You’re busy so you don’t need to think about marketing for a while – is this something you’ve ever thought?
Well, we’re here to remind you in this post that marketing is part of your work all year round regardless of how busy you are or whether you work with seasonal highs and low.
There are so many different types of businesses and organisation sizes that it’s not realistic to set a rule as such as to how much time you can allocate to marketing in a post like this or any post for that matter. A business that is established or launches with a team that they need to get up and running will already be clear on the difference in their Marketing and Sales functions and their contribution to the overall success of the business. So, right now we’re looking past that to the business owner that doesn’t have the resources or requirement to have people on the team for specific roles on an ongoing basis.
Marketing and Sales while very closely related are in reality two parts of the journey that you’re aiming for your customer to take. Marketing focuses on the whole customer journey from those early stages like raising awareness of your product or service using tools such as websites, ads, social media, offline marketing and more right through to ensuring that the end result meets or even better exceeds expectations – working of course with various other elements of the business along the way not least in areas such as production of the product or service or customer service.
Sales is right at the frontline speaking directly to the customer and getting them to sign on the dotted line or making a purchase from you whether that’s a contract worth tens of thousands that involves a string of meetings or picking up a coffee on the way to work.
I tend to tell people that they should think about Marketing in terms of what’s coming up next – next week, next month, next year – it’s a long-term approach to ensuring consistent business is coming your way. Sales is more focused on the cash coming into your business, the end result of many elements coming together to create the situation where your customer is ready to buy.
What then if you have a steady stream of customers ready to buy and you’re run off your feet coping with demand and don’t have time to think about Marketing?!
Fact is that even when you’re busy you need to keep that marketing going, it might slip a little further down the list than getting today’s orders packaged and out by courier but it should never hover at the end of your to-do list for when you have time because the reality is that when you’re a business owner or an employee time is one thing you will find is regularly in short supply.
When you’re marketing your business on a regular basis even through those busy periods when really you can’t even imagine how you’re going to cope with more sales there are a number of reasons you can’t abandon marketing such as;
Consistency – turning up regularly keeps your brand present in the eyes of your target audience. If you post every couple of months on your website or your social media you’re not training your customers or potential customers to expect updates from you, they’re not tuned in to your offering and no matter how great your business is they can quite simply forget about you or find somebody else who is paying their potential customers some attention.
Momentum – if your web traffic is growing as a result of a super social media campaign which ends up with a whole lot more sales it’s obviously worked. What then if you get so busy you only post to social media on your days off or just last thing before you go to bed? Or you pause those paid ads for a bit because you’re busy? Well, chances are that steady stream will reduce to a trickle of business because that rush of activity which brought in the result you wanted has stalled. You’ve not been consistent when you really need to keep up the momentum even if that involves an extra pair of hands.
Visibility – you can have 500 or 5000 followers on your social media or hundreds on your email but when they don’t hear from you on a regular basis you’ve got to come back and remind them just who you are and why they need to buy from you, In some cases it’s like starting all over again. Sometimes people will be thrilled to see you and welcome you back with open arms, other times people will have moved on because they forgot about you when you eased up on staying in touch. There is also an additional bonus to turning up regularly which isn’t something I’ll go into in detail on this post but where you show up regularly on your website in the form of updates like blog posts the search engines such as Google like it too!
Experimentation – whatever stage your business is at there will always be a degree of trial and error as you adjust to a changing environment or try a new twist on a successful product or service. While your team might all agree that the new flavour of chocolate you’ve all agreed on is going to be a hit, if you were Cadburys you’d be taking it out to a select market to see what people think before you rush into mass production and with it an expensive ad campaign – think like a big business even if you’re not! This experimentation might be around opening hours if you’re running a venue, new menu items if you’re in hospitality, different types of themed breaks if you run a hotel, etc. While your business is working well you should be mindful of opportunities and experimenting as you go both in terms of your product or service but also in how you’re communicating – does Linkedin deliver more than Facebook or is email converting more than sales calls? Maybe it’s time to try video as it seems to be working for a competitor? In trying new things whether it’s your offering or how you communicate where there’s a positive or negative change in sales you’re learning what’s working or not and whether you’re taking your first steps into the business world or working with decades of experience behind you it’s always a good idea to be open to new ideas.
Competitors – never hide from your competitors, if you spot them on social media don’t be shy about following them as chances are they’re going to keep an eye on you too. If your competitor offers a similar product but has found a way to make a recurring income after the sale or they’ve developed a clever cross-sell you might miss this or lose custom and be unaware of what’s happened. When you spend time focused on marketing whether it’s a check in on a new website they announce or just reviewing them all a couple of times a year, engaging on social media or turning up at a networking event you are going to come across others who work in your market and while you’re not going to share your deepest business secrets it doesn’t hurt to get to know them. As small owners, particularly those working in the services area it’s important to get to know your competitors because the day may well come that you get an opportunity that’s just that little too big for you to tackle alone and if you’ve got a good relationship with a competitor a partnership even just for a once-off project may be created.
Habit – there are many tools available to help you with areas such as social media or email, options that enable you to schedule so you don’t necessarily need to show up at a time when you might be busy in your day to day – particularly important where you might be in a customer-facing business such as retail. However, over time as you become accustomed to what’s working for you it becomes a habit that you know you need to send out a monthly newsletter, that you share behind the scenes photos or take customers photos for your social media or that you spend a dedicated morning every week when it’s a little quieter planning what you are going to share in the course of the week. Where you have other people on your team you want to ensure they’re all aware of these habits too so that if you’re off for a week’s holiday the routine continues. This is where a good diary, planner or if you’ve got that far a CRM (customer relationship management system) can make all the difference. If you’re not sure what a CRM is we have a post coming up in a few weeks covering some of our favourite tools that can you can use at any stage in your business – make sure to stay tuned!
Education – traditionally in marketing we’ve all worked around the principle that a buyer goes through four different stages: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action (AIDA). The origins of this date right back to the early 1900s but still ring true even in 2021 even though the mechanisms have changed dramatically. As marketers or business owners we want to draw attention to our business, generate enough interest that somebody wants your product or service and they’re driven to act in purchasing from you. Even though you may never have heard of this model before this post, when you’re marketing on an ongoing and regular basis you’re taking customers through this process all the time educating them on who you are, why they should want or need your product or service and why they should buy from you – making it as simple as possible to buy. As we’ve got social media and technology so readily available to everybody now there are many more opportunities to move people through these processes where you share business information on your channels – just as your competitors do too! Over time you’re educating people on what you’re about and why they need your business. Consistency in your marketing enables you to educate potential customers on your business whatever stage of the journey they’re on from becoming aware of you to buying from you.
Opportunities – sometimes an opportunity presents itself to you as a business owner to promote your offering to an audience that isn’t ordinarily on your email list or on your social media following. It might be the option to attend a networking event or conference, to be interviewed on a radio show, to write an article for a publication. The trick however is to ensure that you’re there making yourself visible so that if somebody really wants to speak to somebody in your niche they find you easily and have little difficulty in getting in touch. Opportunities also present themselves in people who can work with or additions you can make to your offering but if you’re not out and about and keeping an active presence in some form you might find yourself watching and wondering about a competitor instead.
Sales – last but by definitely no means least, marketing consistently even through your busy periods brings in sales because after this latest batch of orders have gone out or the projects you have underway are complete you will be looking to the next sale. In a world where everything is just a click away most of us do a bit of research when we’re going to buy, especially when during the pandemic we’ve had no option but to move online for many products as they’re unavailable for different periods of time. There are many ways you can connect with a customer regardless of the stage of the journey they’re on whether they’ve never heard of you or they’re sitting there with credit card in hand ready to buy. Where you’re actively marketing and thinking ahead you’re getting yourself set to keep sales coming through.
I am a small business owner just like my customers are so I really do appreciate that many of our audience are wearing many hats from sales to accounts to HR to customer service and they’ve got somebody now telling them to make sure marketing doesn’t stay at the end of a growing to-do list when they’re already busy or it’s not screaming as urgently as payroll might be.
While I know how to get a campaign up and running quickly I know all too well that it’s not going to result in immediate sales for every business even where an obvious increase in traffic to their website suggests people are paying attention.
A marketer or even a credit card can make a difference when sales drop but my advice is that in keeping a consistent and appropriate presence (you don’t have to turn up on social media on Christmas Day – that’s for another post!!) you’re more prepared for the highs and lows in a normal year. Covid changed a lot of the rules and businesses for many and most of us have adapted in some fashion to cope with the changing world. While an event of this nature isn’t something we can expect to see often in our lifetime it has taught many business owners about diversifying or pivoting to keep the cash coming in and many businesses of all sizes will have increased their marketing spend in the process. And, if you’ve been regularly marketing for any of the reasons we’ve listed above you’ve already got a head start where something like a shock to the marketplace, an employee leaving or even a change in regulations challenges how things are working right now no matter how successful you are.
Debbie Ringwood is a Marketing Specialist with over 20 years of experience in B2B and B2C Marketing. She is a Graduate of the Marketing Institute of Ireland and the Digital Marketing Institute. She is a Linkedin Certified Marketing Insider, META Certified Community Manager, and Canva Champion.
Debbie supports, coaches, and trains businesses in Marketing, Social Media, Canva & WordPress along with her team, working with businesses at different stages of their journey.