Countertops Magazine Archive

Affordable Marketing Strategies Redefined - Give me $200 and I'll give you $2,000

There are many differences between stone fabricators in today’s climate. But, there’s one thing that everybody in the industry is on the same page about: lowering expenses to increase bottom line profits.

This can be a tricky task though. It’s not as simple as cutting everything you spend money on each month. After all, some of those expenses are necessary to run your business from day to day. But even trickier are those expenses that aren’t really expenses at all. Marketing often falls into this category.

My goal with this article is to share affordable and inexpensive marketing strategies with you. But, to achieve that goal, I must teach you how to define “affordable” and “inexpensive” in marketing terms. An advertisement that is only $100 could be the most expensive ad you have, while your $5,000 per month campaign might be the most affordable. Allow me to explain…

Now, admittedly, I’m biased towards marketing. But, please don’t let that taint the power of what I’m going to share with you in this article. It’s the reason I fell in love with marketing almost 10 years ago. There’s nothing else that I’ve found in business that will give you as large of a return on your money as effective marketing.

Business innovator and leader Peter Drucker said it best when he said: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

No other activity in your business is as profitable as effective marketing, especially as a stone fabricator. If you can figure out how to generate customers at a reasonable cost, you have it made – if you are thinking straight about marketing. 

Many fabricators view marketing as an expense. And, for them, it might be. But, if done right, marketing is a powerful investment that should be made over and over again as much as you can bear.

If I told you “give me $200 and I’ll give you $2,000 without fine print or a catch,” how would you react? Of course, you’d test me out to see if I come through with my end of the deal. Then, if I did, I assume you’d head to the bank to get as many hundred dollar bills as you could. Right?

What I just described is a very simplified, but accurate, depiction of exactly what marketing can do for you.

If you’ve heard me speak or read anything I’ve written before, you’ve likely heard me teach the fundamental marketing metrics of “Cost per Customer Acquisition” and “Average Lifetime Customer Value.”

Your customers are worth something to you. Across our customer base in the stone industry, our average customer’s lifetime customer value is about $2,000. Sure, some are worth more and some are worth less, but we must deal in averages for this exercise. (See ‘Calculating the Value of a Customer’ Sidebar Below.)

I encourage you to figure out what your average lifetime customer value is, print it, frame it and hang it in front of you in your office. It’s that important.

After you know you’re average customer value, setup tracking mechanisms in your marketing to measure how much you’re paying for a new customer through each marketing channel. Simply take the investment of the marketing strategy and divide it by how many customers it produces. For example, if you pay $1,000 for an advertisement and it produces 10 customers, your cost per customer is $100. You’ll then have the metrics needed to establish a return on investment for your marketing programs. 

From here, you can now accurately define what is expensive, what is affordable and where you should allocate your marketing dollars. Theoretically, if you have enough cash you should increase your expenditure in each of those affordable marketing categories as long as your return stays steady.

Knowing which marketing investments give you the best return is crucial to best managing our marketing budgets. It should never be about how much you spend, but more about how much you get back when you invest. 

Lowering Cost per Customer Acquisition
Once you’ve put a more accurate assessment together of what’s expensive and what’s inexpensive, there are methods you can learn to lower your cost per customer acquisition. As you might suspect, there are only a couple of ways to do this:

1.    Spend less money on the advertisement itself. 
2.    Get more results from the existing investment.

The first one is really an issue of negotiating with the advertising sales representative, which is something I encourage you to do. Far too many businesses assume that advertising costs are non-negotiable. I personally believe that almost everything can be negotiated. Certain advertising mediums are easier to negotiate, such as Yellow Pages, television and radio.

Other mediums, like direct mail, are harder to negotiate because postage is a hard cost that is extremely difficult to negotiate. There are tricks to lower postage, but that’s a topic for another article. For now, just make sure you’re dealing with a mail house that is reputable and knows their craft.

While lowering your ad spend can work very well to lower your cost per customer acquisition, I believe the bigger and easier opportunity to do this is in getting more response from your efforts. However, I will mention one last industry secret that not many people are aware of. Most advertising mediums offer a chance to purchase remnant space for pennies on the dollar. Remnant space is simply space that must be filled that hasn’t been sold at full price. To purchase remnant space, you must go through a broker that specializes in selling this product. Just search the Internet for remnant advertising space and you’ll find a ton of brokers. The only downside to remnant space is that you usually get the poorest placement and must be flexible on the actual run date. Both of which are acceptable in our industry in most cases.

Now, let’s talk about the second aspect of lowering your cost per customer acquisition: getting more response without spending more. 

Believe it or not, you can change the response – either for better or worse – by changing a single word in your ad. We’ve seen response increases of more than 200 percent by simply changing the headline on an advertisement.

So, what you say is very, very critical to the response you’ll receive. There are three steps to creating powerful, responsive marketing. They are:

1.    Have something good to say.
2.    Say it well.
3.    Say it often.

By focusing on those three elements, you can always improve the response from your marketing. Not only can you improve the quantity of response, but you can improve the quality of responder. For example, you can lower the number of “price shoppers” you get by differentiating yourself and selling the overall value in your ads. 

I’ll now quickly break down each of those three steps.

1. Have something good to say. 

Having something good to say is simply having a good product and service. Ideally, you not only have a good product or service, but you have a BETTER product or service than your competitors. This can be done by creating soft innovations that don’t cost you a lot of extra money, but that have high perceived value to your customers. An example of this in our industry is offering a “same day design consultation.” This is something that may or may not work for you logistically, but hopefully you get the point. It’s something that will mean a lot to many customers, but not really cost you much in terms of hard costs.

2. Say it well. 

This is just as powerful as the first. There are many good stone businesses out there that do indeed offer a superior product, but simply can’t articulate their message properly. If you have a better service, you better let your market know about it in a clear, concise and engaging way. Here’s a four step process that should help you do this:

1.    Interrupt/Attention – Get the prospects attention with a bold headline and interesting graphics.
2.    Engage/Interest – After you’ve interrupted them, you must engage them. Most ad agencies do a great job of interrupting you with shocking or bizarre images. But, after you realize you’ve been tricked, you fall away from the message unless the creator has engaged you by engaging your hot buttons.
3.    Educate/Decide – Now that you have your prospect engaged, you must educate them on why they should choose you over your competitors.
4.    Offer/Action – We almost have them! Now all you need to do is give them a clear call to action that is irresistible.

Follow those four steps in all of your marketing and you’ll notice an instant boost in response, which will lower your cost per customer acquisition.

3. Say it often. 

Don’t let this fool you. You don’t need to run an ad seven times for it to work. Sure, repetition will increase response, but it rarely takes an ad from failure to winner. The reason you need to say it often is because people have short memories in today’s noisy world and, more importantly, they are searching across multiple mediums to make a decision. By staying in front of them across all mediums with a well-articulated message and something good to say, you’ll win their business.

After reviewing the concepts in this article, I hope you have developed a good perspective on affordable vs. expensive and that you have found some helpful tips to increase your bottom line. These strategies are all proven in the real world; I encourage you to put them to work in your business!

Calculating the Value of a Customer

Conventional thinking in the stone industry tells us that homeowners have a lifetime value that is made up of a certain amount of projects, future job requests and referrals.

To calculate your average customer value, you must first find out your average revenue per job. To do this, simply take your gross revenue over the last 12 months and divide it by the total number of jobs completed.

Next, find out how much a customer referral is worth. For example, if you average one referral for every two homeowners divide your average revenue per job by two. You can then add this to your average revenue per job you just calculated. You have now determined your average lifetime customer value.

About the Author
Aileen Davis is the president of Stone Marketing Systems (SMS). SMS is dedicated exclusively to helping Stone businesses increase their profits through innovative sales and marketing strategies. To join Davis’ free e-newsletter or schedule a complimentary 30-minute marketing tune up session, go to or call (888) 813-9658.