Build it and they WON ‘T come.

Not to your website, your store, your blog, and not even to your event. No matter how nice your brick & mortar store looks, how beautiful the graphics on your website, or what a great event you have planned, people won’t come just because you build, pay for or plan any of the above. It is STILL your job to bring them in the door. Recently a client of mine complained to me about an event he organized and sent out eblasts for… With 3 weeks to go, and without the response he wanted, frustrated, he considered cancelling it. My question:

What other PR have you done? Local publications emailed? Phone Calls to the Evangelical Networkers in your circle? Ads in the local publications or groups where your invitees would see it?  Good old fashioned phone calls?

Not your cup of tea? Then how about hiring a PR firm that knows how to get butts in the seats?

Are you waiting for your customers?

Because I work with small business owners I see this sort of thing often: someone has a great idea for a business, spends their last dollar and every bit of energy creating the perfect model, product or idea, and they leave no resources to market their creation. Most of the time they never even planned on marketing it. They sit in their beautiful storefront thinking people will walk in just because they opened their doors. Too often I’ve seen them close those same doors in a matter of months with no idea why it didn’t work.

It doesn’t work if you don’t have a plan; and I mean a Marketing Plan, not a Business Plan. How much will you spend per month and how is that money being spent? What print publications, if any, work in your market for your product? When and what pages of that publication will your target customers be reading? When do they listen to the radio? What TV channels do they watch and WHEN are they watching? Even more basic that that, who ARE your target customers? After your website’s built, HOW do you plan on bringing them there? Do you have a blog? Is pay per click advertising right for you? Are you using Social Media and do you know how to use it effectively?

If you haven’t asked yourself these questions you should start, and if you have and don’t know the answers, find someone who can help you figure it out. There are loads of smart marketing or advertising companies who can help you come up with a strategy that ensures you’re not wasting money. If you don’t know where to start find someone you trust who does as soon as possible so you’re not sitting there waiting for someone to notice your great ideas.

This post was originally written in 2010 and updated for today.  It is still true: you NEED a plan.

Building Your Marketing Machine

If you read my blog you know that I tend to go on and on about consistency in marketing, primarily because it’s the number one mistake I see clients make – lack of consistency in their logo useage, email blasts, Social Media and even their website. In order to have an effective marketing campaign you must have consistency, and in order to have consistency you must have a process, i.e. – a Machine.

Your machine will make sure that you do things in the proper order and don’t miss a beat in follow up or follow through; you could do tons of work but your efforts will not give you results unless you have a plan and a method for following up on the plan. How do you get there?

1. Figure out HOW you will market. That means you have the following choices: Print, Radio, TV, Outdoor Advertising, Website, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing. Whatever you do, don’t just throw darts at the separate choices. If you have no idea what works because you’ve never marketed successfully, hire an advertising/marketing firm to at least create your plan for you.

2. Create a marketing calendar: Know what needs to be done when and assign the specific tasks to individuals. Give them deadlines and hold them accountable.

3. Make sure you have a method in place to track your success. Most of the time, and by that I mean probably 90%, my small business clients have no idea what works because they’ve only anecdotally tracked their past efforts.

4. Set goals and review results at preset dates. Be willing to change course if the plan you put in place is having no effect.

The key here is to have a plan, and to have players in the plan with clearly assigned roles AND a method for holding to the timeline you set out. Analyzing the results is tantamount to even them most simplistic marketing plan. Follow these steps and at the minimum you can guarantee that your company won’t be repeating past mistakes and will more than likely find the right methods for your marketing.

Are you Committed to Your Marketing Plan?

Seriously, if your marketing consultant is more committed than you are you’d better just close up shop. Anyone who works in any form of marketing knows exactly what I’m talking about – whether you’re a Videographer, Advertising Agency, Web Development company… it doesn’t matter, we all know ’em – those clients who seem to care less than we do about their marketing plan.

Of course, few people actually admit they don’t care; obviously, if you’ve hired any outside source to help market your business, you understand that marketing is important. But as our elders have told us ad naseum, ‘actions speak louder than words.’ Hiring the web designer/advertising agency etc. is one thing, staying focused and committed to the plan is an entirely different and far more important part of the puzzle. If you are going to bother to sign the contract and fork over a deposit, do yourself a favor and make sure you do the following:

1. Get all content/text/graphics etc. to the consultant as soon as possible.
2. Follow up on your end of the bargain when it comes to reviewing each segment of the project in timely and thorough manner.
3. Communicate clearly and regularly with your marketing consultant – if you don’t like something or aren’t sure and need advice – speak out.
4. Stay involved in the project; it doesn’t matter how good your marketing person is – without your constant input of what’s going on with your company – what should be highlighted, what’s worth crowing about, they’ll be on the outside looking in trying to speak with your voice – it never works and always sounds disingenuous.
5. Stick to the calendar; if you create a marketing/promotional campaign with or without a consultant, STICK TO IT, which means planning ahead and following through.

Marketing does not work if it’s stop and go, heavy then light… consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but it’s essential to an effective marketing strategy. Stay involved, stay focused, and keep the lines of communication open and flowing… only then will you get your money’s worth out of your marketing strategy.

Driving Without Gas

Of course I’m looking for a cute title that will peak your interest and get you to read my blog, but this one really hits on one of the unbelievably common mistakes so many small business owners make: NO MARKETING. I know it sounds unrealistic, but I would say that at least 50% of the small businesses I come across make either NO, or only sporadic, attempts at marketing their business.

Imagine What Could Happen if you DID have a plan?

What that means is that you Small Business Owner, put out your shingle and “open” sign, and then wait for customers. Of course you don’t think you’re waiting for customers – you’ve joined the local Chamber, maybe even another type of networking group, and some business IS coming in. Eventually, if you’re lucky and/or an extremely good net worker, some business begins to trickle in and word of mouth starts to get traction. You may even be making enough to pay the bills, but let me ask you something: “Is that why you started your business, to just pay the bills?”

You may answer: “I have more business than I can handle.” To that I say “phooey.” No one has more business than they can handle; what lots and lots of customers means is that you can raise prices and be selective about who you work with. It is a wonderful thing if you are booked for months – and yes, you may have to tell some customers that you won’t be able to make their timeline and they’ll have to go elsewhere. Believe me, that is nothing to be afraid of. What it means is that you become sought after – they know that if you’re THAT busy, your’re THAT good, and many more than you think will wait to work with you.

So, what does this all mean: get MARKETING. But not in a half hazard fashion! Develop a marketing plan, whether it’s print/tv/radio/online/social media – if you don’t know where to start, hire a profesional….and begin to put the pieces together so that you can become the type of small business owner I described.. not one just paying the bills.