Advertising With a Small Business — SEO or Direct Mail?

Sometimes we online gurus can get a little too caught up in our own online world, and we forget that people have options — sometimes strong ones — that don’t (gasp!) involve a computer. After the entry we posted a couple of weeks ago about organic SEO vs. PPC, someone emailed us to ask how SEO compared not to PPC, but to an offline option: direct mail. Now, we’re not experts in direct mail. But we did a little bit of research and we made a few assumptions and I think we have a good baseline to compare from.

SEO
If you’re a small business, SEO can seem like it’s got a steep entry fee. After all, you can’t do SEO without a website, and websites can be expensive — a few hundred dollars is a big bite of a small business’ advertising budget, after all. Then you have to pay for a few months of SEO before the results really start to show. Then once you’ve ranked for a few choice keywords, you have to keep up the work to make sure a competitor doesn’t knock you off the block.

Direct Mail
On the other hand, if you’re going to get into direct mail, you need quite a chunk of change as well. Not only do you need to hire a firm to design a killer ad for you — which can run a thousand dollars or more — but you need to rent the lists of addresses as well. Each list of 1000~2000 addresses costs about as much to rent as a month of SEO costs to have done, and you can expect about a 1% ‘conversion’ rate if you do everything well — so you’re spending a few hundred bucks to get between 10 and 20 customers into your store.

Results
If you can make back that few hundred bucks off of those 10 or 20 people, you can have some good results off of direct mail. SEO, on the other hand, converts a bit better — generally 2-4%, and actually a little bit higher if you focus on local internet marketing specifically. You won’t get several thousand ‘hits’ all at once like you will with direct mail, but you will catch up with the total number of hits over a month or two if you play your cards right. In short, unless you really NEED those 10 or 20 customers through your doors in the next couple of weeks or you’re going to go under, SEO pretty clearly beats out direct mail as a form of advertising.

24 thoughts on “Advertising With a Small Business — SEO or Direct Mail?”

  1. I have a few clients that I have been helping on the side with internet marketing, seo, etc. One client is an attorney and the other is a direct mail company, neither of them are local to my home office. My hope is to go full time with this type of consulting but am unsure what type of clients to pursue (dentists, doctors, attorneys, mortgage brokers?)? How to pursue them (cold calls, email,etc.)? Any advice? Who needs this type of service?

  2. any ideas on how to market a printing business, promotions, where to advertise, PR ideas or marketing campaigns?

  3. Generating Sales Leads

    Generating sales leads is the process of making contact with and collecting information from prospective clients. In larger companies, generating sales leads falls to the marketing department, since they’re responsible for creating all advertising and outreach materials. However, in smaller organizations, it’s common for salesmen to have to do their own sales lead generation.

    There are several proven techniques for generating sales leads:

    Networking
    Advertising (TV/print/Web)
    Telemarketing and teleprospecting
    Direct mail, fax or e-mail marketing campaigns
    Web sites and search engine optimization
    Buying a sales lead list

    Generating sales leads traditionally begins with networking. This is as simple as contacting your friends, family, former coworkers and existing clients and asking if they know anyone who may be interested in your product or service [source: startupnation]. These referrals are also called sales tips.

    Besides networking, trade shows are excellent opportunities for business-to-business (B2B) networking. By setting up a table at a trade show, you can collect contact information from dozens of potential buyers and business partners [source: startupnation].

    Web advertising is fast becoming the most powerful way to generate sales leads. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, in the week of September 24-30, 2007, Web surfers clicked on over 53 billion online ads selling everything from financial services to cars to travel [source: Nielsen NetRatings]. These ads often lead to short surveys or contact forms that can be accessed in real-time by sales representatives. More on real-time and opt-in sales leads later.

    Telemarketing and teleprospecting are two similar but distinct methods of generating sales leads. Companies contract the services of a telemarketing firm that employs operators who read from a prepared script. Operators sell a product or service directly to the public over the phone. Telemarketing, unfortunately, has a terrible reputation for being a nuisance (calling during dinner hours, offering products that have nothing to do with the potential client, et cetera) and has led to the creation of the National Do Not Call Registry.

    Teleprospecting, on the other hand, is a B2B sales technique that employs trained operators — either in-house or from a third-party teleprospecting company — to contact targeted business prospects [source: intouch]. In teleprospecting, the callers don’t talk from a script. Instead, they familiarize themselves enough with the product or service to be able to gauge the client’s interest. If a client wants to know more, the teleprospector refers the client to a salesman.

    The quickest way to assemble hundreds or thousands of sales leads is to buy a sales lead list. There are dozens of direct marketing companies who collect and sell specialty lists for certain business and consumer sectors. The advantage of these lists is that a salesman can get instant access to thousands of names and numbers for a few hundred dollars. The disadvantage is that all these names are unqualified leads, meaning they haven’t been analyzed individually to see whether or not they’re a good match for the salesman’s specific product or service [source: MindTools]. We’ll talk more about specialty lists later in the article.

    Now let’s talk about tracking sales leads and the technology that makes it easier.

  4. I see a lot of ads when I search on google about home business and making money online, I guess this is what internet marketing is all about, but there’s so many different websites offering different products.

    So where can I go to learn more about this without having to sign up or buy something first, I mean the real truth about this stuff and not the hype I seem to run into everywhere else I go.

  5. I just started a business providing a service in homes. I am only selling the service. I need ideas to advertise free onlne, I have a website. Do you know of prime places or sites to get listed for free or any ideas to sell the service ?

  6. So I’ve heard about this through a friend and it sounds really interesting. Can anybody help me with this topic? What are its advantages and what makes it different from… you know… normal real estate marketing? Thank you so much!

  7. I want to know the best type of insurance for me: my business is search engine optimisation and web content copywriting. I may also do some web design

  8. I’m currently a sophomore in college, intending to get an MBA after graduating with a degree in English Literature. I intend to start a business in the future, however I really don’t have much of a clue on the economics and businesses of today’s world. I try to keep in touch by reading, but this doesn’t seem like enough.

    Where can I learn about what the market is demanding today and what kind of small businesses would stand a good chance if I do start a small business in the future? I’m asking so I can learn early and have an idea what it’s like to start a business. I would like to follow the economic trends of the market until the day I run my business.

    Mature and informative answers would be much appreciated. Thanks

  9. I belong to a online community at http://www.videosift.com, which users post the best videos from major video hosting sites such as Google Video and Youtube.com.

    Its a small community but we are looking to extend our reach via online marketing, and i was wondering what is the best way of getting a site known on the web.
    The site is updated hourly by users, and there is around 4000 users.

  10. I would like to work from my home base computer and was told my best bet would be internet marketing. I am currently a Licensed Real Estate agent is their anthing in marketing that would pertain to my current position?

  11. Okay so I’m planning to open a net cafe in CT, USA
    The business would allow people to use the Computer for anything they want and charge them $2 hourly. There will be a section for drinks like water, Soda,…etc. It also would have a section for games like Play-station, X-box, Wii that would charge them $3 per game. So my question is;
    1-Is it a good idea to open that business in Connecticut USA?
    2-Would I have up to 24 costumers daily?
    3-What things do I have to pay for to set up the Internet Cafe?

    Correct me please.
    Regards,
    Aseer

  12. Hello I am new to this and I was takes to get my companies website up in the SE list. Can anyone out there help me, I would like to know what would be the best first steps in getting this site up in the SE’s, I would be grateful for any help anyone might offer..
    Thanks!!!!

  13. I need some good websites to go learn about internet marketing and search engine optimization. I took an internet marketing class at the local university and it wasn’t worth much to me, just lots of things to do-like build a working site-DUH! I want to understand more about how SEO works and other ways of internet marketing. Any sites or suggested publications woud be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks!

  14. I have a business and been using advernation.com and was wondering if anyone else used them they got my business site to the top of search engines and got me a larger customer base, they are located in queens ny advernation internet marketing seo web design hosting and more

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