Marketing involves a lot more than selling alone and I would always advocate having some sort of plan of action. This will mean that the entire function of marketing not only has a direction, but is committed to and taken seriously by your organisation. Without the right level of commitment, marketing can quickly become tiresome and could lose the necessary motivation needed to succeed.
Marketing should never be perceived as a cost. The process of marketing should be seen as an investment and you should feel confident that everyone is aware that no quick fix is being attempted, but rather a long-term effort. Marketing requires grafting and although a quick fix is quite often a desirable outcome, marketing can take time to yield. In fact, I was told early in my career that successful brands are measure in decades rather than years.
So, what is the plan? What is it you want to achieve? Doubtless increased sales will figure in your objectives somewhere, but what type of sales? Where would these sales come from – new client acquisition or cross/up selling existing clients? What do you want to tell these people, when and how? What is your “offer” to them? Why would they buy from you?
Yes, there are lot of questions to answer when it comes to planning your marketing, but by peeling back the layers, you’ll be forming that plan. As it starts to come together, you’ll also need to look at other elements like budget, any seasonal fluctuations, the allocation of internal resources etc and this may well require the engagement of an external specialist. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help! Employing an external marketing specialist who will have an independent view of your company and plans can make a huge difference. Make your marketing plan and objectives “SMART.” Simple. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Timed.
Some organisations have an internal marketing function or attempt to cover the area of marketing under “Business Development.” Be warned BD experts are not necessarily marketing experts. BD people (especially from the FMCG sector) are very good relationship builders and “closers.” They are able to build rapor with prospects quickly and gain trust, but they need elements like a strong website, a clear brand, marketing material, an effective communication strategy so that your organisation is seen as a centre of excellence. These elements fall under the heading of effective marketing!
Similarly, I have come across professional services organisations who allocate marketing to a junior partner as some sort of reward (or punishment!). That person then has this additional role tasked to them and then the added pressure of their day job + this new role of marketing. In my experience this doesn’t work well and doesn’t show that commitment I touched on earlier in this article!
When thinking about marketing I would advise that, wherever possible, you try and construct a holistic communications plan that sets out realistic objectives and a strategy to achieve them. There will always be external influences when it comes to achieving objectives so keep an eye on any awareness and/or public barriers that may exist such as the economic climate, new competition entering the market or maybe shifts in consumer trends.
If your organisation is of a certain size, it is essential that your strategy is presented internally so that everyone is in agreement with the plan and knows what the aims are. You’d be surprised how many times we’ve worked with multi site businesses where marketing is directed from a single office and is not passed on internally! After all, every employee has the ability to contribute to the success of the organisation and can play a part in the actual brand.
If, for any reason, there is a degree of uncertainty or any disagreement about the plan or existing perceptions of your company, then maybe look at implementing some sort of research among existing clients as well as an audit with the primary media to gauge levels of awareness and attitudes to the company.
The key to a successful marketing strategy is to set realistic goals and then communicate them and there is no shame in asking for specialist help in this area. I am the first to admit that my company is not a specialist when it comes to IT or accounting so I buy in help . In marketing, whether you are an owner/manager, the MD of a large multi national or head of a marketing department, sometimes an external and unbiased view of where you stand and where you want to be can make the difference as to ultimately whether things the business succeeds or fails.
Not only that, but no company wants to head up a certain path having made a quick decision on its future. This type of approach can be incredibly costly and hard to undo if you get it wrong. Investing in help at the start of the financial year or maybe after a change in trends will likely yield the biggest return.
…..that is the question! For the first time in years, I have genuinely found myself at a slight loss as to what to write about this week. Since 2009, “The Marketing Expert” has written some 180 articles for this Blog; most of which have been dedicated to helping the small to medium business with their marketing by providing tips and/or sharing experiences and the feedback I have had has been incredibly positive so many thanks to my readers and keep the emails coming!
Anyway, I digress. In a nutshell, I have found the marketing industry has changed hugely in recent times and a great deal of initiatives that can now be employed are “free.” This might be considered a good thing by the business owner who can very quickly set up a website, a Twitter account, a Blog, a Linkedin account etc and start their online marketing.
|Leave a good footprint
BUT, with these sorts of platforms being so readily available, I feel it is even more important to make sure that using them becomes a part of an organisation’s overall marketing strategy. Remember, everything one does on the world wide web leaves a footprint which can be seen by anyone or any organisation. This means that the emphasis for leaving a quality footprint is incredibly strong.
So, what does putting a marketing strategy together actually mean and why do I need to do one? Well, the short answer to this is that a marketing strategy is about thinking and planning what your business wants to achieve.
In my opinion, an adhoc, knee jerk marketing campaign very quickly becomes inconsistent, hard to monitor and can yield very little actual value for your business. To me, it is absolutely paramount that any business gives serious thought to exactly what it is offering, to who and why before putting together a logo or any brand identity. In addition, just putting together a quick (cheap!) logo and bunging it up on a WordPress website and then Tweeting is not what I would call a creditable way forward. Cheap can sometimes work out to be very expensive.
My suggestion is to talk to a marketing professional about your plans; bounce ideas off someone so that you have a second opinion. I have lost count of the amount of times I have met a client who has been 6-12 months into their business having jumped straight in with both feet and pulled in every favour possible from friends and relatives who might “know computers” and have now found themselves wanting to back track and do it properly.
Clarity and authenticity are key elements for a business and investing (and I stress the word “investing”) in your business initially by working with a professional could make all the difference.