It has now been roughly 18 months since I started our one stop hive Marketing Bee. After multiple tribulations and victories throughout the year I have been reflecting quite a lot about how marketing is perceived in the marketplace and regrettably I have realized that its meaning has been diluted over time. I am not sure whether I should point my finger at the industry in general or elsewhere.
Nowadays I meet with roughly 20 – 25 business owners face to face and connect with about 200 online through social media. It has been quite some time since I started quantifying (in my cool yellow notepad) what people understand when we talk about marketing.
Nowadays, most SME owners think that marketing is condensed to those three things: websites, SEO or social media/advertising (of some sort). What is interesting is that marketing is not those three things – marketing is the combination of business multiple strategic variants for the highest chance of success in selling or promoting a product or service. It is an ever evolving discipline which should be done with strategy behind it and a commercial purpose that is clearly defined. Marketing is a creative and strategic marriage – dream job for a right and left brainer like myself.
I like the old school (you will easily guess my age after this statement) wall street movies where marketing strategists are smoking cigars and sniffing expensive whiskey imagining how they will create the most remarkable business, penetrate markets, expand their networks and increase returns. The idea is 50%; the execution is the other very important 50%. What SME’s fail to realize is that they too need execution and strategy to sustain growth just like big business or even may be more than big business because they need to do more with less.
Modern day marketing for the most part, especially in small business comes down to getting a website and setting up a Facebook page. Don’t get me wrong – this can be critical but where are the marketing plans and sales funnels to back this up? I would say that 74% of the market we speak to don’t have a marketing plan. What happens then? You are left scratching your head wondering how your competitor is employing 12 people within 16 months. The likelihood of them having a rock solid marketing strategy is very high – marketing should be systemized – research, plan, execute and measure.
Another thing that I hear all the time is business is slow so I don’t have money to invest in marketing – I call that the ‘ostrich move’. The very reason why your business is slow is probably because you are reactive and not proactive. Marketing is what fuels blood into the business and surprisingly that’s the first thing people cut down when they are in slow mode. Personally I’d get rid of this expensive insurance extra I just took out.
What is interesting for me is that I’d like to educate people about the outsourced marketing movement. People are used to outsourcing everything – websites, admin, accounting and bookkeeping but not the overall marketing function. Why would you invest money in one provider who can only give you a one off service instead of a team of various skills who dives into your business day in day out? How most SME’S run their marketing is as such: one provider for a website, social media, newsletters, design etc. However what is interesting from our perspective is that the people we are outsourcing these functions to are not marketers but marketing – related providers. Where is the strategy behind it – did you get a marketing plan with that new website? Personally if I recruit an accountant I want them to be more successful than I am and I want them to give me a network relating to their function. Outsourced marketing works the same way – one provider, one bill, one relationship to manage. It’s efficient and cost effective. It’s what real marketing is meant to be – cohesive.
To illustrate what I mean:
- One IT business we work with has started to get leads and picking up clients 1 month since they started with us. They started networking, writing blogs, reviewing various facets of the business and are ticking along well. The business has only been operating for a few months.
- A patisserie chef sold over 300 boxes at Christmas instead of 90 and rebranded according to our recommendations. They are now in 20 cafes.
- Another client is starting to see 10 – 15 likes a day on Facebook and has started strategic partnerships with businesses that can help grow them.
- A food business we work with has started to use their brand guide to create all their communications creating consistency and visual strength in the business. They are now trade-marking everything.
The interesting thing is that there were a few people working on all of these projects – various skills in a commercial setting creating one best outcome.
So tell me... what do you understand when I say marketing?