturing system in place, then a sale at some point in the future.

The second reason for advertising is for branding. By this, I’m referring to an increase in the probability that someone will associate your company with a specific product (Apple and iPhone), type of product (GoDaddy and website hosting), or a solution to a specific problem (a realtor and selling - or buying - a home). 

As I implied earlier, don’t spend money on advertising until you have your ducks all in a row:

  • A website that is compelling, responsive, accurate and working

  • Google My Business listing that you have claimed and optimized

  • Customers writing reviews on your company 

  • Social platforms with interesting posts

  • A blog and enewsletter with a significant audience

  • Web pages that have been optimized for search engines

  • Videos that are interesting

  • A lead nurturing system that has been tested and works

Once you have all these things in place, then go ahead and invest in higher levels of advertising. Sure, you can skip quadrants and some of the tactics that take a considerable amount of effort but be careful, you could end up wasting a lot of money on ads that don’t help you reach your targets.