Carolyn from Connect Marketing did a recent survey of small businesses with some interesting results.
The survey highlighted that 89% of small business owners considered marketing as either their first or second priority, yet an astonishing 74% said they did not have a marketing plan! Failing to plan is planning to fail and a well thought out plan that has at least six strategies working in tandem is the only way to generate a consistent flow of quality leads, month in and month out.
Here are the findings:
The survey was completed by 149 small business owners with a breakdown as follows;
53% were solo operators
13% employed 1 other person
30% employed between 2 and 20 people
4% employed 20+ people
TOP 10 FINDINGS ON THE ‘STATE OF MARKETING’ FOR SMALL BUSINESS
62% of people associated the word ‘marketing’ with either selling, advertising or branding.
44% said marketing was their FIRST priority and
45% said it was their SECOND priority.
In total, a whopping 89% place marketing in their top two priorities in their business!
Yet… 74% said they don’t have an up-to-date written marketing plan that is regularly followed!
Of those that don’t have a plan, 65% said they feel they need one with many stating they don’t know how to go about it.
44% said they don’t have enough KNOWLEDGE of marketing.
40% said they take a scatter-gun APPROACH to marketing.
Only 14% said they get the RESULTS they would like from marketing.
64% said they don’t have enough MONEY to do marketing properly.
56% said they don’t have enough TIME to do it properly.
50% said they don’t have good PEOPLE or resources to help them with marketing.
MORE DETAILED FINDINGS
What are the three most common words that come to mind when people think of marketing? Sales 25%
Other 38% (all one off words where no pattern could be identified)
Other less common words associated with marketing were; promoting, money, cost and creativity. For me these findings confirm that there is generally a misperception about what marketing is. Marketing is traditionally about the 4 P’s – having the right Product at the right Price at the right time, in the right Place being well Promoted. Advertising and selling are but one component of the last P of marketing. More recently I have defined marketing as the ability of a business to generate a consistent flow of quality leads which ultimately comes from getting the 4 P’s right and through having a clear customer value proposition and points of difference.
What priority would you currently give marketing in your business?
First priority 44%
Second priority 45%
Third priority 9%
Minor priority 1%
Not a priority 1%
It’s not a surprise that marketing has come up as such a high priority for business owners in today’s slowing economy. I suspect businesses that have traditionally just relied on word-of-mouth referrals without having to focus on marketing as a ‘true function’ in their business, are now finding that it has become of much greater importance due to a slow-down in new business enquiries and sales. Given all the other functions that a business has to perform (ie HR, IT, Finance, Sales, Service etc) the fact that a whopping 89% placed marketing as one of their top two priorities says that we need to focus on giving small business owners practical, low-cost, consistent solutions that can be easily implemented – and NOW!
Do you have an up-to-date written marketing plan that you regularly follow?
If you don’t have a plan, do you feel you need one?
Many people stated they didn’t have the time, money or resources to get a plan and that they didn’t really know where to start to get one.
Respondents were asked to rank the current state of marketing in their business.
Do you have enough knowledge of the best ways to market your business?
No – 44%
Yes – 21%
Maybe – 35%
Knowing what marketing NOT to do, is as important as knowing what to do. Successful business owners are knowledge seekers in all areas of their business, especially marketing.
Do you tend to take a scatter-gun APPROACH to your marketing?
No – 40%
Yes – 40%
Maybe – 20%
A marketing plan helps avoid the scatter-gun approach. It just needs to be simple and focused with a minimum of 6 prongs working together to generate required leads.
Do you get the results you want from your marketing?
Yes – 14%
No – 46%
Maybe – 40%
Marketing is a numbers game. We need to be completely aware of the cost per lead and conversion rate so we can measure the ROI of every marketing activity.
Do you have enough money to do marketing properly?
No – 64%
Yes – 13%
Maybe – 23%
I recommend investing between 7% – 10% of your target revenue in marketing.
Do you have enough time to devote to marketing?
No – 56%
Yes – 30%
Maybe – 14%
If you can outsource the non-revenue producing areas of the business to focus on the revenue producing areas such as marketing, selling, servicing clients and product innovation, that would be a good start. I recommend spending at least 6 to 8 hours a week on marketing.
Do you have good people to help with marketing?
No – 50%
Yes – 26%
Maybe – 24%
There are many innovative ways to source good marketing and business development support. Consider establishing formal distribution alliances or employing commission sales people and agents or getting some University students on work experience. In summary, it appears there is a fair degree of pain around marketing, with people consistently feeling they don’t have enough money, time or resources to do it properly ultimately resulting in a huge degree of disappointment in return on investment. Working to a simple plan and annual marketing calendar and then dedicating some resources and time to it, is a good start. Then the key word is PERSISTENCE to generate a steady flow of new business leads, month and month out, rather than having the peaks and troughs so many businesses experience.
When it comes to using online resources or websites to help with marketing which ones do you regularly use?
Connect Marketing 18%*
Flying Solo 8%
Other 16% (family, friends, business associates and other e-resources etc)
The findings indicate there does not appear to be one single trusted source where small businesses can get all the education and tools they need when it comes to helping them market their small business.
by Mike O’Toole
Instinctively, every small business owner understands the importance of brand equity, even if they may not be able to define the idea. Marketing-speak aside, brand equity is how your customer recognizes why you are different and better than the alternative.
Brand equity is built on that customer’s direct experience with your product or service. This experience, repeated over time, creates equity or value in your brand. And it serves as a shorthand in the buyer’s mind that separates you from everyone else.
Brand equity is what creates loyalty that carries beyond price or the occasional product or service bump in the road. It is the quality that motivates your customers to recommend their friends or colleagues to you.
Everyone wants brand equity. But building it, when you are more likely to qualify for the Inc. 500 rather than the Fortune 500, can be a puzzle. Particularly when the role models for brand equity are global icons like Coca Cola, Volvo, or Sony—hardly your peer set.
The good news is that the path to building brand equity is clear. Here are five simple steps you can take to get started:
1. Clarify your position
The first step to building brand equity is to define your positioning: the single thing your company stands for to your customers. Single is the operative word here. Good positioning forces hard choices.
To define your brand position, get the key leaders in your company together. Decide what makes you different and better than your competition. This might sound blindingly obvious, but most small businesses are too busy responding to customers or making payroll to do a lot of introspection.
You don’t need an agency or consultant to get started. There are a couple of good exercises out there that you can do on your own. A simple one that I like is the Positioning XYZs:
“We are the only X that solves Y problem in Z unique way.”
X is the category of the company, product, or service or other offering you’ve chosen to own.
Y is the unmet need of your target audience.
Z is the differentiation, advantage, or key positive distinction you have over your competition.
2. Tell your story
Clear positioning is critical, but positioning statements are internal touchstones, not external expressions. Your next job is to make it interesting, to imbue the rational positioning with emotion.
All brands are stories, and a good way to get started is to document and share your best corporate stories: the founding insight of the company, the times you went to extraordinary lengths to take care of a customer, or the background behind the big product breakthrough.
The good news is that with ubiquitous broadband access and Web-based applications, it is within every company’s grasp to share these stories more broadly through rich-media video and audio.
B.Good (http://www.bgood.com/), a small restaurant chain in Boston, has done this well. It’s a burger joint that promises “real food,” positioning itself against the typical fast-food burger and experience. The real food story begins with the stories of the “real people,” the founders whose corporate values are based on their experiences growing up at their uncle’s restaurant. You’re reminded of these stories when you’re in the restaurant or checking store hours online.
3. Bring it to life
Once you have the story, you need to bring it to life. Make sure that the way your company looks and feels to the outside world matches that truth. This leads to questions about your corporate identity: Do the basics (starting with your name and logo) make the impression you want? And your broader system for communicating to the market: Web site, brochures, your retail environment.
A client of mine talked about his Web site as a “corporate veil” that obscured what made the company special. Does your corporate identity reveal the best truth about your business, or does it hide it?
4. Start building brand before they buy
Think beyond the transaction. Brands begin at the transaction level, but the brand experience goes much deeper. The opportunity to create a brand impression starts long before the buying decision. The principle is a simple one: Give away an artifact of your brand for free. In the professional services world, this means a taste of your service or your intellectual property. Here are two creative examples:
Igor (http://www.igorinternational.com/) is a naming consultancy based in San Francisco. It has built a methodology—and a client list that rivals those of much-larger branding agencies. That methodology is laid bare in a 100-page guide to naming that it gives away—without any registration requirements—on its Web site.
This move is both generous, in the spirit of Web content “wanting to be free,” and also incredibly shrewd. The naming guide is rich, detailed, and outlines a very clear process for naming. Igor understands that giving away IP (intellectual property) doesn’t cost it business—but it is its lead business generator.
It doesn’t have to be just IP. Peet’s (http://www.peets.com/), the coffee retailer, allows customers to send their friends an “eCup,” an email redeemable for a free cup of coffee. This is an ingenious way to enable the fiercely loyal customers of Peet’s to promote the brand themselves.
5. Measure your efforts
Here are a few direct ways to measure the progress of your brand:
Ask your customers. Survey a subset of customers, prospective customers, and (ideally) people who chose a competitor over you. You’ll be surprised at how candid people will be about your strengths—and your weaknesses. Make sure you ask the most important question in any customer research: Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague? Research (check out www.netpromoter.com) has shown that the willingness to recommend is the most important indicator of brand health. This research can be done quite cheaply online, using free or near-free tools like KeySurvey (http://www.keysurvey.com/) or SurveyMonkey (http://www.surveymonkey.com/).
Check your search rankings. I don’t know all of what Igor measures, but I do know it fares very well in what is perhaps the most important measure of them all: organic search results. Type “product naming” on Google, and chances are you’ll see Igor come up in the top three listings (the earned ones in the middle, not the paid ones on the top or side).
Monitor the social media conversation. In most categories, consumers are holding a very active and candid conversation about the brands they love and hate. Check out what they’re saying about you in blogs, bulletin boards, and vendor-rating Web sites (http://www.technorati.com/ or http://www.yelp.com/ are good places to start).
Jon Miller in a recent post at Marketo.
Top Five Lead Management Best Practices:
1.Be everywhere. “Cast your marketing net wide so customers will find you no matter where they are searching,” he advises. (as long as they are within your target market profile).
2. Build prospect profiles. Create a lead database to manage and store all your leads, and then make sure you have a strategy in place to keep that database clean (e.g., lead de-duplication).
2.Automate lead handoffs. He offers an example: “Define different lead status values to indicate whether someone is a qualified prospect but still nurturing, or a true sales-ready lead.” Then update their lead status in the CRM system.
3.Provide sales-lead insight. Give the sales rep the prospect’s history, and offer insight about the “interesting moments” that caused that person to become a lead.
4.Recycle leads as necessary. If your sales rep can’t follow up right away, or the prospect isn’t available, don’t let a lead just sit and turn stale. “[H]ave a process in place to reassign the lead or escalate the issue,” Miller advises.
Laura Lake explains some good ideas when it comes to internet marketing ideas and strategy.
We are watching our pennies and slashing our marketing budgets so where can we market that provides us the most cost effective vehicle as well as gives us the efficiency we need in this economy? It’s the Internet.
Why is internet marketing the most cost effective and efficient? It’s the only marketing vehicle that allows you to make tweaks and changes to your campaigns on the fly. When was the last time you ran a marketing campaign and realized it wasn’t pulling the results that you had hoped for? Do you remember the hopeless feeling you got when you saw the campaign was going to be a flop? Of course you do. If you had used internet marketing you could have made the changes at the first sign of failure. The changes could include tweaking the text, modifying the graphic or strengthening the message.
I’m not saying internet marketing is easy, but given some effort and even guidance you can make internet marketing a viable option to sell your services and products. I’ve provided you a few resources that will help you understand the importance of internet marketing strategy as well as guidance that will help you get started.
Internet Marketing Strategy: What Can it Do for You?Having an Internet marketing strategy gives you a measurable and definitive way to target your market and position your business so that those looking for what you have to offer are finding you easily. Learn what it can do for your marketing efforts.Read more
Internet Marketing Strategy : Why is it Important?An Internet Marketing Strategy is just as important as a business plan. Find out why it is important and the risks and problems you can face if you proceed without one.Read more
ABC’s of Creating an Internet Marketing StrategyThis can often leave marketers confused and wondering where to start. Learn a formula that will help you experience internet marketing success in 2007.Read more
Five Levels of Internet Marketing and the Sales ProcessCreating a successful online sales process can be accomplished by making sure that you represent and court your visitor through the five levels of the sales process on your site. You can do this by meeting the psychological needs that your visitor has. Find out how in this three part series.Read more
Top 10 Internet Marketing Strategies Internet Marketing can attract more people to your website, increase customers for your business, and enhance branding of your company and products. If you are just beginning your online marketing strategy the top 10 list below will get you started on a plan that has worked for many.Read more
Five Myths of Internet Marketing for Independent ProfessionalsThe vast majority of what appears on the Internet about marketing is designed to help you market products and services sold and delivered exclusively on the Internet. What does that mean for the independent professional whose web presence is primarily aimed at selling his or her own personal services? Learn how to identify and avoid the five myths of Internet Marketing for independent professionals in this guest article by C.J. Hayden.
Robyn Haydon from Flying Solo has some great ideas about how to survive as a small business or sole practisioner in this economic climate.
A wise business mentor once told me ‘the best job security is the security you create for yourself’. I think this is true in any economic environment. So what is the answer for solo businesses? I think it’s planning. If we establish defensive measures now, we will be ready if and when this wobble turns into a full-on slump. Here are a few ways to weather-proof your business against the looming clouds of an economic downturn.
1. Review your target markets Geoff Kelly, a leader influence consultant I spoke to, believes that not enough of us “spend enough time targeting the right niche”. Kelly has shifted his focus from small-to-medium clients to those “more medium” sized. The risk-averse could consider government clients, if the offer suits, as government will always pay its bills.
2. Adjust to short-term thinking Expect prospects to be tight with time and cash and don’t take it personally. Try improving something they already have or do, rather than selling something completely new. Accept smaller projects.
3. Adapt your offering to what customers want now Talk to your customers and find out how the economic downturn is affecting their business. Come up with ideas, products or services that will solve the new set of problems. Always be relevant.
4. Be smart about keeping your customers Turn that long-term handshake agreement into a monthly retainer for regular work. Incentivise repeat business by offering extras without devaluing your core offer.
5. Widen your new business net Sharpen up your market presence – revamp your website, or get one; revisit your customers for testimonials; talk up the value customers get from you as opposed to competitors. Shelve brand-building in favour of marketing campaigns that get an immediate return. Ask existing customers to refer new ones. Think about how you could do business with customers based interstate or overseas.
6. Know and respect your value Shawn Price, an independent career management consultant, points out that we ‘independents’ can be attractive in an economic downturn because we can offer more expertise, more flexibility and a lower risk and level of commitment than full-time employees.