Marketing is a funny thing. On the one hand, it looks so simple – anyone can write an article and send an email these days. And with all the great online tools, it should be easier than ever before to promote your business. Right? Wrong.
The problem is that all the fancy online tools in the world won’t help you if you don’t have a good strategy in place. And the best strategy won’t get you anywhere unless you are willing to put in the time, effort and money required to implement it properly.
I sometimes liken it to going to the gym once, and wondering why you aren’t fit and fabulous yet. No one would expect that to work! And yet, when it comes to marketing, there is a tendency to try something once, not be blown away by the influx of fantastic new clients, and therefore decide that a) that tactic doesn’t work, and/or b) marketing doesn’t work.
Instead, just like getting fit, successful marketing requires constant activity and attention, even when there are a million other things you would rather be doing. Just as there are days when even the most ardent gym junkie would rather sloth on the couch, there are days when writing a blog post or thinking of things to put on twitter this week is the last thing that I want to do. But success requires consistency, so I sigh deeply, make myself a coffee, and sit down and get on with it. And just like going to the gym, once I get going, it’s usually fine.
The good news though is that there is still the opportunity to make marketing less ‘brain-intensive’, by scheduling activity. And I don’t just mean twitter posts.
The annual plan
Firstly, you should have some sort of annual plan. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should set out your goals for the year (for instance number of leads, number of new clients etc) and how you plan to get there. And then, and here’s the important part, schedule an hour each quarter (preferably with the other people in your business) to review how the plan is going and what specific activity you are going to undertake in the next quarter. I like to do this:
- April to June – What are we doing? What results are we getting? Is there anything that we should change?
- July to Sept – What do we need to do now to get set up for success next quarter
- Oct to Dec – What are we going to focus on, what (at a high level) are the activities we are going to undertake? Is there anything strategic we want to get done over the Christmas break?
- Jan to March – How did we go last year and what should we repeat/do more of and what are some ideas for things we could do this year.
This way, your annual plan gets reviewed and updated every quarter, and assists you to move forward, rather than gathering dust in a filing cabinet somewhere.
So we have an annual plan, and quarterly meetings. Next, add in weekly ‘work in progress’ meetings (which should be fairly brief) to check that everything is on track and happening as planned. This might sound like a lot of work (and meetings) but just like going to the gym, if you want to get fit, you need to put in the effort. And really, 30 minutes per week, in order to grow your business, is not such a big ask. If your response is to tell me that the whole team is already working 60 hours a week and can’t fit another meeting in, then that is a whole different conversation about staffing levels, time management, effectiveness of output, etc.
The calendar is your friend
Back to marketing, and speaking of scheduling, if your plan includes writing a blog every month, then put a few hours in your diary every month as a recurring meeting, so that the time is scheduled and you don’t have to remember to write it. If you find it difficult to think about what to write, consider scheduling 30 minutes a few days prior to think of some ideas that you could write about. Of course, if you follow the quarterly model above, you will already have thought about the blog posts, and will just need to sit down and write them.
If you are reading this and thinking, that all makes sense, but I haven’t got the first clue about what goes into a marketing strategy, then you could consider getting some outside assistance. The issue here is that high-quality marketing strategies aren’t cheap. I fully understand as a small business owner myself that handing over wads of cash is painful to say the least. However, heart palpitations aside, let’s look at the numbers.
Marketing as an investment, not a cost
Let’s say you are quoted $30,000 for a quality marketing strategy. Now, before you fall on the ground in shock, try to think of the money as an investment in your business, rather than a straight up cost (or as someone said ‘that’s my wife’s new car!’). If your average fees are $1,000 per year, then the marketing strategy needs to help you find 30 new clients to pay for itself … in the first year. If your average fees are more like $2,000, then only 15 new clients are required.
If there is simply no way that you are going to sign up for that level of investment, then consider sending a staff member on a marketing training course, and developing the skills in-house. There are many high-quality training courses available, and of course there are many online courses as well. Note that I suggested a staff member rather than you, the business owner. I say this because a) it’s a great way for your people to broaden their skill base and b) business owners generally already have way too much to do.
So, in summary, get a plan and get it in the diary! By breaking it down into manageable segments, you have a much better chance of undertaking the required activity, and therefore growing your business. Good luck!
Sarah Penn, director, Mayflower Consulting