Do this! Do that! Make a video! Post regular content! Yes, it’s all very well…
Can you transform your business with a $37 instagram course? Probably not, but it’s hard to resist! I know I’m not immune to the pull of it myself. I do like a great “Everything you’ll need to succeed” pack for the magical price of thirty-seven dollars. Sell it to me well, and I’m adding it to cart and getting my lifetime access pronto.
Our lives have become about quick fixes, hacks and easy wins. These resources can be of great value, and have a huge bank of information to help you perfect a handful of tactics for Instagram, Linkedin or Tiktok. As long as you’ve already got the foundations sorted.
Before you jump into a course or dive deep into learning how to use social media, or even create a website, you should start with an overarching strategy. This will help you lay a foundation of what you are selling, who you sell it to, and why they need it. If you don’t get clear on this, and then how to define your core messages (the ones you’ll repeat over and over again), it’s going to be hard to make significant progress with your marketing. It’s likely you need to build out a marketing strategy.
One thing I’ve learnt is that the phrase “ marketing strategy” can cover a very broad spectrum of documents. If you’re a small business owner, and you’ve come from a corporate role, then your idea of a marketing strategy may be pretty different to the nimble strategies for small businesses. Unlike a large business that can spend days researching, testing, and going deep with focus groups and workshops, the life of a small business owner means the time and money investment needs to be less, and more focussed on actions stemming from it.
You’ll know you’ve got a marketing strategy and action plan that fits your business, if you can refer to it every week. It should remind you of why you’re marketing, what you’re saying and who should be paying attention to it. It should also be simple to follow.
I believe all businesses benefit from writing a marketing strategy and plan every year. It can be written with a strategist like us, or through using a course like our online marketing strategy school, or just with an online template and time with your own thoughts. Whatever fits for you and your business, the key is to put aside time to write a plan.
Whether you’re going to go DIY, or enlist in some help and support, it’s a good idea to gather information and thoughts to make the most of your time. We find those business owners who come with their information ready, and pre-work completed to create a far more effective strategy. This week in the MAP IT Marketing podcast, we covered what preparation you should do, including the following twelve questions:
1. How would you explain your business today?
This should be an instinctive reply, looking at where it’s come from, where it’s sitting and the moment and how you’d describe it to yourself, to your team/customers and to the public. Because small business owners are closely tied to sales and vision of the business, we ask this question to then compare your description to what we can see externally, such as the messaging on the website.
2. Where do you want the business to be?
Is there anything you know isn’t working or needs to change? Do you want to grow new lines or maintain the status quo. This can also tie into your own personal or family goals.
3. What do you sell?
Are you happy with what you offer? Do you enjoy the work? Is it profitable? Do you feel some offers are out of your skill set? Are you developing anything new? It’s also important to look at your core products or services. It’s far easier to market three to five core offers, products or brands consistently well than spread yourself thin trying to market everything at once.
4. Where do you fit in the marketplace?
Are you a premium product with a price tag to match? Or are you super cheap and targeting the masses? It doesn’t matter where you are, but it needs to be consistent with the quality of your product. If you say your cushions are a premium product but you’re selling them for twenty dollars, for instance, there’s a brand disconnect. If it’s a bottle of juice and it’s twenty dollars, it’s a better fit.
5. What are your numbers?
It’s common for business owners to have a clear grasp on their business numbers. It’s also incredibly important to understand them. Overall turnover is a good place to start, but what we really need to know are profit margins, the average value of a customer, the average sale price and other breakdowns. Sometimes it’s easy to fall into selling a product or service that has a very low profit margin, or doesn’t lead anywhere. Knowing your numbers before you start to create your marketing strategy can help you shape a more profitable business.
6. Are you paying yourself?
We ask this question of every business owner we work with. It’s common for small business owners to fall into the trap of “reinvesting” their profits. Paying yourself is a sign of a healthy business. Your pricing or offer may need to be adjusted, or there may need to be some changes to costs, or mindset. Sometimes a marketing strategy can lead to reshaping large parts of your business.
Marketing amplifies whatever is there. Asking this question helps make sure that paying yourself is one of the success factors you’ll be measuring
7. Who are your favourite types of customers?
Zeroing in on your best customers can help you get more of them. Taking a look at common characteristics can help you work out how to grow a business serving people who bring out the best in you. This isn’t always about demographics such as gender, or income. If you have no idea, you can write down a nightmare client’s attributes, then flip the negative into positives.
8. What marketing are you already doing?
Creating a list of what you are already doing means you can check what’s working, what needs to be improved and what you could be missing. It’s a really good idea to pop this all into a document you can refer back to. I often find I’ll be delivering a strategy and someone drops a “oh and of course that will fit in with our radio campaign” and it’s the first time they’ve mentioned it!
Marketing strategies are about connecting all the marketing activities together. You can’t create a marketing strategy for each silo.
9. What systems do you have in place?
Often marketing can be stymied because your platforms and systems aren’t talking together. So make a list of all the tools, platforms and solutions you are using. Note down any frustrations with them, and what “talks to’ each other.
Sometimes a marketing strategy will pull out a need to resolve this to make the marketing messages flow better.
10. What’s your time and money capacity?
Think about how much time and money you are currently spending on marketing. Jot this down. If you are wanting to grow your business, you may need to find a way to carve out more time. While digital marketing is free (not counting advertisements), you can often save time with apps and solutions that do cost money. Your spend in relation to turnover often depends on the stage of your business. A start up may have to outlay far more proportionally than a business that’s considered mature.
11. What are your identified strengths and weaknesses?
Again, we’ll often check your strengths against what you’re mentioning in your marketing. Are you highlighting the parts of your business that you do best? Converse, are you promoting areas of your business you know are weaknesses? This can also help reduce risk by identifying issues that may grow bigger as you grow.
12. What do you know you don’t understand or will need help with?
While we don’t know what we don’t know, there may be areas of marketing you know you need help with. Some of these questions may have highlighted a few. Knowing where your knowledge gaps are can help you access support, training, employ someone or completely justify that $37 Instagram course you spied this morning. You’ll be ready to make the most of it.