As business owners, we're happy to be working away in our own little worlds. Doing our thing, many of us, without realising what business we're really in! Without knowing it, you're in the marketing business! xxxxxx marketing business xxxxxxx
That statement may sound a little silly. After all, if you're an accountant, you're in the accounting business; as a plumber - you install heating, fix leaks; a florist - you sell flower arrangements. Your "thing" is what you do - you're not a marketer - right?
Wrong, I'm afraid. As business owners, our first and biggest concern is getting customers. After all, you could be the best accountant, best plumber or florist, but without paying customers, you don't get to have a business.
You're really in the marketing business!
Still don't believe that you're in the marketing business? That's ok and it's understandable. When we've been in business for a while, it's easy to loose sight of the really important stuff. You get too busy in the nuts and bolts of your business, doing the tax returns, fixing the leaks, making the bouquets, we get stuck in a routine.
It's probably easier to take you back to the start. Think back to when you first struck out on your own. You decided that you wanted to work for yourself, instead of labouring for someone else. What was the most important thing you had to do?
Getting that first customer! then the second one, and the third, etc... Back then you were really only in the marketing business, but didn't know it.
Do you remember that? The most important thing you had to do when you started out was getting your customers. Because without paying customers, you would have burned through any savings you had, and then it would be back to square one!
When we get a bit of momentum going, our priorities change and our focus moves to getting work done for those customers or getting product delivered. The focus moves to being more operational - doing our thing!
Now some businesses are better than others at keeping a close eye on making sure there is a regular flow of new customers. They're advertising in the papers, maybe running Facebook competitions, doing adwords... But in the end, even these are mostly just advertising and hoping for the best.
If you'll accept that as a business owner, you need to get enquiries, convert enough of them to customers, and hopefully keep them coming back again and again - then you're in the marketing business by default.
The really smart and very successful business owners in any business understand this. They know that getting leads is important, they know that converting a decent percentage of those leads to customers is more important. But the most successful know that retaining those customers is where the greatest benefit is.
Small business owners are missing a trick
Most small business owners aren't thinking about marketing their business. They're thinking about cash-flow, keeping the lights on, paying the wages at the end of the month. They're too busy working in their businesses to make time for marketing! "I haven't time or money for marketing" is a common complaint.
There's a reluctance in small business to even acknowledge the role of marketing, let alone embrace it. The very mention of it is an immediate turn off to many. I think advertising sales people have a lot to answer for this and that coupled with the lack of understanding of what marketing really is.
Too many people confuse marketing with advertising, believing them to be one in the same. Many people have been sold advertising that hasn't worked. They've spent a fortune on yellow/golden pages ads or newspaper advertising that hasn't generated enough business to pay for the ads, let alone make a profit.
So the experience of 'Advertising = loosing money", to many, means Marketing is bad!
[note that advertising is but one tactic in the marketing toolkit, just like a website, or email, or a business card]
On top of that, we've all experienced the high pressure sales tactics of advertising people. Great deals, discounted rate cards, last minute cancellations, constant phone calls to close the sale (verging on harassment) - all leaves us with a bad taste for sales and selling. So sales is a bad word to many too!
Add to those criticisms, the complaint that marketing/advertising is expensive. Which, for many who've done advertising is true, because most advertising is done badly and then flops. Advertising that doesn't pay for itself and generate a profit is expensive!
However, if we do advertising that pays it's way and is able to generate a nice profit - it should be repeated over and over, as long as it continues to make profit. But that's probably not the way you're looking at it right now? It's likely that you're looking at advertising (remember it's only one aspect of marketing) as an overhead and maybe as a necessary evil?
On top of that, most business owners don't, or rather can't track a sale back to an advert, or an exhibition, or a radio ad. Just think, when was the last time you called a business and was asked "how did you hear about us?"
So if you don't know where you're customers are finding you, how do you know what's working and what's not? You can't. You might guess, but you don't know!
Marketing strategy before tactics
If you've read the last few lines and are starting to feel a bit guilty - don't. Most small businesses take a hope and pray approach to advertising/marketing. Many if asked, will tell you that they don't do any marketing, that their business comes mostly from word of mouth or from the web. Few if any will be able to tell you the cost of a lead/enquiry, or the cost of a customer.
Rarely is there any follow up with enquiries that didn't turn into customers after one attempt. More rare again is the business animal that follows up and maintains a relationship with a customer after the sale is completed.
There is an alternative to hope and pray! You should get yourself into the marketing business in your business.
You could develop a marketing strategy for your business. One that uses as many methods as possible and as are cost effective to generate leads. A strategy that understands that not every enquiry is ready or able to buy right now and that you could nurture these leads until they are ready or able to buy.
A marketing strategy will understand how much it costs to generate a lead and a customer and will know who their idea customer is. not everyone who contacts your business is a good fit. a marketing strategy will help attract your ideal customers and repel those who are definitely not a fit for you.
So a marketing strategy helps you understand who your ideal customer is, therefore you'll need to create an offer or a message that appeals to them, and it will help guide where you put that message so it's seen by your ideal customer. The who, the why and the where!
My parting thought on this, though far from it being my final thought on the subject, is that a good marketing strategy will help you to retain your customers and help make disciples of them.
Now, go forth and spread the marketing word! You're definitely in the marketing business