Common Business Questions

Q: I’m planning next year’s marketing campaign. Since more people are using the Internet, should I spend most of my money on online advertising?

A: The short answer is “No!” You will get a better return on your marketing dollars by using a blend of online and offline formats, or cross-media. The first thing to do is develop your strategy so you have clear objectives: Who is your audience and what do you want them to do? What tools are you using now with what results? What are your goals so you can measure success? What is your marketing budget and expected return on investment? What is your time frame? Who will carry out the campaigns?

Q: How should I adjust my strategy if most of my sales are online?

A: It doesn’t matter. You still get better results by using cross-media since your customer doesn’t live in a virtual world. If all your business is online, you may need to put more resources in online tools to compete against similar businesses. However, think about how your audience will find you. Your cross-media promotion may be as simple as including your website on a business card and in the yellow pages.

Q: How can I choose a combination of cross-media I can afford?

A: Your greatest form of online advertising is your webpage. If you don’t have one and your customers expect it, then put a good portion of your budget into building an online presence. At a minimum, create a site that includes rich content about your products and services. You might send direct mail or other printed material but you can minimize the pictures required by having multiple, full color pictures on your site. Additionally, you can reduce full color printing to one or two color printing on offline materials. Include your website and email address on appropriate offline promotions such as newspaper and magazine ads, yellow page listings and business cards to encourage people to visit the site and contact you. If they email, you can customize your response and make it much more personal – you also have their permission to send follow-up emails. You can also mail a postcard with an incentive for visiting your website and entering an email address. The incentive could be a discount coupon or other “gift.”

Q: How will I know what is working?

A: Measure the results against goals that are realistic for your business. Example goals might be: an email campaign with a 6 percent to 15 percent response rate; website hits resulting in an 8 percent conversion rate (orders per month divided by unique visitors per month); print ads to build brand awareness reaching 200,000 households a month and so on. In the end, add up the costs for each tactic and compare them to the gross profits generated from attributed sales to calculate your return on investment.


Janet Harte is the center director and Certified Business Advisor for Washington State University Small Business Development Center in Southwest Washington, which offers free, confidential business management advice to small and mid-sized businesses. Call 360-260-6372 or email