Uncommon Marketing

Bringing sarcasm, humor, and common sense to this mess of marketing and business.

Part II: The Marketing Struggle for Small Business: Where do you start?

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Hint: It’s still not hiring or buying a marketing platform.

In part I, I wrote about some of the challenges and questions a business owner should ask prior to getting serious about marketing. Ultimately, as you’re getting started, I recommend getting some help from a consultant (yes, like me 😊) to do a little marketing forensics to identify where and how you should invest.

What I mean by marketing forensics is a process that starts with the assessment of business readiness for marketing (in terms of resources, messaging, product quality, positioning, etc.), what the company has done in the past pursuant to marketing (and results), and what the business needs to do to reach its goals – inclusive of what that arbitrary Marketing List may actually deliver, if there is a list.

We Pause This Program for Real Talk

Now for some Real Talk, the type that may be difficult for some business owners to hear or consider. Theoretically, a strategic approach should work for any type of business and business owner, but there are a few special cases where it won’t – if I’m being completely transparent.

This problem has nothing to do with the business, the approach, nor the consultant; rather, it mostly has to do with the inability of the decision-maker to relinquish “ownership” of marketing temporarily, or to even listen – even if it means saving time, money, and effort in the near term. Consultants and other business owners get it. Your business is YOUR baby, the one you’ve worked countless, thankless hours to build and grow, and for which you’ve made many sacrifices – some good, some not so good. Therefore, it’s a scary thing to take a leap of faith and listen to someone else when you know your business so well. The last thing you want is to listen to someone and that someone gets it all wrong. That’s why a very close partnership, communication, mutual exchange of ideas, honesty, and open-mindedness is critical – on the parts of both the owner and the consultant.

Business owners who are accustomed to making all the decisions and who are auditory challenged will more than likely just hire a marketer they like or get along with who knows how to do The Things on The List. The drive to “get things done,” therefore, becomes the entire mission; any suggestion that distracts or implies a different approach (that may impact what’s on The List) will be met with dismissal and frustration on the part of the owner. (A client actually said to me once, “I don’t need a plan, I need to get shit done; planning is all anyone ever does around here.”)

In the Absence of Sugar to Coat . . .

A business owner with an attitude such as the previous quote will listen to no one and simply find and hire a marketer with the skills to complete whatever tasks are on his or her Marketing List. The marketer hired to plow through The Marketing List, therefore, is set up for failure from the get-go because of the endless barrage of the owner’s reactive additions to The List – which is simply a symptom of a lack of planning. (Because the business owner didn’t want a plan, that’s all anyone ever does.)

This Marketing List will grow hourly, daily, weekly, with more and more deliverables added sporting ever increasingly urgent requirements and near-term deadlines that cannibalize items on the Original List for which the marketer was hired to complete. But the reactive pattern will continue, and the original List or original expectations are never met. Since perception is 90% of reality, the owner declares either marketing doesn’t work, or the marketer is not “meeting his needs,” and after a time will find himself seeking another marketer.

This pattern will continue, until the business owner slows down and wises up to the need for a strategy that, yes, births a plan – a plan to which the marketer then can stick. Otherwise, he’ll never see the kind of marketing success he’s so anxious to achieve.

Even noticeable progress to completion of The List, in the face of constant fire drills, lacks any luster because the business won’t advance much more than it did when the list was incomplete. Therefore, instead of feeling good about progress, the decision maker becomes disenchanted with marketing altogether – he hasn’t made the connection that a Completed List doesn’t necessarily a difference make. He’ll look for another marketer in this scenario, too. It’s because success is 100% dependent upon how well The List meets real business goals. Wouldn’t you like to know whether the list will matter to your business, customers, or prospects before you invest in an employee?

If this describes your experience with marketing as a business owner, I have one recommendation: listen to the marketer you hired. Listen to each other; exchange ideas, share concerns, work together, and learn from each others’ experiences. And resist the urge to claim immediately that something doesn’t or won’t work.

“People are in such a hurry to launch their product or business that they seldom look at marketing from a bird’s eye view and they don’t create a systematic plan.”

– Dave Ramsey, American businessman, author, and radio host

If You Have A “Marketing To-Do List,” At Least Do This

Instead of wasting more time or money on hit and miss resources, enlist a marketing consultant to assess where you are against where you want to go, and deliver recommendations with a strategic plan to grow your revenue through execution. An experienced marketing leader can provide professional insight into how the business should approach marketing both strategically and tactically. This is much more than just getting someone to mow through a List of Marketing To-Do’s, despite how important The List may seem. At the very least, identify the specific business goals your List should serve (beyond “getting the monthly newsletter going again,” unless it’s a known fact that it drives revenue – such as with e-commerce). If goals haven’t been defined, then The List is benign at best. What will all those things get you when you’ve done them? That’s the answer you should seek during assessment.

A marketing consultant will approach your business by considering different strategies, messaging, and best practices that could drive revenue based upon defined goals such as increased reach, awareness, leads, opportunities, qualified leads, closed deals, sales, or revenue – The List of Marketing To-Do’s notwithstanding. If a business owner hires a marketing consultant and hasn’t yet determined any concrete goals for marketing, the marketing consultant will start there, working with the owner to define specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (S.M.A.R.T.) goals that will inform the direction and requirements to meet the goals. Assuming, of course, that the owner can forget The List for the time-being and aim for understanding what the business should do, in terms of marketing, that will either drive business or prepare for “Real Marketing.”

If You Can Set Aside The “Marketing To-Do List” Temporarily . . .

Regardless of what the goals are (the real ones that drive revenue), the goals are the foundation. While they will certainly dictate the type of strategy to employ, the goals will also inform what tactics, investment, and, ultimately, what type of marketer to hire to successfully reach those goals. Not all marketing is created equal, and neither are all marketers. Marketing has increased exponentially in complexity, flexibility, and opportunity in just the past 5 years alone. Options for reaching a target market have rapidly exceeded any one individual’s ability to keep up with, have experience in, and be an expert at every single discipline. But a Jack of All Trades may be what you need to get started on whatever will make the most impact to the business.

A Winning Start

To design a winning marketing strategy that’s right for your business – and your audience – a marketing consultant can assess your business readiness, resources, messaging, assets, etc., and advise on an approach that’ll give you a leg up in the right direction, while offering a much less-costly investment in budget and time than seeking, finding, and hiring the wrong type of marketer. Chances are, the consultant will have some of the skills you’ll need, and will most certainly know others who can fill any gaps.

But whether it’s the expense of stops and starts, or when The Perfect Marketer finishes a List that doesn’t add one extra dime to your bottom line, a waste of dollars is inevitable if you haven’t defined your goals, created a plan to achieve them, and met the minimum requirements for readiness. At the very least, examine that Marketing To-Do List and decide whether it’s going to actually bring you revenue, or if it’s just a list of pet projects waiting for someone to care.

Therefore, if you’re serious about getting serious about marketing, seek out a marketing consultant who can objectively work with you to identify, define, and put into motion a plan for success. Eventually, your Marketing To-Do List will get done – but it’ll get done as part of a more strategic, goal-driven plan that may actually improve your bottom line.

Think you’re ready to start some demand generation? Read the Back to Basics Series – Demand Generation Readiness.

Author: Leslie A. Kuykendall

Versatile results-driven marketer with 20 years' experience in integrated digital marketing and B2B demand generation. Visit http://www.austindigitalmarketer.com to learn more.

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