How To Spend $400/mo. on Marketing

This was the question I got from an Edge member in a complimentary call today. Specifically, she was interested in advertising in a magazine called “Top Producer” that is sent to 500 of the top real estate agents in major markets. She was considering a 1/3 page ad for $400/mo on a three-year contract. The magazine also offers periodic networking events. It is free to the realtors, meaning that it is paid for by advertisers of all stripes who are trying to reach realtors.

I had some specific and some generic marketing advice for her and I’ll share some of that with you.

  1. She’s a sole practitioner and I consider $400/mo a reasonable marketing budget, though it could be scaled up when some form of return-on-investment can be documented.
  2. I believe in paying up to a 20% premium to maintain flexibility, so I would rather pay $480/mo for a one-year contract than $400/mo for a three-year contract. That is, if I was going to choose this source at all.
  3. Before making any marketing investment, you should always force yourself to consider three alternative ways to spend the same amount of money. Only then can you make a “best choice.”
  4. I like to see a minimum return on investment of 5:1. (10:1 is better!) In this case, spending $4,800 a year suggests that it must result in margin dollars (time billings plus gross profit on merchandise) of at least $24,000. Fortunately for most designers that’s only a handful of jobs, possibly even just one.

I told her that I could never recommend something that I didn’t have case studies from other Edge members for, and I’m not aware of success with this particular magazine. I pointed out that even though I’m not the biggest fan of Houzz, I do know of quite a few Edge members who have received good leads from paid placements. (Though there seems to be a recent decline in their enthusiasm.)

Consider a Quarterly Budget Instead of Monthly

So, we started to discuss alternatives, and for me that always leads to a gifting or event strategy, or at least those are two things to consider. Because of the time some of these efforts can consume, I suggested she shift her monthly focus to quarterly, spending $1,200 a quarter instead of $400/mo. This way she could spend a week focusing on execution and be done with it for a couple of months.

And, with a $1,200 quarterly budget, she can now do something truly attention-getting. She could, for example, identify the ten top builders and/or architects in her region and spend up to $100 on each of them. That sort of gift (two bottles of wine, sports or theater tickets, a watch, custom pen, etc.) will break through the clutter and will get noticed. Based on the psychological principles of reciprocity, you will almost certainly get a “thank you” response as well.

These high-end “branded gifts” don’t need to be as specific in their call to action or deadlines as a direct mail piece would, but there’s no harm in asking for some time together to discuss “the current trends in our market,” or whatever topic you choose.

Don’t Miss “Gifting” at IDEAS 2019

This Edge member decided to go with the gifting strategy and promised to keep me updated. I also promised her that I was adding this topic to our IDEAS Conference, November 14-15, 2019. If you have successfully implemented a gifting strategy, I’ll want you to share it with the membership during that great event.

NEW - IDMBA Program

Learn about the new Interior Design MBA - one academic program to deliver the complete business education interior designers need.