The Cost of Nothing

I've been working with Andy Stoller since late September. This is his first guest post on this blog. Enjoy!

I build websites that convert traffic into customers. There are many companies that do what I do, but usually my competition isn’t another digital marketing agency. 

My biggest competition is nothing. 

Let me clarify. 

Say I have a meeting with a business owner. We have a great talk about their website and the laundry list of items they’ve been meaning to get to. Maybe we transition into a broader discussion about their revenue goals and the possibilities when their website goes from digital brochure to online sales generator. 

The business owner gets excited. Then I get excited because they’re excited. I send them a proposal. It all seems promising. Exactly what we’ve been needing, they say. Great stuff. Let me think about it, they say. We’ll get back to you soon.  

Then that’s where nothing comes into the picture. 

Nothing doesn't require extra marketing dollars or approval from the CEO. Nothing is no risk, no reward. In the short term nothing is the sure bet.

On the other hand, something has a dollar cost. It can be measured. It’s printed right there at the bottom of the proposal. If something doesn't work then heads may roll. If you do nothing maybe nobody notices.

But let’s be fair. Usually I’m asking a business to do something they’ve never tried before. And while it seems like a slam dunk to me, to the business owner it’s a coin flip.

I don't blame small businesses for opting for the nothing approach. Marketing is complex, and everyone out there positions themselves as an expert. Talk to 10 venders and you'll get 20 ways of doing things. Blogging, email, SEO, social media, automated marketing! They inundate you with buzzwords and tactics. They offer solutions without really understanding your problem.

And when your not sure what to do, inaction is often is the favored plan of action. But while it's hard to quantify inaction, the costs of doing nothing can be far greater. You just can’t see it yet. 

Then what exactly is the cost of doing nothing? 

How many potential customers didn’t find you this month? How many did a Google search and found your competitor? Hard to say.

Here’s a another approach. Define your revenue goals. Let’s say your company has an annual revenue of $10 million. Say you want to increase sales next year by 10% next year, and you’d like to generate half of these new customers from the web.

In other words, if you move forward with that inbound marketing plan sitting on your desk, you’ll generate $500K more revenue. Subtract the cost of implementing the plan and you have your number — the cost of doing nothing. $450K maybe?

A few months ago I spoke to a business that runs assisted living facilities. They had 24 empty rooms. What was their cost of inaction? There are a lot of fixed costs in that type of business. How much does an empty room cost each month? Multiply that cost by 24 rooms. Multiply those 24 rooms by 12 months. Ouch.

What’s your number? Usually doing nothing costs WAY more than something. 

Inertia is a powerful force, but it’s possible to overcome nothing. There are successful companies that do something all the time. 

My suggestion? Start small. Find something you already do that adds up to nothing. 

What’s the ROI on that full page trade ad you’ve been running for 20 years? How many customers do you get from your annual trade show? Or that direct mail campaign? Is your marketing generating leads? Do you even know?

Take some of those dollars and put them into something small. Create a call to action on your homepage. Drive traffic to a landing page. Build a list of interested prospects. Track it. Find out what works. Get one new customer this way. Then do more. 

You’ll discover that something beats out nothing every time. 

BTW, Andy is our resident expert on direct response and he's got an article planned on its relationship with Inbound.
Check out his blog.

And if you haven't heard about my joint venture with Carole Mahoney, check it out.

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