Every entrepreneur, at some point along their journey growing a small business, realises they need marketing, but most know little to nothing about it. Unlike established brands or big companies who focus on brand awareness, your only priority should be making a profit.
As a small-business owner, it’s hard to see a return on investment when you are constantly chasing the next big thing in marketing, or what I like to call shiny object syndrome.
Think of it like this. You created a website because some expert said you needed one. A fellow businessman had great success with Facebook advertising, so you thought you’d try it. Countless articles online argue that you need to put your spending into Google Adwords and SEO if you want to reach your target audience. So you give it a go.
But unless you understand what each piece in your marketing puzzle is meant to do, without a strategy in place, investing in digital and traditional advertising won’t yield the leads you need.
If you’re serious about marketing on purpose, you need a clearly defined strategy and the right tactics. Let’s get into what these are.
Strategy versus tactics
You need both to turn a profit in marketing.
Marketing your business is much like building a house, because you need an architectural blueprint to ensure success. I’d liken getting planning permissions and determining where you place your walls to your marketing strategy. This is what we call ‘big-picture planning’.
- Who is your target market?
- Where do they live?
- What media do they consume?
- What message would compel them to contact you?
- How will you take them through the customer journey to becoming a lifelong brand advocate?
This is the most important phase in mapping out your marketing strategy. Get this wrong and your marketing won’t work. So you really need to be clear about who you’re marketing to.
Sticking with the analogy, I’d liken the type of building materials you use and the specialists you hire to tactics. So whether you choose to advertise on Instagram, develop a website, implement SEO and pay per click, create a brochure, whatever, these are just the tactics you’ll use to get your message to market.
You can’t have one without the other.
A marketing plan is useless if you don’t implement it, and similarly, plugging your dollars into tactics won’t reap big rewards if you haven’t got a sound strategy in place.
You’ll never win in marketing if you treat it like a series of one-night stands
The pleasure of seeing your advert up on a billboard or in a magazine is short-lived if you never hear from prospects. It’s down-right depressing. I know. Been there, done that, lost a lot of money.
Marketing without a plan is like randomly picking up dates in a bar, hoping to strike it lucky and find the one. Your score rate is going to be really low.
It needs to be highly targeted. You need to know who your prospect is, where they hang out, and what would compel them to give you more than a glance.
Unfortunately, many small-business owners market by accident.
They put together a run-of-the-mill advert that, quite honestly, will bore you to tears. It consists of their business name, contact number, logo, a laundry list of services offered, some kind of best practice claim, and an offer.
They place it in a magazine or online and hope that their prospects will see it and take action. In truth, you might get lucky and a qualified prospect will stumble across your advert, but this is entirely accidental.
In every sense, the marketing they’ve implemented is a failure, but because the owner made one sale they’re terrified not to keep doing it.
You don’t need to think of marketing like a slot machine where the odds are stacked against you. Instead, treat it like a vending machine where the results and value generated are predictable.
You’re not a Nike or Apple, so stop marketing like one
Many entrepreneurs think that mimicking their marketing on what big business or established brands are doing — say Coca-Cola, Apple or McDonald’s — is the key to their success.
The problem with this strategy is these brands have very different goals to small-business owners, different timelines, and very different marketing budgets.
These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Winning advertising and creative awards;
- Going viral;
- Satisfying existing clients’ preconceptions;
- Appeasing shareholders; and
- Making a profit.
It’s all ego-based advertising. Their focus is on brand awareness, not sales. It’s more about saying, ‘hey, look at what we have for you now’ or ‘look at what we did’.
There’s no doubt this type of marketing is effective, however, it is costly to successfully pull off and takes a lot of time — something that small businesses simply don’t have. You need customers now.
It’s why you’re far better off using direct response marketing. This type of marketing is designed to evoke a response and compel prospects to take action, such as opting into an email list or giving you a call.
- It’s ‘money at a discount’.
- It targets a niche audience.
- It makes a special offer and demands a response which means you get to build a database of qualified leads.
- You can also track and measure the success of your campaign.
It’s the only way for small-business owners to affordably reach their prospects and get a good return on investment. So this is a much better strategy than a brand-awareness campaign.
To recap, random acts of marketing will only hurt your business. You need to know who your target audience is, what media they consume, and what message would compel them to act before creating marketing material. You also need to understand what each piece in your marketing arsenal is meant to do before you begin marketing on purpose. Without a plan, you’re wasting your hard-earned marketing dollars.