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Marketing spending: some business owners see it as a worthwhile investment, while others see it as a necessary evil. A few even view it as a complete waste of money. Any of those interpretations can be accurate, based on the way in which the marketing strategies are implemented. But probably the biggest misconception I see among business owners is that marketing is just another cost of doing business, rather than the investment it really is. That may sound like spin from someone in the marketing industry, but it is my sincere contention that marketing is just as valid an investment as the latest technology or a professional certification.
Let’s put it in terms of something most of us can relate to: weight loss. I like to compare marketing to joining the gym. Resolution in hand, come January 1st, you are at the gym before dawn three mornings a week, running on the treadmill and doing some weight training. Heck, you may have even hired a trainer. You show up on schedule and sweat hard and you can see results, but they’re not nearly as fast or as dramatic as you had hoped. You lose three or four pounds in the first week (hey, not bad), maybe one or two the second and none in the third week. At this point, your dedication and determination start to wane. By that fourth week, you only get to the gym one time and maybe only hit the treadmill for half the time. You drop the trainer because the expense obviously isn’t paying off. You gain a pound the following week. By that time you’ve sort of lost what momentum you had built early on and you don’t make it into the gym at all the next week…and the annual cycle comes to another dispirited end.
Often, this is the pattern that marketing initiatives take. You start with an ambitious plan (which is great, because many don’t even bother with that crucial first step) and are excited to see some results. You create a newsletter, make some updates to your Website and even decide to take the plunge into social media. Everyone is excited and ready to handle the work that is going to start rolling in any second now. However, the payoff isn’t as quick or as thrilling as you expected, so you pull back. And because you decrease your marketing efforts, you (naturally) see even fewer results as time goes on. And in the end, you become firmly convinced that marketing is a complete waste of time and money.
The problem with both of these scenarios is that you dove in with the expectation of immediate results and were surprised when you didn’t get them. I get it, really, I do. In today’s world, where we have access to data and variety of other things almost the instant we think of them, it’s understandable that we’ve been trained to want what we want NOW! But as any seasoned professional will tell you, any proper investment pays out over time, not overnight. So what can you do to make sure you’re nurturing your investment properly?
It really does pay to plan. Too many marketing initiatives are executed in a vacuum and not part of an overarching strategic plan. Before starting any marketing effort, it’s important to clearly define your target audience and goals. From there, you can better create tactics designed specifically with these in mind. But it’s also important not to overstretch. Make sure your goals and tactics are reasonable and realistic. Be sure you’ve got a marketing expert to create the plan, too. If you don’t have someone with a professional marketing background and current knowledge on staff, it’s definitely worth the expense to hire one to create the plan for you.
Not everyone can do it. So many people are convinced that anyone can play the part of a marketing professional. To create a marketing piece, you only need to find a cool photo (or better yet, clip art!), put some words under it and call it a day, right? Not quite. As a professional in your field, you know there are tried and true techniques, tips and tricks, nuances and data-tested theories that only the professionals know. It’s never as easy as people on the outside seem to think. The same applies to properly and strategically executed marketing. True marketing professionals have the training and experience to create a plan that’s right for your business and implement it using specific tactics designed to reach your target audience. They can ensure the marketing plan supports the larger business plan, and can also show you how to measure the results of each plan component. It’s a lot more than playing with pretty pictures and cocktail parties, no matter what anyone says.
Variety is important. According to Albert Einstein, doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Unfortunately this is how many firms approach marketing. Your potential customers aren’t all in one group, reading the same things and attending the same events. That means you need a marketing plan that incorporates several different channels, including traditional and newer ways of connecting with an audience. Map your initiatives out on a grid so you see how everything fits together and when each component will be fully implemented.
Marketing is cumulative. Marketing is not a one-shot deal. It’s a multi-faceted process, with each element building on the previous steps. Because of modern technology and the constant bombardment of messaging we all receive these days, it takes around seven touches or impressions to build awareness with new audiences. Just think about that. The first two to six times you reach out to people, they probably can’t recall your name – much less what you do – just moments later. By taking advantage of multiple marketing avenues, you increase your chances of being recognized and top-of-mind at the moment they have a need for your services.
As with your weight loss goals, the best strategy is based on a plan to help you get where you want to be. Set ambitious but realistic goals and measure your efforts regularly make sure you’re on track. Make sure you are using many different muscles so you get the full benefits of the exercise you do. And most importantly, be consistent. You can’t go to the gym for 10 hours one day a year and expect to have accomplished anything significant, except perhaps one seriously painful recovery period. It takes regular, consistent and well-directed exercise to reach your goal just like it takes a well thought out marketing plan, clear goals and multiple tactics to grow your organization. So what are you waiting for?
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