Summer is just around the corner so our thoughts turn to – marketing? Well, not so much. For many of us it’s mostly about getting in beach shape. And that means dieting, the painful exercise in denial and impossible discipline invented in the lowest depths of hell.
Okay, so maybe modern successful dieting doesn’t need to be that way. There are a multitude of proven approaches that don’t require blood, sweat, or tears (well, maybe some sweat).
Likewise, modern successful small business marketing works a lot like successful dieting. It takes a certain mindset, some discipline, but mostly a plan.
1. There Is Not One Good Plan
There are actually a multitude of good plans. Low carb, low fat, low calories, vegetarian, caveman, beach bum, mountaineer — you get the idea. As it turns out, they all work to an extent and will help. Moreover, research by Harvard confirms that the best plan is the one you stick with.
Find *Your* Small Biz Marketing Plan
The same is true for marketing plans. Don’t stress over finding the one “perfect plan”. Every category of business, every locality, every individual restaurant or salon or doctor will have different challenges and needs. Are you just opening the doors or building clientele or maybe refreshing your brand? Find or create a plan to address your specific scenario and challenges.
2. There Are Many Experts
There is no shortage of diet and fitness experts in the field. However just because someone is an “expert” does not mean they offer the best approach for you. Maybe their claim to fame is training Army Rangers which is admirable, but come on, how many of us are ready for that. What is your goal? Are you looking to drop a few pounds or sculpt yourself a six pack? Training for an ultra-marathon or trying to bring your cholesterol down? Do you even have 90 minutes to work out (apologies to the P90X people)?
Know Your Marketing Goal
Do not simply follow the latest marketing trend or flavor-of-the-month tool. Be wary of blanket statements like “print ads don’t work” or “you HAVE to use mobile media”. What is your marketing goal? Where are you in your business’ lifecycle? How much time can you or your managers invest in marketing? How much money will you invest? Are you building up a new day part? Are you attracting younger/older clientele? Where do your customers come from today? Use these criteria to guide the specific tactics your will use in your plan.
3. You’ve Got To Do The Work
We’ve all been there on January 1st: charged with hope and good intentions we enthusiastically create the perfect workout schedule, sign up for a gym membership (again), decide on the perfect diet, maybe even clean out the fridge. And then life happens. Superbowl weekend, that trip to the city, Valentine’s Day, the anniversary dinner, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, …. Too many interruptions slow progress and disrupt the routine until there’s no routine.
Consistent Action Is The Key
Small biz marketing is the poster child for inconsistent marketing. Independent owner-operators have so much on their plate that marketing is continually pushed down the list of priorities. It is imperative that the marketing plan brings the business in front of customers and prospects regularly — as in at least weekly — or the business will suffer. Give the plan importance, get some help if need be, set reminders for activities, and review the plan weekly.
BTW, this is a great opportunity to engage your staff for help. In a previous post, I made the case that employee inclusion is a great way to cultivate ownership, and that’s always a good thing.
4. It’s A Lifestyle Not An Event
Don’t go on a diet, change the way you eat. It’s a subtle distinction that speaks volumes about how successful your efforts will be. Don’t avoid social dinners because you’re “on diet” but instead make a commitment to yourself that you’ll only order something healthful. Diets imply short-term pain that you look forward to ending and then splurging on “good food”. Instead, make everyday changes and allow yourself some treats regularly but within your plan.
Marketing Should Be In Your Business DNA
The plan and marketing in general must be as much a part of your daily operation as doing line checks or cleaning the bathroom. Do owners hold managers and staff accountable for sales results and specific marketing activities? The successful ones do. Do you require your staff members to capture a minimum number of loyalty program registrations each shift/day/week? You should. You require side work like folding or filing to be done each shift by your staff, right? Is bringing customers in your door (aka marketing) less important?
5. Give Your Plan Time To Work
Exercise and dieting take time to show results. Unfortunately magical pills only exist in the movies. Have faith that your plan will work as long as you work it. Be steadfast, be patient.
Like dieting, small business marketing is difficult but anyone can be successful. Just develop a plan, work it consistently, and be patient. In no time you’ll see more customers through your door which leads to happier employees — and ownership!