The Four Cornerstones of Driving Traffic

I recently held a garage sale (how suburban of me, eh?) and, while it was a success, it could have been much better. Definition:  I didn’t sell everything I would have liked to sell.

The issue, I have surmised, was not a question of our inventory or our location or our quality level – it was simply a matter of driving the appropriate traffic. [Note:  a follow-up report from the garage sale indicated that we converted sales at approximately a 25% ratio:  for every four people that came by, one made a purchase.  Not bad.]

While I covered all the requisite bases, there was a lot more I could have done.  It reminded me that small and midsize brands face the same traffic issues every day.  Whether you’re a website, a local retail shop, a restaurant or even a midsize b-to-b service provider, driving and sustaining traffic is central to your survival.

Irrespective of the media you choose, or the vertical you’re in, or the market(s) in which you operate, here are four critical cornerstones to understanding and driving traffic that I’ve branded as the “TMX2” approach.  These are in no certain order, and in many respects, have to be considered simultaneously.

The first cornerstone:  Targeting
Driving traffic begins with a clear understanding of the prospects you WANT.  If you’re working with a media company who’s doing planning for you, you can probably get to a very decisive target.  But if you’re not (maybe you’re small, maybe you’re not sure,) you can ask yourself important questions:  who is the “ideal” customer?  What is the ideal “deal” for that customer?  How can I provide that structure?

Two important targeting sub-themes here:  think virally and think in segments.
First, in the age of social media, ask yourself another targeting question:  Who will be likely to “spread” my message post-purchase?  Second, don’t be afraid to segment.  You can’t be all things to all people, but you can be one valuable thing to one segment, another valuable thing to another segment and so on.  For more information on segmentation, check out the VALS Framework, pioneered by SRI.

The second cornerstone:  Timing
Two facets of timing are essential.  First, give your offer or your brand or your new product launch ample time to sink in and make the requisite impressions.  So often, marketers have great ideas and fantastic solutions to offer, but we bail when we don’t think it’s happening quite quickly enough.  We already know that the American consumer (or business owner) is inundated with zillions of marketing messages every day.  Sure, you have to cut through the clutter with good messaging and solid creative, but you also have to allow for the message to seep in…there’s a reason “frequency” is a cornerstone of every media plan.

The second facet of timing is more delicate – you have to offer your consumer what they’re looking for, at a price he or she is willing to pay, at the right moment.  Not quarter.  Not month.  MOMENT.  This is why the term “real-time” is being bandied about so often in marketing seminars and business conferences around the world.  See articles on real-time marketing on Mashable.

The third cornerstone:  Message
While it’s impossible to cover everything about messaging in an overview, be clear about this:  you can target the right customer, deliver your communications over the right medium, time it perfectly and still not influence or stimulate demand if your message doesn’t resonate with your customer.  So how do you make that happen?

It’s not simple, but make sure you cover at least the following:  Claim the highest possible emotional benefits that speak to your audience (or segment.) Add rational support for choosing your product or service.  Be absolutely relevant.  And don’t be afraid to be a little unexpected – a little cooky.  As long as those other aspects are covered, cooky can work and usually does because it’s more memorable and more entertaining and more differentiating.

The fourth cornerstone:  Mission
Here’s a cornerstone of driving traffic that can easily get overlooked.  Very often, we achieve results when we undertake a marketing effort.  But sometimes, the early returns can influence our perceptions about what we’re trying to achieve.  If things are going great in the first month of a new campaign, everybody starts to project HUGE numbers for the program, and forgets that you had an objective to only move the needle by 10%.  If things start out slow, we may assume that “this is never going to work,” and we forget that we only want to move the needle by 10%, so we crush the program before it has time to sink in.

The best way to avoid abandoning the mission is to document it.  Write it down where EVERYONE involved can see it.   That’s right.  Everyone.  The client.  The agency.  The vendors.  The investors.  Everyone.  “WE WANT TO SELL 22 MILLION WIDGETS AT 19¢ IN THE NEXT YEAR.”  Or “WE WANT TO INCREASE WEB TRAFFIC TO 100,000 UNIQUES PER MONTH IN THE NEXT TWO QUARTERS.”  Whatever it is, keep it sacred and don’t abandon it.  You’ll find that it absolutely aligns every stakeholder and, if you build on the other cornerstones, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised at the traffic jam just up ahead.

Article first published as The Four Cornerstones of Driving Traffic on Technorati.

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15 thoughts on “The Four Cornerstones of Driving Traffic

  1. Corri July 27, 2011 / 7:52 am

    Hey Nader, great article – though a daunting prospect for virtually any SME. Understanding targets is rightly key, while timing has so many variables – like comedic timing, business timing relies on a network of factors many of which are out of your control. Having a clear ROI strategy is the only way of truly assessing the impact of any marketing campaign, yet setting realistic expectations is a skill in itself.

  2. thecoachlee July 27, 2011 / 3:24 pm

    Enjoyed the way you employed a visual to help your readers understand the importance of the basics. Many small businesses including those up to $50 million in sales do not have a sales problem, but rather one if not more marketing problems. What happens is people engage in the role of Captain Wing It by spraying their actions all over the place and praying something will stick.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
    Increase Sales Coach
    Author of Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits

  3. Jayna Locke July 28, 2011 / 4:38 am

    Nader, I like the way you lay out all the intangibles involved in creating a successful marketing campaign. And the reminder to be realistic about the goals and outcomes of any particular effort is very wise! Thanks for the insights.

    Jayna

  4. Lynn Bruines August 1, 2011 / 4:59 pm

    Your article is very well written Nader. Straight to the point, honest and clear. I definitely enjoyed reading it. Maybe a question you are able to answer, is there a particular order of importance?

    In my opinion I would say 1) mission 2) targeting 3) messaging 4) timing.

    Would you agree?

  5. Nader Ashway August 1, 2011 / 5:54 pm

    @Lynn Bruines –
    As I mentioned in the post, all these elements have to be taken into consideration at virtually the same time. But you’re quite right in assessing MISSION as the primary element. After all, if you don’t know where the finish line is, how do you know what race to run, or what course to tread? Incidentally, that’s likely my next post.
    Cheers,
    n

    • Lynn Bruines August 1, 2011 / 8:02 pm

      That’s exactly what I was wondering. Of course all elements should be considered at the same time, but what if I was busy writing a marketing/business plan – which one should I start on with? Or possibly, which one could be the easiest to start with. Like you said, mission would be the one then.

      Look forward to the next post!

  6. Nader Ashway August 1, 2011 / 7:00 pm

    @Leanne-
    Thanks for the comment. I love the way you personified the trait of so many business owners as “Captain Wing It!” Classic. You’re right, also, in saying that most businesses don’t have sales problems, but rather marketing problems – and those tend to fall into one of many subcategories, such as lead generation problems, or communications problems, or customer service problems, or problems with how their goods or services are priced, and so on. The new model is simple: in any organization, marketing is everyone’s business.
    Nader Ashway

  7. Nader Ashway August 1, 2011 / 7:02 pm

    @Jayna-
    Thanks for your comments. While I would love to be able to whittle down creating a successful marketing campaign to a blog post, that process is exceedingly detailed, and demands a lot more attention. But please come back and check out some more posts, as i’ll be deep-diving on a few more interesting sub-issues like setting objectives, understanding how to budget and many other facets of small business marketing that people tend to overlook.

    Nader Ashway

  8. Nader Ashway August 1, 2011 / 7:04 pm

    @Corri-
    Thanks for the comments. I agree that ROI is an important facet, and has been the yardstick of virtually every business decision over the last hundred years or so, but I’ve also been entertaining a new moniker: ROO (Return on Objective.)

    Ultimately, isn’t that what’s important? (As long as your objectives are set intelligently.)
    Nader Ashway

  9. thecoachlee August 1, 2011 / 7:12 pm

    @Nadar – Actually a colleague of mine, Bill Napolitano, coined the phrase through the use of a story that he gave me permission to include in my book. What my original input is “Spray and pray.” I am sure many so called experts would disagree with you about marketing being everyone’s business. They could not see their expensive training programs that usually deliver less than sustainable return on investment.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

  10. thecoachlee August 1, 2011 / 8:11 pm

    To Lynn – Consider using the same analogy of four cornerstones when crafting your action plan or better yet flight plan for running your business.

    Purpose – Why are we in business?
    Vision – Where do we see the business in 3 to 5 years?
    Mission – How will we get there in the next 12 months (usually 3 key goals)?
    Values – How will we behave when executing the mission to get to the vision?

    Many confuse vision with mission and this helps to increase, in my opinion, the small business failure rate.

    Just some thoughts to consider,

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
    Author of Be the Red jacket in a Sea of gray suits

  11. Lynn Bruines August 3, 2011 / 1:32 pm

    @ Leanne: thank you for your suggestion. You are absolutely right. The link you make between the cornerstones and action plan helps me have a better understanding of which steps to take.

    This is exactly why they say you should always return to your business plan – you learn more each day! Thank you Leanne & Nader.

  12. aviewtoathrill August 10, 2011 / 8:13 pm

    Sticktuitiveness. That’s what most missions lack. If we do not achieve instant results we are quick to abandon ship and move on to the next strategy instead of giving the initial plan a chance to work. I think making it public and in full view keeps it sacrosanct….and it assures the client that you are committed to that process in the long term.

  13. Anonymous August 11, 2011 / 1:09 am

    These days if you only get a ROO and not an ROI, it can be the end of a small business. With all the “real time” analytics available to you, a PR consultancy should be able to target results better than just throwing enough stuff out there and praying that some of it sticks.

    If you were the client, would ROO be satisfactory? I bet not.

    Myrna Greenhut
    Points of Persuasion Syndicate(A PR articles consultancy)

  14. Myrna Greenhut August 11, 2011 / 1:14 am

    These days if you only get a ROO and not an ROI, it can be the end of a small business. With all the “real time” analytics available to you, a PR consultancy should be able to target results better than just throwing enough stuff out there and praying that some of it sticks.

    If you were the client, would ROO be satisfactory? I bet not.

    Myrna Greenhut
    Points of Persuasion Syndicate(A PR articles consultancy)

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