Sunday, January 8, 2012

We need to do more marketing

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How many times have I heard that in response to a downturn in income? The problem is that it is generally only going to make things worse because if a business isn’t already marketing then it can’t simply solve its short term cash flows issue but suddenly doing ‘marketing’.

You know what else? Marketing is not making sales, thus marketing alone isn’t going to magically restore the bottom line. In most cases it is going to make a business spend additional money and devote time away from the core parts of their business in the vane hope it will result in more income.

Marketing is something a business should be doing all the time. If you haven’t started then you should immediately and keep doing it no matter what your cash flow situation. Problem is that when many businesses think marketing is only about doing letterbox flyers and sending out ‘buy now’ emails and guess what? The chances of that working are very slim. Don’t believe me? How much junk email and postal mail do you read? Chances are not a lot, so why do the same thing? You could argue that it must work because others are doing to which I’d contend there is HUGE difference between ‘must’ and ‘does’. If you don’t know about something do the research don’t just follow the crowd. Good business is based on fact not here say.

If you want to have effective marketing you firstly need to determine what you are going to offer. That is going to be determined by the customer not by the business. You should be asking, ‘what does my customer need that I can provide?”. If you don’t know then you should do your research up front to find out. At the end of the day you only make money if someone buys what you have to offer. It maybe the best product in the world but if nobody buys it then it no help to your business now is it? Remember the value is in the eye of the customer only!

Now that you have something to offer you also need to ask yourself if someone else is already providing it. If they are how is your offering different? If it isn’t then the only way you’ll compete is on price and that is simply a race to the bottom. You need a USP (a unique selling position). What makes what you offer different or more appealing than everyone else. Focus on that one thing rather than everything else that everyone else does as well.

Studies show that you have to show something to people 6-7 times before it begins to stick. Most businesses that ‘resort’ to marketing to lift their cash flow, try something once, typically fail and then wonder why. This is why it is so important that marketing is an ongoing process and process that occurs through a variety of mediums. But most importantly of all, any marketing that is done needs to have its results MEASURED. How else do you know what works if you don’t measure it?

Why do most small businesses think marketing is a waste of time? Because they don’t see immediate results to their bottom line. That is their only measurement criteria, we did this letterbox drop, did we make more money? No. Therefore marketing is a waste of time. Q.E.D.

The first step in any marketing is to work out what your customer needs that you can potentially supply. Next step is to work out if anyone else can offer the same product. Third, requires tailoring the offering to be as unique as possible. Next you need to keep at it and measure the results and continue to fine tune the offering.

Unfortunately, that is not a quick fix and it requires continued work. However, if you can get the process refined and automated then it can become a very effective tool. Unfortunately, unless you have done the ground work any ‘marketing’ effort is going to be wasted and this is what I unfortunately see as being the case too often.