By Charles Luna
Now we need to get “strategic” about our Marketing Strategy, and figure how we’ll actually make everything happen.
It all starts out with two big (but very straightforward) decisions from you:
- How much time do you want to devote to your marketing
- How much money do you want to devote to your marketing
And, the old “Time is money” axiom certainly applies here.
How much money should I spend?
Only you can decide how much of either commodity you want to spend on marketing. A general rule of thumb for small to mid-sized businesses is 3%-5% of gross annual sales. For many of us, that can seem like a pretty big number. Keep in mind that a certain “critical mass” of activity will be needed to effectively market your business, and, the money you invest right now will pay long-term dividends. There are also studies showing that the most profitable and fastest growing professional services firms spend an average of just under 5% (4.8%, to be exact) on marketing.
Where should I start my marketing?
My previous posts on marketing were laid out in a (mostly) chronological fashion—with a few flyers thrown in, of course! Reading back through some of those will give you more information on each specific area. If you’re not really sure why you should be marketing, start with Marketing: Why Bother.
Start your marketing HERE à Provide the right service to the right people
Researching your clients and competition while verifying you are providing a valuable service may sound like a time-waster—but I see it prove its value again and again. I’ve had so many clients tell me “this is what we do” or “this is who we sell to”, only to discover (after some re-evaluation) that the people they are selling to were not the people they should be selling to. Or that both they and their competition were making the exact same promises to the exact same potential clients.
This research step might take you only a couple of hours to accomplish, and will form the foundation of everything you will be doing until the day you retire. That’s certainly worth a half-day of your time! If you’re not comfortable working through that on your own, email me and I’ll provide some worksheets—and suggestions (for free) if you want them.
Be the company your clients need
While we all have things we think we do well, providing the services your clients genuinely need will make you an indispensable partner in their enterprise. Sometimes a company is already providing the perfect service, but doing a really lousy job of letting potential clients know what the company does. In fact, “I don’t really know what they do” is one of the top 5 complaints that customers have! Ouch.
Carefully examine which services you believe clients need, what you do to fulfill those needs and how you convey that information to your clients. Again, it shouldn’t take more than a half-day to iron out workable solutions to items such as branding, value propositions, differentiators and an elevator pitch.
You need to:
- Meet client expectations (at the very least).
- Look and sound like the company they want to do business with.
- Tell clients what you do and how it will fulfill their existing need.
Understand the basics of modern marketing
By understanding how marketing works, you can choose the pieces that work best for you.
A marketer may be able to simplify things or give you additional insight, but you are the expert on your business—no matter how complicated the marketing may seem. If your target market is primarily “over 60”, social media may be a less beneficial place for you to spend your marketing dollars. If your target market is facilities managers, then consider LinkedIn or an ad in a BOMA publication. Should you be considering print media or only digital? Read that older post to find out more about the potential value of print.
Pretty much everyone needs a good website, but how important are social media or search engine optimization?
My suggestion is to take them on in exactly that order:
- Your website takes priority over every other implementation item. Why? Because everyone will go to your website before seriously considering you. You have the chance to turn “I’ll think about them” into “This is the company I want to work with”.
If your website is unprofessional or does a poor job of expressing what you have to offer then you will lose business.
- Social media should only be undertaken if you’re pretty certain your clients are there and you have the time to maintain your presence. Start with one or two channels that you think you can keep up with (often LinkedIn and Facebook, or LinkedIn and some image/video channel).
- SEO is great, and not too difficult to do, but requires a little bit of specialized understanding. That means you can do it (even if you aren’t an SEO pro) but you should spend a little time reading about it first. And remember: Do all of the simple steps first! You may never need to progress to the technically challenging items if you do the easy stuff well.
If you use WordPress, there are plugins that can make your on-page SEO relatively straightforward.
Your website is almost certainly where the bulk of your initial marketing efforts will (and should) be directed. Social media may cumulatively take up a lot of your time, but it happens over a pretty prolonged period, so doesn’t require a huge initial commitment and can be instantly stopped if you’re not seeing any returns. Give your social media a full six months to see tangible results.
A punchlist of successful marketing
Here’s the list-version to help you stay focused!
- Determine who your clients are, who your competition is (and how they express themselves), and what services you should be offering that clients want to purchase.
This will be an ongoing/updated process you revisit until the day you retire. You don’t have to do it every day, but you should do it every year.
- Consider how you explain why clients should do business with you and how you’re different from your competition.
Again, this should be an ongoing consideration for you—especially as you begin marketing—and may periodically change. This will never be truly static and will certainly change if you modify #1, above.
- Select the pieces of the marketing puzzle you believe will be most helpful and implement them. This will almost always be a really good website, and may include social media, blogs, advertisements, newsletters, flyers, Google ads, etc.
If you truly understand your clients, know what your clients want, and are doing a good job of explaining yourself then the marketing moves you need to make will likely be obvious to you.
You are the expert on your own business.
Gnu 2 Marketing
Powerful Marketing & Branding