The biggest leap a company often has to make in its growth, is to actually get effective marketing working.
Many companies start out small with no marketing. Just word of mouth and satisfied customers. I shouldn’t say “just” as that is the core of all business growth. And it is quite an accomplishment getting a company up and running and successful, without some vast budget. So pat yourselves on the back.
Sometimes a business just takes off, seemingly without effort. The company has built a better mousetrap and the world beats a path to their door.
If you are in that category, congratulations, keep it up, relax and enjoy your wealth.
For the rest of us, it is not so easy. Now, if you are happy with the amount of business you are doing, this article is not for you.
If you want to grow, or need to grow, and word of mouth, referrals, satisfied customers and the like aren’t cutting it: Read on.
SO, HOW HARD IS MARKETING ANYWAY?
It’s hard. It often requires quite some persistence.
It is also far from impossible.
Possibly the biggest mistake companies make in approaching marketing, is underestimating how hard it is.
This is not an excuse. It is a fact.
The only times marketing is easy are when someone has already paved the way. Cloning a successful campaign, for the same or a similar product or in a different location, is the very definition of “shooting fish in a barrel.”
So the first lesson is, if someone is already doing it successfully, find out as best you can what they are doing, and if possible, do the same thing. Don’t reinvent the wheel. “Ugho” in 13000 B.C. already did that.
Of course, you may not have the budget to do it, at least not in a big way like Amazon or some such. But even a small-scale imitation campaign can be a big success.
You don’t have to worry about copyright violations or being sued unless you steal their slogan or something like that.
But there are often limitations on how much you can find out.
What if there is no one you can realistically imitate? What do you do?
START SIX MONTHS AGO
I stress time and time again, testing, measuring and revising marketing actions. I’ve seen it take six tries to get it right. And these weren’t dumb, inexperienced people.
If marketing were easy, everyone would be rich, am I right?
So, let’s start with that. What does it tell us?
The first thing it tells us, is if you need to have successful marketing right now, you need to start six months ago.
In the absence of a time machine, you better plan your finances around the idea you’re going to have to live for a while without a major increase in income. Look for the things you can do in the meantime that are getting you business currently. Service your existing customers better, increase your networking activities, whatever’s been working.
I GOT ALL THAT RICH, WHERE TO START?
I’m glad you asked me.
The very first thing to do: Establish what you are going to market.
You may have several products or services. You can’t just market your company or “everything we sell.” That’s a recipe for failure. You have to pick one thing.
I strongly recommend picking something you already have a successful track record of selling.
You are going to be able to answer many questions from the sales history of the item.
Without this you are off into the ozone. The Wild Blue Yonder. It takes then, either extensive surveying / market research, or a lot of tries and failures. Either way, a lot of time and money to get to Square One.
When we went through this cycle ourselves, I looked at the various services we offered. Which was the service most clients purchased FIRST? If you are looking for new business, that’s a critical question. In our case our two major service offerings were websites and internet marketing. In the large majority of cases a website was the first sale. Then, if they were happy, and needed marketing, we got the next sale. So we invested all our effort into marketing our website development services.
QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS
There are several key questions you have to answer to start marketing. You should know, or can figure out most of these if you’ve been selling the item. I’m going to cover two in the rest of this article. We’ll cover more in a future article.
First is, who buys it? This is a categorization of prospects. Without that, you can’t answer any other question.
Again, citing our own experience, this was pretty thoroughly answerable. They were local companies (greater Tampa Bay, extending sometimes to the east coast of Florida and north as far as Ocala and south to Naples / Fort Myers). They were in all sorts of industries, though there were certain industries we really didn’t get work from (government for example).
There was one other very clear common denominator. In almost every case, the clients didn’t have a marketing department. Even the larger companies had maybe one person operating as marketing coordinator or perhaps graphic designer. So usually we were talking to the business owner.
That’s our customer profile. You have yours. Knowing it tells you WHERE to market and HOW TO TALK TO THEM.
I mentioned it above, and this may seem obvious, but it deserves emphasis.
You can’t plan marketing without knowing how much you can spend. So this is question number two. And the only reason it isn’t number one is because sometimes when you get to this point you find you can’t afford to market your number one choice service or product, or to market it to your ideal customer. And you then have to back up and rethink everything.
And when I say how much you can spend, please note this is not, “How much can I spend if the campaign is a spectacular success.” Given the (you might say “pessimistic”) view I present, a better number might be “How much can I afford to spend if my marketing doesn’t bring in a penny extra business for six months.
You know, I’m not just talking the talk. When I started this business, we had no marketing. Almost all of our business came from existing consulting clients and from referrals. I spent plenty of time on the phone calling people asking, “Who do you know.”
When I first started working heavily on our marketing, we had no budget. So our campaign was based on what we could do without spending anything other than time and sweat.
From when we first started working on it, it was 3 months before we got our first lead. It was two more months before we got our first sale.
By having a realistic plan, that first lead and first sale turned into a steady stream of leads and new business that has now sustained this company for more than 12 years.
Now imagine if I had decided, this was all going to work fast, and I dumped a bunch of money I couldn’t afford into it and had to abandon the whole thing after three months? The company wouldn’t have survived. Sure, sometimes it takes a financial stretch to get marketing going. But it isn’t a whole-hearted leap into the unknown.
There are a lot of things that go into successful marketing. Vision and imagination are a definite part of it. So is a steely-eyed assessment of reality.
I wish you all a grand success. These are some of the elements I know to make it happen.