Small business owners often have a love/hate relationship with marketing.
On one hand, they know it can get results — even if it’s just because they see other businesses marketing successfully.
On the other, a creating a professional marketing strategy may seem like a luxury when you’re overwhelmed each day by the operational needs of your businesses. Some business owners even view marketing as foreign or risky territory if they don’t have a marketing background.
It would be great if new customers simply found out about our businesses on their own so we could focus on closing sales and delivering excellence. And sometimes that does happen.
But without consistent marketing efforts to fill your sales pipeline, that usually isn’t nearly enough. Ignoring marketing — or only paying attention to it sporadically — means taking a big risk with your future cash flow.
It’s time to start taking your marketing seriously, and you can start today.
Subconscious Objections to Marketing
If you’re one of the business owners or leaders who has struggled to market consistently, the first step is to identify what has stopped you in the past.
Do any of these objections resonate with you?
“Small, Scrappy Businesses Don’t Do Professional Marketing”
We all know at least one small business owner who seems to flaunt their lack of marketing acumen.
They may refer somewhat resentfully to those big competitors who have a “flashy marketing department” or “slick ad campaigns.”
This attitude comes from the idea that the best quality products and services get attention on their own from things like word-of-mouth and referrals.
Unfortunately, business owners with this mindset tend to end up with stagnant growth or worse.
If you don’t see yourself as a marketing person, you can change your mindset. Marketing is simply educating your potential customers on how your company can help them. Your future customers need the solution your business has for their problem.You’re doing them a favor by letting them know about it.
Marketing can be done well and affordably for businesses of all sizes, as we’ll discuss later. There are a multitude of approaches to choose from. One will work perfectly for you.
“I Can’t Find the Time for Marketing”
Maybe you’re already convinced that marketing is important, but your plans keep getting pushed to the bottom of your to-do list as you manage the day-to-day.
If you believe that a lack of time is to blame for your lack of marketing, focus on fixing your schedule.
A few solutions to explore:
- Outsource and streamline your business – As we explained in our full post on managing your business backend, there are plenty of tools to help you outsource time-draining tasks in areas such as human resources, accounting and administration. For other options to streamline your business, check out this post.
- Get your staff involved in marketing – You don’t need to hire someone dedicated to marketing (although that might be a great option for you) to get the help you need. Distributing marketing responsibilities among your existing staff makes marketing a company-wide priority. Incorporating your whole team means you get buy-in, assistance and accountability.
- Make marketing a manageable part of your everyday routine – Adding your marketing tasks to your daily routine makes it more likely to happen regularly, even when you’re busy. If you don’t know where you’ll fit it in, try adding it to something already in your schedule. Do you already have a daily staff meeting? Put it on the agenda permanently.
“I take advantage of marketing opportunities as they come up.”
Some businesses will happily sponsor a local youth sports team when asked, or buy an ad in the local news when it’s on sale.
These types of marketing efforts don’t usually directly hurt your business. However, when marketing is too random and spontaneous, it uses money ineffectively — and you only have so many marketing dollars to spend.
You need a focused strategy. Take some time to think through what you expect to gain from your marketing using the steps below.
Building a marketing strategy
The term “marketing” can include anything from creating a business Instagram page to handing out a printed flier to upgrading the physical signs on your building. It’s no wonder so many business owners don’t know exactly where to start.
However, it’s not too complicated when you start with clear objectives and work back from them.
1. Identify Your General Goals
As we mentioned on our post on business goal setting, you’ll never know if you’ve succeeded if you don’t know what success means.
You probably already have an idea of where your businesses is struggling when it comes to marketing. However, it may also help to think of your goals in terms of your sales pipeline.
A sales pipeline, sometimes called a sales funnel or marketing funnel, is basically the process your potential customers go through on their journey to becoming your customer. You can read a great summary of what “funnel” means in the marketing world in this Digital Marketer article, but most marketing experts identify four general stages in a sales pipeline: awareness, interest, decision, and action.
Does a certain part of your funnel have a blockage?
Maybe you know that too many of your prospects are choosing competitors in their final decision-making stage. A possible marketing goal could be something like this: In the next six months, we will increase the percentage of prospects that eventually become clients by 20%
You can insert your own numbers to make the goal clear, measurable, and attainable.
Identify Your KPIs
“Key performance indicators” is a business term for the metrics that tell you whether you’re on track with your business goals.
If, like in the example above, your problem is too many prospects choosing competitors, your KPI could be percentage of clients who went on to purchase the product after their free trial.
You can choose one or more KPIs for each goal you’ve set.
Choose Your Tactics
There’s not a one-size-fits-all set of marketing tactics that will influence the KPIs you’ve chosen to focus on.
Keep in mind that the more focused you can be with your tactics, the easier it will be to measure success. If a certain tactic doesn’t seem to be affecting your KPI, you can move along to a different one.
Tactics for improving the conversion rate from free trial prospects to clients could be any of the following:
- Enroll free trial members into an email autoresponder that addresses common questions
- Schedule a series of follow up calls with the customers who enroll in the free trial
- Delve into research on your competitors and present your advantages more clearly to those who sign up for the free trial
- Educate sales staff on how your service compares to competitors so they can educate your potential clients
If those tactics don’t budge the rate, the problem may be something else: Maybe you’re attracting the wrong type of prospect to enroll in the free trial in the first place, for example. But the beauty is that by getting specific with your goals, making those goals a staff-wide priority, and choosing measurable efforts to try to address them, you have some real data to work with.