So you’ve been doing really well. Business has been growing steadily, but now you want to go to the next level. It’s time to stretch the business beyond its current comfort zone.
That could be a simple case of growing the revenue with your existing product, but it might also be you looking to diversify into new products in order to attract new customers, simply creating deeper marketing penetration.
Whatever it is, it’s taking your business to the next level in terms of increasing your revenue.
You’re all excited, but then someone says the dreaded words………..
‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to need to some marketing.’
Marketing has a bad reputation, for many reasons, not least because it seems so expensive, it takes up lots of time and often doesn’t work.
So, I’ve taken a few of the key things that feel like barriers and given a few thoughts around each one. Enjoy the read!
1) We’ve done marketing before, it just hasn’t worked
Yes you probably have, and it may well not have worked. But what’s the reason behind the failure?
One travel agent I know was doing lots of marketing. He had the best situation, suppliers were giving him money to create the advertising, they’d even provide him with creative if he wanted it. It was great! But it wasn’t working to drive business into the shops.
Why wasn’t his marketing working?
Well one of the reasons was that the marketing he was doing was focussed on his suppliers not his customers.
He was using someone else’s advertisement with his logo to promote his travel agency. In his head it was great. His customers were able to see the great companies that they could go on holiday with, and he got cheap advertising.
But that isn’t why his customers came to his travel agency.
They came for the personal service, for the recommendations that were appropriate to them. They didn’t really care about the cruise company in the advert.
They just wanted the best cruising holiday they could within their budget. So the supplier ad just didn’t speak to them, and they didn’t come to the shop.
The importance of understanding your customers
A focus on talking to his customers and understanding what appealed to them, meant he could start to focus his advertising so he upped his budget, and focused on what he could offer the customer. Suddenly things got much better, people understood what the travel agency offered, and footfall started to increase.
Often the failure of marketing is not understanding what appeals to your customer. It is all too easy to focus on the features and benefits of your product. However, it is customers who buy the product.
Make sure you understand their needs, and their pain points. The marketing will become much more focussed.
2) We simply don’t have the budget to start marketing
The reality is that marketing is an investment. In the same way you invest in computers, you need to invest in marketing. But the key to making that investment worth it is by making sure you set things up right in the first place to make sure any subsequent work is cost effective and gives you a return on investment.
The temptation with marketing is always to go for the tactics first. How can I solve the problem I have? Will emails work, maybe I should try Google Adwords etc etc.
But what you’re doing is working out the solution to the problem before you actually understand the problem. A recent architecture client wanted to increase the average level of spend per client by up to 50%. They were very firm in who they were going to target for this and what areas it should be in.
The power of research
However, I persuaded them that before we progressed into the tactics we do some market research.
That research showed that the target audience with the cash to spend where completely different to who they were expecting. They weren’t families but empty nesters. Similarly, the area they were targeting didn’t have the house prices which would justify the spend they were looking for. So the focus shifted 25 miles east where there was.
We put together a new strategy based around this research. Some additional competitor research also showed us how they could differentiate themselves. It meant that their marketing could be much more targeted and focussed.
The cost benefits of a marketing strategy
With this client, we didn’t increase their marketing budget, what we did was refocus it. With a clear strategy and target audience, we could focus on key tactics that would work for them and then drop off ones that weren’t working, or weren’t going to be suitable for the new target audience.
The result? The ability to do their marketing without spending any more than they already were.
Research is an upfront time expenditure. However, it often pays dividends and means that you don’t waste money chasing the wrong people.
3) There are just so many things we could do, where do we start?
It’s true that since the introduction of Digital Marketing the number of options you have has gone through the roof!
You’ve got email, banner ads, google ads, Facebook, social media, video and then people are going on about AI, influencers etc etc – what the hell are they?
And then there’s all the other things we could do advertising, networking, direct mail, door drops.
Aaarggghhh – where to start?
The key is to have a focus.
That focus comes, amongst other things, from having marketing objectives linked to your business objectives so that you know what you need to achieve and you can decide what will work best to achieve that.
It comes from an understanding of how your business is working at the moment. How do customers go through the purchase cycle.
I had one client who ran an e-book creator – you upload your pdf to the system and then it creates a book you can share on your website and in your marketing. His aim? To increase the number leads coming to his website and he had £5,000 to spend for the year.
Now here’s the thing. When I started researching the market, it became very obvious he was a very small fish in a very very big pond. In order to generate leads, he was competing against companies that could afford to spend thousands per month and in truth with just £5,000 for the year, he would never get any traction.
So I did some investigation into his sales funnel. Looking at his data, it turned out that getting leads wasn’t actually an issue. For his size, and given he wasn’t spending anything on advertising, he was getting a really good number of visitors to his website.
A problem with conversions not leads
Where the issue was, was in conversions. So that’s what we developed as the marketing objective. To increase conversions to sale.
That meant creating a series of emails. Just one tactic amongst the many, costing nothing because he could do it in-house, managed to double his monthly revenue.
4) Where are we going to find the time to do marketing?
Well the chances are that you already have one or two team members looking at marketing – doing your social media posts for example.
In a similar way to finding budget, once you’ve invested in your marketing strategy and put together the communications plan then often those people can execute it.
One other solutions is to hire a marketing manager to deliver it. But a word of caution, be realistic in your expectations.
My brother in law came to me and asked me to review a job spec for a marketing manager. That job spec read like this.
We need someone to:
Create the marketing strategy
Create designs for all the print material
Manage and implement the promotional calendar
Manage the website, social media, digital, evaluating and updating regularly
Co=ordinate charity campaigns
Implement in-store promotions
Manage the customer communications
Work with local branch managers
And the list went on
He is not alone in developing this type of job spec, and I see it time and again. The problem is that you are ultimately setting that person up for failure.
Why? Because this person is going to deliver what they can, but the responsibility for the overall strategy has been delegated to them.
They can run around, doing all of these things, but if they don’t have clarity on the overall aims of the business’s marketing they will struggle to do things right.
Marketing strategy should be set at board level
It should be done in conjunction with your business aims and ambitions. That strategy should be clear on what the market is, who the audience is, who the competitors are and how the business can differentiate itself in the market. It should also have clear marketing objectives to meet the business objectives required.
If you have that in place, then a marketing manager can look at what needs to be implemented to meet those objectives. They have a basis on which to build. They can be held accountable.
Similarly, if you choose to use outside suppliers, they can be briefed clearly and you will get much better results from your spend.
He heeded my advice and got a consultant in to set the high-level strategy and plan that could be owned by his brother who covered the marketing function. They have then got the existing team on board and they are delivering the marketing plan.
So there you go, lots of objections, but examples of how they can be overcome. The key is to keep things simple.
you have a top level strategy in place
you understand your market and your target audience
you align your marketing objectives with your business objectives
these are all agreed at board level
Then let you team do their stuff! Everyone wants to develop.
Why not help your team develop their marketing skills so that they can go on to run your marketing department as you grow even bigger.