Here’s a scenario for you … you decide to throw a party that everyone will remember and talk about. There’ll be loads of drink, fantastic food, great atmosphere, and conversation!
Now imagine doing that without some sort of plan? There’s no guest list (maybe you tell one or two people and hope they invite their friends), no ideas about what food you’re going to do or drink you’re going to buy. You just pop down the local supermarket on the day and get whatever they have on special offer that day and hope you can throw something together.
Given this scenario, I want you to imagine the type of party it will be now. Would you really rely on one or two people to get a bunch of the most fun, outgoing, and best party guests to your house? Would you get food without some sort of menu, and a shopping list? Of course, you wouldn’t. So then, why would you run a business in the same manner?
Vision but no direction
Yet, that is exactly what many small business owners do every day. They have a vision for a business: offering the best product or service, standing out from the competition, and serving lots of happy, satisfied customers who talk about their business for years.
But instead of mapping out a planned direction for achieving all of this, they go to work every day and primarily:
- work IN their business,
- deliver the best they can manage
- buy whatever advertising is cheap or seems like a good idea at the time
- attend events because they think they should
This they are hoping will attract the right kind of customers who appreciate their work and are willing to pay a decent price for their product or service. And then they expect those customers to tell anyone and everyone about them, without teaching them how to refer the right kind of customer (Think party guests!).
The simple fact is doing whatever is easy and buying cheap marketing, counting on a few people to spread the word might get you minimal results, but are they the results you want to build a long-lasting business?
Just like that party, you can’t build a successful business without a plan. You need to outline a strategy: understanding who would make the best customers? Whom do you want to invite to do business with you? What will you offer? How will you package it? How will you deliver it? How will you promote it?
Develop your marketing strategy
I believe there is a straightforward process to develop your marketing strategy – by strategy I mean the what, who, how, why, where and when – by setting categories and asking yourself the following questions:
- What makes you different/unique?
- How are you better than your competitors?
- What makes you an expert?
- Where do you ‘sit’ in the marketplace – budget end, middle or expensive?
- Are you trying to raise awareness?
- Do you want to establish trust/credibility with customers?
- Are you targeting a specific sector or sectors?
- Are you simply trying to grow and increase revenue?
- Who are your competitors?
- What share of the market do you want and how does that compare?
- Do you have a niche product or service that’s better than your competitors (and why)?
- How are you different?
Once you have answered those question, do a good old fashioned SWOT analysis to identify your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats … be very honest.
This will tell you where you think your business is now and where you want it to be going forward.
Strategy to plan
Using what you now know, you need to investigate what marketing approaches/options you need to use to attract and keep prospective customers … this will be your marketing plan.
Consider what you want from your activities in six months or so, and then work back looking at the best ways to achieve this.
Try and ensure the activities you use are measurable so you can understand what works and what doesn’t, so you don’t waste time and money and be flexible enough to change your plan to suit the market.
You could use a mix of:
- Website optimisation
- Social media
- Direct mail & Newsletters
- Email marketing
- Print & Online Advertisements
There are many more options and to a degree it will be trial and error to find out what works best for you to achieve your marketing strategy objectives.
Speak to an Expert
As a business owner have you been doing all the marketing ‘in-house’ hoping that what you do will work? Or have you used a marketing agency who promised loads and delivered little?
Well, the good news is that you can generate considerable increases in the quantity and quality of enquiries into your business with a co-ordinated, measurable marketing strategy aligned to your business objectives.