Too often, business owners don’t use the right strategy—or any strategy at all.
Helping people take an idea and turn it into an actual money-making business is the best part of my job. But one thing that’s not so great—that is, dare I say it, a little painful—is the egregious lack of love startups give to their marketing plans.
You don’t necessarily have to write a formal 12-page document with graphs and demographics. What is critical is being able to succinctly and thoughtfully explain how you will get people to give you money for your skill or your product.
Unfortunately, when entrepreneurs are asked about their marketing, too often they respond with some version of the following:
‘Facebook Is My Marketing’
Social media is great. But it’s just a tool. If you asked your mechanics what they needed to do to your car and they rattled off a bunch of tools they had in their shop, you’d question their ability to fix your car. In the same vein of thinking, social media needs to be a component of an overall plan to be effective toward the ultimate goal: get people to give you money for your skill or your product.
The golden ticket for translating marketing effort to sales is getting people to talk to their friends and colleagues about your company. If you say you are great online, that’s one thing. If someone is told by their friends that you are a great service, that person is far more likely to give you their money. What’s your plan for getting people to talk about you?
‘I Don’t Need to Market’
Your service or skill may very well be that much better than the competition, but people need a reason to break their habits and give you a try.
If I’ve been going to the same barber for years, why am I going to risk my fabulous do with your shop? You might say that you’re more affordable, or more skilled, or that you’ll also provide legal counsel while you cut my hair. (That’s a real thing, look it up.) Whatever that value proposition is, you have to tell your prospective customers to get them to try you out. That message, how you say it and when you communicate it—well, that’s your marketing plan.
Restaurants are particularly vulnerable when they neglect to communicate. You’ve probably seen this. A place opens its doors, and then it’s closed before you even had a chance to try it. The owners assume that as soon as they open their doors, they’ll have the revenue to pay all their fixed costs. But then they don’t. They didn’t market themselves, so no one knew to come or cared enough to break from their usual dinner place.
‘I Can Easily Repeat the Success I Had Before’
So you had an awesome idea, and it worked flawlessly. You got a lot of attention and sold a lot of product. And you think, “Why don’t I do that again?” If only it were that easy. This could go one of a few ways.
» It works again—high five! Or …
» The novelty or relevance that made that campaign work the first time has worn off. Think about some of your favorite marketing campaigns from years past. There’s a good chance they’re no longer as funny or clever as you remember.
» Your campaign is no longer effective for the scale of the company. The same strategy that worked when you sold your custom bow ties direct to customers at events is not going to work as well when you scale to wholesaling to regional stores.
» The strategy that worked in one industry doesn’t work for another. People think about and buy different stuff in different ways. Your campaign has to match the way people already want to buy your type of service or product.
If you are advertising tickets for an upcoming event, chances are your customers are planning ahead and will connect and buy directly online from your website or social media platform. You might push the hard sell.
If you are selling, say, barbecue sauce, you just want to make sure you are top of mind. Few people actively make a point to plan ahead to buy a specific brand of barbecue sauce. They just buy sauce, and they certainly don’t go on Facebook to help them make their purchase.
They will likely make that decision in the grocery store. You want them to recognize and be interested in your brand so they choose you over the other fellow’s sauce.
The key is always to stay relevant, and always keep your customer in mind. What is important to them? How do they like to buy your product or service? Why do they care about your company and product?
These things constantly change, so your marketing strategies need to adapt in turn. You may not have a formal marketing plan on paper, but you have to be able to succinctly and thoughtfully explain how you will get people to give you money for your skill or your product.
Your marketing plan can be your business’s best friend. All you have to do is give it some love.