Think strategically toward marketing independence.

My resistance to the phrase “You have to …” may be a remnant from childhood. “You HAVE TO eat your vegetables” comes to mind, with broccoli leading the charge. Aside from the fact that broccoli has the identical silhouette to a nuclear explosion, it reeks. Disguising it with melted cheese is no help; it’s like pouring chocolate sauce on liver. What a waste.

The directives came in waves. “You have to brush your teeth.” “You have to make up your bed.” “You have to quit shaving the cat.” That last one was probably true. For months people asked if that cat had recently undergone surgery.

Yet most people - especially those of us faking adulthood - don’t like being told what we “have to” do. Seems like an option-less, foreboding request. We tend to reel back, sensing a plot in the making. The following is no exception.

I got an automated call on Saturday. Nothing I love more than chatting with a robot, especially one convinced I was Myrna Stanley and telling me, “Your prescription is ready to pick up at the pharmacy.” The robot didn’t care I was detailing my boat, lying upside down, with carpet cleaning vapors in my nose.

To prevent being called Myrna by another robot, I phoned the pharmacy to let someone know that the real Myrna is probably wondering why the robot hasn’t called her, and I really need to get back to snorting carpet surfactants.

When I relayed the information to the woman who answered the phone, the first words out of her mouth were, you guessed it…

“You HAVE to call Customer Service at 1-800-…”

From there, it didn’t go all that well. Yet look at what you’re told you HAVE to do in business, and what if any of it is really true? The have to’s of the world are usually thinking, “Because that’s what the crowd is doing,” instead of thinking strategically toward independence.

So I offer four common marketing  “have to’s” that you donothave to do.

1. You HAVE to be hyperactive in social media. You have a life and business to run. If the brain drain andtimeinvested in social media doesn’t pay off, why bother? Or if you’ve yet to find a business that has achieved a worthwhile return that you can model, no need to immerse yourself. In fact, anything more than about 30 minutes a day comes perilously close to your hard-earned overhead dollars straight down the drain.

If dollars per lead (in staff time) don’t yield a suitable ROI (around $75), change strategies or find a media that pulls better. Succeeding in social media isn’t as simple as “just showing up” as some would lead you to believe.

Plus, a great way to minimize time on social media platforms is by auto-publishing the content to multiple places. The simplest ones are called Tweetdecks and convert a single post into a Tweet, Facebook post and blog entry. If you’re going to go social, multitasking isn’t optional unless you love to waste time and money.

2. You HAVE to be in the Yellow Pages. Bull droppings. You canchooseto have a presence but with more and more consumers moving online (and a massive drop in Yellow Pages look-ups), it’s now recommended you spend less than 19% of your total marketing budget on Yellow Pages ads. Like it or not, it’s more important than ever to have an optimized local listing on the major search engines so that you’re showing up on the first results page.

3. You HAVE to use your co-op for “their” ads.I’m probably about to get yelled at (oh, like this’ll be the first time) but hear me out: Offer to test your preferred ad vs. the factory ad on sales results. Then see if they’ll co-op your winning ad over the one designed by people who may have never met an actual customer. If you approach the manufacturer this way, you both get what you want: more leads and more sales from the same or less marketing cost. Plus, you’ll have a unique ad instead of the “me too” stuff the others are running.

4. You HAVE to use slick mail pieces. Could this advice be any worse? Who made this up? We regularly trounce this silly notion with side-by-side tests - and get results withmultipletimes the dollar amount. The point is that you only have to be sane about your ROI. Customers care more about the benefits they receive for doing business with you than they do about pretty pictures of babies romping through daisy fields with puppies.

That doesn’t mean your pieces can look like your 3-year-old kid made them. They should still be neat, checked for typos and easy to read. List your value clearly and with a compelling call to action and direct response done right will trump “slick” pieces every time.

Contractor friends, you don’t have to do anything in marketing that doesn’t:
  • Have a measured outcome that you desire;

  • Have a track record worthy of emulating; and

  • Get you closer to your goal (instead of sacrificing your goal to meet someone else’s!).

Send us a “HAVE TO” at that drives you crazy, doesn’t make sense or has made you wonder if it’s true. We’ll do our best to answer it, or just make something up. You’ll just have to believe it.