BY VALERIE MILLER  Las Vegas Business Press:

Most businesses want to generate as many customers as possible, but a “cast-a-wide-net” approach to spending hard-earned advertising dollars may not be the best way to attract new business.

A local consultant believes his 12-step Marketing Anonymous program can help businesspeople better handle marketing expenditures.

“Small businesses spend way too much money. They send out large mailers to everyone,” said Shaundell Newsome, founder of Newsome Marketing. The Air Force veteran says his program helps instill marketing discipline in his clients.

The keys to his program — and to any successful business — are understanding your business and your customers. Learning about pricing, distribution and a firm’s strengths and weaknesses are equally critical, Newsome said.

He devised the idea for the 12-step program after witnessing his clients’ confusion about what they should and shouldn’t do to promote their companies.

“I’d ask, ‘Are you here to do a brochure or an ad campaign?’ And most people didn’t even know,” he said. “They were coming here and asking advice and saying, ‘I went to college, and college told me this.'”

Marketing Anonymous tries to dispel misconceptions. The idea that only big companies can brand themselves, for instance, just isn’t so, said Newsome. Small companies can make a name for themselves much the way PepsiCo Inc. or Coca-Cola did.

Newsome said he learned about building relationships with customers while he was managing Station Casinos’ rewards center. He was part of the marketing team that developed the casino company’s Boarding Pass program.

From that experience, he learned that even small companies can build ties through more moderate means such as mailings, company Web sites or customer tracking.

Newsome works with the Valley Center Opportunity Zone and the Nevada Small Business Development Center to offer his services to local businesspeople. He brings in outside consultants as needed and contracts out for graphic designers when necessary. That way he can charge as little as possible for his services.

Newsome said businesspeople need to know that little things, like an ad’s color scheme, can have a big impact on attracting a customer’s attention. A lack of customer response to ads may relate more to a marketing campaign than the quality of a business, he said.

“Typically, some people feel it is about them, but really it is about the audience you target,” he said.

And that audience can make or break an otherwise good business venture.

Newsome has seen a few whopping mistakes, he said, such as a high-end children’s clothier that neglected to study its market before opening shops.

“They opened in a neighborhood for people 50 and up,” he said. “If you are trying to sell children’s clothing and most of those households don’t even have children, who are you going to send (advertising) to in your target market?”

Business owners’ failure to study their market is a problem all too familiar to the U.S. Small Business Administration, district director John Scott said.

Too often, entrepreneurs get so excited about launching their businesses that they fail to secure those businesses’ long-term survival, Scott said.

“They build a house without a solid foundation,” he said.

Terry DeWaal has survived for three decades as owner of Advanced Autodynamics. Recently he was thinking of lowering his prices and giving away free oil changes to keep up with discount mechanics such as Pep Boys.

Newsome convinced DeWaal that freebies were not the way to go. Instead, he advised that branding and marketing his business for its quality service would prove more effective.

DeWaal took the advice. He has seen a jump in business since his first meeting with Newsome 18 months ago.

“(Business has) probably doubled,” the owner said.

So has his marketing budget, but DeWaal says he is spending it in the right place now. His average customer-acquisition cost is $500, but the mechanic has seen that drop to $77 because of some of Newsome’s suggested marketing methods.

Putting up a Web site and sending a newsletter to customers were some of the methods Newsome stressed. DeWaal can see the difference today.

He is adding a new employee at a typically slow time for mechanics.

“I should be laying people off now,” he said, “but I’m not.”