Most small businesses fail. According to the Small Business Administration, 50% of new businesses fail in the first 5 years. Forbes says there are five primary reasons this happens. First, they are out of touch with their customers. Second, their product isn’t unique. Third, their message is unclear. Fourth, leadership is a mess. Fifth, they can’t figure out the right pricing for the right audiences. So, in other words, their marketing stinks.
As a small business or nonprofit leader, you know that marketing is essential. However, you likely didn’t choose your profession because you are a marketing expert. Most people aren’t. You are passionate about the products and services you offer. You can use your best skills to make a real difference. You can make a decent living and support your family.
Marketing is necessary and doing it well can be hard. Best practices change overnight and keeping up with the tools that marketers use requires a lot of time. You know you need marketing but getting the right plan in place is daunting.
Random Acts of Marketing
Michelle was in your shoes. She had a small business as a chiropractor. She was especially good at caring for young children and was able to affect their health positively. She related well with children and was able to educate and support parents in reassuring ways. Her clients loved her, and most of her new business came from referrals. Because of her success, she hired a second chiropractor and an administrator. With the increased expense, she needed to ramp up business quickly to make ends meet.
Michelle added to her marketing activities. She boosted a couple of Facebook posts. She answered the call from the newspaper ad salesperson and placed an ad in the paper. She ran a promotion for referrals. She did a couple of presentations at family events. All of these were good and did bring in some new clients. However, she always felt like it wasn’t enough. When one task was finished, she raced to the next one. She had no idea what she was spending on all of this or if it was paying off. She was always anxious and didn’t have the right information to know if her efforts were worth doing at all.
Michelle is not alone. Small business and nonprofit leaders do this all the time. They run from marketing task to marketing task with no real idea if it’s working or if they are doing the right things. They are cogs in a world that tells them that they are supposed to have advertising and online engagement and websites and videos and on and on and on. We call this type of activity “random acts of marketing.”
Even one of the pioneers of marketing, John Wanamaker (1838-1922), was befuddled. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
For your marketing efforts to be effective, you must commit to a plan.
Busting Marketing Myths
Before we dive into marketing planning in our next post, let’s debunk some myths.
MYTH 1: Marketing planning isn’t creative.
Creatives may tell you that this is true, but it’s just not. While marketing planning can be formulaic, it is also creative work. Imagining and dreaming are critical elements of good marketing plans. With time and space to think intentionally about big picture goals, we can then follow with the work of creatively imagining what it will take to accomplish those goals.
Intentional marketing requires setting aside time to develop your creative ideas, rather than chasing your latest idea like a dog chasing a squirrel. This process is smart and produces consistency and strategy, rather than one-hit wonders or worse yet, complete duds.
Think of it like this. Marketing planning is both macro and micro in scope. On a macro level, you are examining goals and big-picture strategies. On a micro level, you are creating intentional, specific ways to reach people.
MYTH 2: Marketing planning requires specialized training.
Like most areas of specialized work, it can be helpful to have an expert at the helm. However, for thoughtful, intentional leaders, this is an area you can execute yourself – to the degree that is most comfortable for you.
If you do choose to get outside counsel, there are various forms this can take. Perhaps you just need a coach to help you talk through options and ideas – someone that can polish what you’ve already imagined. Or, if you are like many small business and nonprofit leaders, the hats you wear are many, and doing marketing planning feels too big to handle yourself. In this case, bringing in an expert to facilitate and manage the process for you can be really helpful!
MYTH 3: Marketing planning takes the risk out of execution and makes achieving your goals 100% guaranteed.
For those who are risk averse, I’m sorry to say that marketing planning does not eliminate risk. It does, however, increase the odds of success. Risk is inherent in any business and especially in those that innovate and push for consistent growth. Mediating those potential pitfalls, however, is crucial. Creating comprehensive, strategic marketing plans will not ensure success or eliminate potential failures. It will give you confidence that you have the right tools in place to set you up for the best success possible.
Do you need help with marketing planning?