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Do You See Marketing as an Investment or an Expense?

Which one is it? Do you consider marketing as an investment or as an expense? Often, small deck contractors view marketing as an expense for their business. However, they should see marketing as an investment.

Every small business needs marketing, even deck builders.

Because digital marketing changes all the time, it’s nearly impossible for a single person to keep up with it all. Did you know Google alone makes about 1,500-plus changes to its algorithm each year? And that touches only one aspect of digital marketing: Search.

As digital marketing gets tougher, so, too, does your deck-building competition. It increases over time.

Trying to keep up with an ever-changing digital marketing landscape and increased competition can be extremely difficult.

External factors make marketing more important

And, we haven’t even talked about how COVID-19 has made life and business more uncertain. So, what do deck builders do? Companies that relied on in-person events for sales and leads are struggling.

Deck contractors who weren’t marketing online when the pandemic hit fell further behind those who embraced digital marketing.

The unfortunate reality is many business owners see marketing and advertising as easy areas to cut. Some of these owners not only reduced these activities, but cut them out entirely. Consequently, they lost even more business.

We have been on many a call where small business owners express concern over investing in marketing activities. When your passion has been constructing tangible things that bring joy to families in tangible ways, it can be daunting trying to wrap your head around what seems like an intangible marketing strategy. It is even more difficult if the marketing strategy does not align with your company’s needs or the agency doesn’t align with your values.

Instinctively, you understand how your company needs to be marketed, else how will the right target audience know you have something to offer? (As a side note, don’t underestimate the need to hit the right target audience. The best marketing campaign for a deck builder will fail miserably if it targets people who rent houses or apartments; you need to reach homeowners and business owners).

You have to start somewhere, some time.

Whatever happened with marketing in the past, don’t worry. Today is a new day. You have start somewhere, right? You have to start some time. Best of all, you can improve your situation. How can you do that? Simple: Change your perspective. Make today the day you consider marketing as an investment (better yet, a necessary investment that you can also claim as deductions on your taxes).

This will mean marketing gets its own line in your budget. We understand this is not an easy decision to make. While some might not view marketing as tangible as the decks you build, the real risk is not having a presence that can only come through a coordinated, well-thought out marketing plan and strategy. You can probably rattle off several large companies that invest in marketing and advertising every single day to reach consumers like you: Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, McDonald’s, Ford, Verizon, GM, AT&T, and about a half dozen prescription drugs we can’t pronounce.

Potential customers need to know you exist and understand how you can help them, whether it is with a new deck, a deck remodel, deck lighting, or a pergola. Digital marketing makes that possible and puts it within your reach.

Luck is not a strategy. Referrals are not a strategy. Referrals, like luck, will run out one day.

Strategic marketing has to become a priority … and an investment. Marketing agencies work with companies at different stages, which means they don’t all have the same amount they can invest in marketing. They should help you allocate your dollars in the right marketing mix to achieve the best results.

Of course, all of this only means something when marketing is done effectively.

Take a moment and reflect on your deck building business. How many of your jobs came from DIY’ers who initially thought they’d save money building their own decks? Maybe they never pulled a permit, so no one ever inspected the safety and stability of the final product. Maybe the footings were too small, there were gaps in the steps, or the railing too low. You get the idea.

We’ve seen similar results when business owners try to DIY their own marketing. If you decide to do your own marketing, take the necessary time to inform yourself about what digital marketing requires today, not last month and especially not last year. This means studying the traditional marketing mix – product, place, price and promotion, but it doesn’t end there. You need to acquire many new skill sets for the digital age:

  • Web development and design so the user has a great experience on your site, and it loads quickly (who is going to wait 10 seconds for a page to load, will you?)
  • Well-researched and well-written content on your website so you satisfy Google’s desires: Relevant, informative information that demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness
  • Search engine optimization so your website will rank high in search engines when people in your area are searching for your products and services
  • Google ads so you can target the right audience (else you are just tossing money out the window)
  • Facebook ads so you can really drill down to your ideal customer
  • Graphic design so everything on your website and social media conveys a unified vision
  • Social media management so you can reach people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn
  • And perhaps most important of all, project management to make sure all of these efforts are coordinated and are measured and monitored for performance

If you don’t have the energy, time, patience, or experience to successfully lead your marketing efforts, consider working with an agency like ours. We have a team of experts in all of the above areas because not one of us can do everything ourselves. If you decided to work with an agency, whether ours or another, make sure the agency is reliable and capable of guiding your business where it needs to go. Are you beginning to see why we say marketing is an investment?

If your marketing is an expense, something isn’t right.

When you spend money to market your deck building company, you should expect tangible signs that your investment is going to one day pay off.

What are these signs? They might be friends and family saying they saw your ad or your social media post; maybe more leads coming into your inbox from your website; more people calling your company; or a greater number of leads converting into new customers.

If you have been paying a professional marketer and not seeing results, then you might want to consider working with someone else. If you’re taking the DIY approach to marketing, then schedule some time to re-think your strategy. Or, you can always schedule a no-obligation, free strategy session with us.

So, what is it? Is marketing an expense, or do you see marketing as an investment?

If it is an expense, then you really should stop what you are doing and rethink your approach. Try to identify where your marketing efforts are breaking down so you can fix the problems.

Here are some of the most common pitfalls we see:

Tactics before vision – doing before planning

When you start marketing, it’s very tempting to jump right into the tactics – social media, blog content, Google Ads, and whatever is trendy right now. However, you need to take a strategic, methodical approach to all of this. Yes, tactics are necessary and critical, but your deck contracting business needs to prepare and plan an overall marketing strategy before jumping into tactics.

Graphic about marketing planning

Tactics will waste your time and money without establishing a clear vision, mission, and goals for your brand. (Yes, your company is a brand.)

If you look at the top of the graphic above, marketing begins with you. What is the vision and mission of your business? Understanding this provides an overarching purpose that ultimately will provide guidance for tactics that will be designed to help you achieve your goals and lead to success.

Again, if you are taking the DIY approach to marketing, please don’t ignore this hierarchy, else it’s just like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. This hierarchy is key to making the right marketing investments and engaging in the right marketing activities that will move the needle closer to your goals.

Not optimizing and considering the sales funnel

Another common pitfall is not realizing the kinds of marketing activities that must take place during each stage of the sales funnel — or not even realizing there is a funnel.

graphic of a sales funnel

 

Today’s consumers go through a multi-stage process before they make purchases, whether they consciously realize it or not. In the marketing world, this purchasing process comes with many names: The sales funnel, marketing funnel, sales pipeline, and many other terms. However, they all mean and refer to the same thing.

Because your customers aren’t the exception, it’s critical to understand each stage so you can guide them all the way to the bottom of the funnel, which is where they take some kind of action. It might be they submit a form on your website saying they are interested in learning more about working with you; they might call the office; or a lead might convert into a customer.

Every single sale you’ve made means someone completed this process.

If you’re not doing this yet, you need to be. This is foundational.

The top of the funnel is about awareness

At the top of the funnel (TOFU) lies the part of your audience that’s just getting to know you. As people move through the funnel, they become more interested in purchasing your product or service. As you know, funnels you use to get oil into your engine are wider at the top than the bottom. Same with a sales funnel. This means there will be fewer people at the bottom than the top. This is only natural.

The top of the funnel is the inquisitive stage; the bottom is the decision stage. Or, put another way: The top is someone saying, “I’m not sure.” The bottom is someone saying, “Yeah, let’s do this!”

When you think about it, marketing encourages more people to enter the funnel and minimizes losses at every stage of the funnel.

How you guide potential customers through your sales funnel plays a factor in your company’s success. Understanding the sales funnel well, and planning how to optimize it at every stage, needs to be considered before jumping to tactics. You wouldn’t start constructing a deck before the ground has been prepared, right?

What to do next

The main lesson to take home is that if your marketing feels like an expense, it is not working. You really need to view marketing as an investment that is designed to produce clear, tangible results.

It’s considered a qualified “investment” by the IRS because it is tax-deductible. If you book your marketing efforts this year, then you can claim them on your taxes (but be sure to check with your accountant first).

Marketing can be stressful. That’s why Deck Builder Marketers exists. If you decide to work with us, you are working with a team of professionals who are experts in all aspects of digital marketing (paid ads, search engine optimization, website design, social media, graphic design, project management, and more).

If you work with us, you will have more time to focus on your strengths and enjoy more freedom because we’ll take care of your marketing efforts. Oh, and we won’t abandon you and just shoot you sporadic reports via email. We schedule calls every month so we can communicate what we are seeing, the kinds of results being achieved, and hear from you.

Ready to kick off things and learn more about marketing as an investment? Schedule a free, no-commitment Marketing Audit & Strategy Session today.

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About April Edwards

Hello! I'm AE Design Co's lead Digital Strategist & Creative Director. For over 15 years, I've been helping busy businesses get a grip on their marketing to increase profits year-over-year. Meet me!

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