They say practice makes perfect. We say practice is critical but "perfection" is paralyzing.
For small businesses, the prospect of tackling marketing challenges without much support or budget can be daunting. We’ve assembled some observations and suggestions for smaller businesses to help you get some forward movement on your own. As a small business owner, you’ve already accessed most or all of these secret weapons. They can be applied to marketing. At the end, we give you a checklist of exercises to help you start knocking down your challenges one by one.
- Zoom out and identify your true target // Goals and tactics are very different. This is a big one, and it’s easy to get tripped up. Is it your goal to have more website traffic? Or is that a tactic that serves your goal of getting more direct-to-consumer sales this year? Identifying your true target is crucial. It allows you to adapt your approach without getting distracted. Zoom way out. Start from the overarching goal and then work down to specifics from there. It’s probably not your life goal to go to three trade shows in the next twelve months. (If it is, please seek help.) It’s not any company’s goal to hire an outside sales force. It’s a tactic. Putting tactics on the same level as goals makes people exhausted and frustrated. Your secret weapon: Clarity.
- Nobody has enough resources (you're in good company!) // We haven’t ever run across a client who complains of having too many resources. Nobody has enough. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires a path, consistent effort, and fuel. Nobody ever ran a marathon and rejoiced at how much energy they had left over. The theme of scarcity (time, money, staff, know-how) runs across all sectors and scales. Successful marketing means identifying what you’re going to do and — equally important — not going to do. If you’re actively pursuing both B2B and B2C, you should have a pretty robust plan and budget. Your secret weapon: Focus.
- There's no "set it and forget it" // Sadly, there is no such thing as “someone else taking care of it all.” You are an essential component of marketing success. It’s wonderful to have a talented, efficient team. You’ll still need to set the tone, describe the vision, assign the priorities and make corrections as needed. And, remember, the less seasoned someone is, the more management and oversight they’ll need. So, find a balance. Your secret weapons: Leadership & Versatility.
- Embrace your competitors // If you haven’t identified your competition, it just means you don’t know who they are. Love them because they are great teachers. Observe carefully and learn the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t chalk setbacks up to having a superior product that nobody “gets.” It might be true, but that answer will tempt you to stop digging. Competitors help you differentiate yourself. If you are not able to see what makes you better, customers won’t either. Learn from the blind spot that led to the demise of the iconic Polaroid company. Polaroid famously refused to be curious about the digital photography revolution and went bankrupt because of it. Believing they had a unique, proprietary product, Polaroid thought its market share was invincible. By the time the company realized it was in the memory-capture industry, not the camera film industry, it was too late. Your secret weapon: Scrutiny.
- Get it all down on paper // Writing makes it right. If you’re not sure how to succinctly describe your company and what it sells, writing exercises are the best way to get to the bottom of it. You should be able to say, “We sell (all-encompassing term or phrase) to (primary target market). We are unique in that we (differentiating factor).” This doesn’t have to cover everything you do or all your customer groups, but it’s important to know the common denominators among your majority offerings and your main market. And it’s important to identify why someone would choose you over someone else. Get it all out on paper and edit, edit, edit down. Your secret weapon: Pen & Paper.
- Check your numbers // Money isn’t everything, but it does mean options. Having a clear financial picture means you know what to cut in order to buy a ticket to the networking event you thought you couldn’t afford. One particular place to look for savings is in automatically-recurring service fees. There are so many low-cost online subscription-based services that sound like small business godsends that you end up adopting and forgetting. $7/month here, $9/month there. It adds up. Review your bank statements and make sure you don’t have a leak somewhere. If it’s easy to go broke by nickels, you can also make a nest egg out of them. Your secret weapon: Vigilance.
- Perfect is the enemy of good // Most small business owners put at least a bit of their household security on the line, so there’s no sense in being reckless. But the "perfect" marketing plan is a myth, so you can stop fretting that you’ve overlooked something. You have. You’ll notice it midstream and adapt. It’s better to execute on a pretty good plan than to keep the perfect one in the drawer. Focus is key, so if your plan isn’t haphazard and you’ve talked it through with smart people outside your immediate circle, it might be time to commit. Your secret weapon: Action
Ready to get going?