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What is the Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Grow Your Business in 2012 and Beyond?

Before I answer that question, humor me for a minute to give you an analogy. I’m a big NY Giants football fan, and every Sunday at our tailgate, I ask fellow Giants fans the same question: “What’s the single most important thing the Giants have to do to win today?”

I hear things like “run the ball” and “play strong defense” and “sack their quarterback” and “get the passing game going.” No one ever gets the right answer. Though profound, no one ever says: “Score more points than the other guys.”

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When I ask people in business the question that is the title of this story, I get answers like “put more money into social media” and “open more stores” and “get more salespeople on the street.” These tactics may be fine, but I don’t hear people verbalizing the correct answer, which is: “Get more customers.” Score more points, get more customers. Profound, yes. Basic, yes. Then why don’t people verbalize scoring more points and getting more customers?

I think I know why. Two reasons:

  • It’s much easier to think about specific tactics than the big picture. And in medium to large companies, silos and protecting budgets prevent a clear understanding of the total marketing picture and where all the dollars are going.
  • It’s easy to be seduced by exciting and sexy emerging technologies and put a disproportionate amount of time and money into them at the expense of proven workhorses that may be viewed as dull and boring.

While Facebook, Twitter, social media, StumbleUpon, apps and a never-ending list of exciting technologies are sexy and worth investigating, it’s critical to keep your eye on those proven tactics that generate customers, such as Direct Response TV, paid search, email, catalogs, direct mail and others. These traditional customer acquisition tactics may seem boring when compared to the new media options, but the key word is “proven.”

I read how dollars are being diverted from offline media in favor of online. And that’s fine, expected and acceptable…IF dollars are not being diverted out of profitable programs. In these difficult times, you can’t say “let’s take 10% of our direct mail budget and put it into social” if the direct mail is continuing to generate customers. It’s not right to reduce a paid search budget if it’s a proven customer generator and there’s room to grow.

So what’s the answer? You’ve got to find “new” money to prudently test and develop a long term plan with social and other emerging media. I do believe in them. But not at the expense of what works.

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