Are you spending money on marketing and not sure why? Have you decided it isn’t working and sales are the only way to grow your business? Is the thought of social media overwhelming and seems like a waste of time?
Unless you are a medium- to large-sized company with a hefty marketing budget, a team of professional and a mountain of positive analytics that show success, you probably fall into one of these three categories:
Anything sound familiar?
Marketing is difficult. Sure, if you are a seasoned marketing executive or long-time business growth expert, this might seem like an overstatement. For the rest of us this is just the plain truth.
The typical successful business owner or executive is good at their business; they are good at delivering a great product or service. I work with doctors who are great at practicing medicine, educators who are changing the way kids learn and real estate professionals who are evolving our markets and how we do business. You are an expert at your profession and you should not be expected to be just as adept at marketing your business. Today’s marketing climate is complex, time consuming and rapidly changing.
You know how to be great at your business, but do you really know how to find more clients or revenue? Do you know how to get to these buyers? Do you realize that consumers use the internet to finalize almost all purchase decisions? Is your business digitally ready to close the sale? I can’t count the number of business owners I have met with that have an amazing product or service, but really don’t know how to get more customers on an ongoing basis or repeatedly maintain sales.
Getting customers is the secret sauce to business success and there are two ways to do it: sales and marketing. While sales are incredibly important and I could write thousands of words on it, let’s focus on marketing.
Marketing is the process and tools that we can use to amplify the sales of your product or service.
While marketing may not result in a direct sale, it is the only way (other than word of mouth or shopping) to get more people to learn about what you do. (A reminder that marketing and sales conversions are two different animals; marketing gets people to the store, it will not make them buy what you are selling.)
Marketing is technical, complicated and requires a creative AND practical method to succeed. Great design means nothing without a delivery strategy. A high tech digital presence means nothing if it is too tedious for your clients to navigate. PR is a waste of time if you don’t have a great digital strategy to capture the new audience.
Marketing is complicated because in today’s environment you must consider some or all of the following as platforms to amplify your business. And THEN you have to figure out how they will work for you and why.
Overwhelmed? Ready to think about how to get some help? Wondering why your current marketing team or agency isn’t walking through all of these items with you and relating it to top line growth? There is a reason for that too.
To successfully market your business we (the collective for whomever is doing your marketing) have to know your business inside and out. If we don’t understand your product, your service, your goals, your processes or your customers, it is impossible to successfully market your business. We have to know where your customers (or target) are and why they buy.
I believe that my agency does well because my background is growing businesses. I spent years working with CEO’s and learning how to grow businesses using planning, people, tools, sales and most recently, marketing. I’m not a seasoned marketer. I’m passionate about growing businesses and marketing just happens to be my tool of choice.
Most marketing and PR agencies don’t understand how to grow businesses. They know how to build tools or ads, maybe run your Facebook for you or get you some local PR in the paper, but they don’t really know how to connect business strategy to marketing.
Marketing cannot just be a print ad, email newsletter, Facebook business page or website. It has to be a combination of the right tools with the right purpose. We need to cross leverage marketing investments to ensure we are maximizing the ROI of each.
When you are ready to commit to investing in marketing to grow your business, you have two options for how to succeed at it.
#1 – Hire a strategic marketer
Strategic marketers are not PR experts, designers or social media “experts.” They are business people that understand business goals and how to create a plan to deliver on that goal. Strategic marketers will take the time to learn your business from end to end. They must understand your revenue generation cycle as it stands today and then work with you to create a plan for taking it to the next level. Market dynamics, sales conversion process, sales cycle, competition, service delivery, branding, pricing and market demand should all be considered as part of your marketing plan.
If you are spending marketing dollars without this level of planning and analysis, you should start donating the budget to a great nonprofit instead. Not to mention, you need to be sure that you have a product or service that is in demand. Marketing is not difficult for companies that have great products and services. If you are having a hard time expanding your market or generating a repeatable service model, you might have to evaluate if you even have something that people want to buy.
#2 – Learn to be a strategic marketer
At least 50 percent of the business owners / executives that I have met with went into business without a media strategy for how they would grow. Reliance on word of mouth and sales only for growth is not a long range growth plan and we usually find that while they have experienced some success through their referral engine, business drops off at some point.
Great marketing includes an assessment and plan. Where is your business today, where do you want to go, exactly how will you get there and how much are you going to invest in it? You have to invest to grow. We recently worked with a company that had a goal of $35,000 to $50,000 a month in new revenue (service business). They spend $6,000 to $8,000 a month in digital ads + a retainer for us to run the digital ads, manage social media, create blog content and email marketing. They spend an average of 35 percent of target revenue on marketing. May seem like a high percentage for some businesses, but this is also a retainer-based business and many of these clients stay on for several months or years.
You have to spend money to make money.
Photo credit: Flickr user mkhmarketing. Used with permission through Creative Commons.