A common problem that frustrates small business owners is wasting time and effort on marketing activities that don’t yield tangible results.
Unlike bigger companies with deeper pockets that can afford branding campaigns, return on investment is crucial for small businesses in order to sustain marketing efforts and cover the fixed costs of the business.
One of the reasons for wasting time and effort is not having a plan. A planned approach to marketing means taking a more measured and considered approach to work out, not only what to do, but what aspects didn’t work for each activity.
It’s only learning from past mistakes that real progress can be made. Trying to see why an exercise didn’t work and what can be salvaged from it, rather than writing off things off as an expensive mistake, is an activity that sets progressive businesses apart from the rest.
A key challenge in being able to analyse what went right and what failed to produce the desired result involves knowing what to look for. It involves either getting new skills to properly assess the situation or calling on experts that can help you figure it out. The challenge is knowing the sort of help to get. An analysis of what’s wrong often depends on who you ask.
Let’s take a marketing example you may be familiar with. You run an online advertisement in a magazine that you know your target market reads but only get a few clicks from it and not one of those clicks converts into leads.
No wonder small business owners are confused!
Health is another example. If you have digestive problems:
Of course, there is no one right answer and all three could be correct. The point is that the answers you get will vary depending on the biases and area of speciality of the people that you speak to.
The reality is that no one is a better expert on your business than you. But you also need to become an expert in understanding your customers. To do this, particularly as you grow and may interact with your customers less frequently, you need to develop systems and processes that will help you to better understand their needs and wants.
So what can you do to grow your knowledge of your customers?
Your marketing reports should tell a story that anyone without a marketing degree can follow and digest. For example, if your outsourced provider was testing different ads, what headlines worked and what didn’t to capture attention? What images got the highest clickthrough rates?
Not everyone who consumes your products or uses your services will provide feedback on their experience but it is good practice to ask them. This information needs to be reviewed regularly as it can be a gold mine for future innovations and valuable additions to what you’re already doing.
Take the opportunity to speak to customers when you can and encourage them to talk about their experience – what did they like? What didn’t they like? What would have helped?
The best, long-term strategy is to develop your own marketing expertise and approach everything as an opportunity to learn and improve. One of the challenges for growing businesses is developing your own internal marketing engine to drive this customer knowledge.
Many businesses outsource marketing because it seems too complicated. However, one of the trade-offs for doing this is the market intelligence about your audience is one step (or sometimes more, depending on your setup) removed from your business. If you change your outsourced marketing provider then you’ll typically lose all that information around what worked and what didn’t.
In summary, small businesses need a strategic marketing plan in place to maximise their efforts and cover their costs. A planned marketing approach means adopting systems and processes to better understand customers using tools such as marketing reports, customer feedback, connecting directly and, ideally, developing their own internal marketing. By gaining a deeper insight into what works and what doesn’t work in terms of marketing, your business will then be able to achieve discernible results.
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