Most entrepreneurs I’ve done business with have come straight out of corporate jobs where they had marketing departments. They never had to think about this critical role of the business and therefore just took it for granted.
Once on their own they thought Hey, I can do this but then realize they don’t really know how. They try and try, wasting precious time and budget but make no headway; lying awake at night wondering what the heck they’re doing wrong. Working with a small business marketing consultant gets you on your way to getting it right, the first time without wasting time or budget. (And, you’ll sleep better too.)
Think of working with someone like myself akin to the role of a General Contractor or an Interior Designer. Someone with the specific expertise and creative leadership skills who act as your advocate to help you take your vision from concept to reality — a ‘connect the dots’ kind of role. And, of course, someone who has built partnerships with proven professionals so that you don’t become someone’s guinea pig. As a neutral third-party I’m not selling you anything but my expertise. With so many channel choices to consider, this makes for both good and bad marketing decisions: Good because now sending a postcard isn’t the only way to stay in touch; bad because, well there are more marketing tools and techniques than ever before!
Here’s why you should consider working with a small business marketing consultant:
Advocacy – When you work with me, I am firmly planted at your side. I will not let you do something that will hurt your business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved a client from a bad marketing decision. Here’s a recent example: My client was about to open a storefront business and, of course, those who buy new business lists started selling to her right away. She was bombarded with offers from all kinds of media, new programs, software sellers, and more. She had no idea the questions to ask to vet each opportunity’s value. Had it not been for having me on the team, she would have been discounting prices before even opening the doors for business. And paid to do so.
Network of Proven Professionals – You can spend your time searching around for just the right graphic designer, web developer, printer, etc., or you can spend your time with your own clients and running your business. It would take an outsider years to build the relationships that a consultant like me has access to. Here’s another example: Not understanding the nuanced differences in skill sets of website developers, a client of mine engaged a developer that was not the right fit for his needs. Why? The developer’s skill set was better suited to large-scale ecommerce sites and my client was a work-from-home PR consultant. He did this outside the project I was doing for him, then signed an agreement and paid the developer without consulting me. As he found out, website developers are not created equal. Some have very specific technical expertise suited to large-scale sites, some focus on the design of the site, some on the usability experience, some on the SEO, some on the…well, you get the idea. Had he consulted me he would have paid much less and had a much better outcome.
Having a plan – Without specific expertise in marketing (and even more specifically, small business marketing) small business owners sometimes engage in what I call the “Spaghetti Method of Marketing” — they cobble together a haphazard jumble of tactical steps without considering the big picture then throw it up on the wall to see what sticks. Here’s a story that showcases this point well: During the depths of the recession a few years ago a client had tried and tried to keep her customers coming back to her. The problem was that her business – a day spa – is one of those personal ‘treats’ that are the first things to get cut when money is tight. She took out some inconsistent ads in the local newspaper that ate up a big chunk of her budget and weren’t performing. Out of money and ideas, and very frustrated – she called me. This seasoned business had been operating for almost a dozen years so she had a customer list of hundreds of mailing addresses, phone numbers routinely used to confirm appointments, and some emails (never used). I put together a communications plan for her to follow which included opening up an email account to inexpensively communicate with those customers whose email addresses she had, and then I created a plan to contact those whose emails were either no longer valid or were missing either by phone or mailing an inexpensive postcard. Voila!
Having a budget – A direct benefit of having a good plan is that it creates a budget. Having a well-thought out specific marketing budget means you can plan for expenses, get a better handle on choosing the right suppliers, and not get taken by the urge to try every new sexy solution that presents itself. Here’s a big ouch story: A construction company secretary meant well when she told the owner that a coupon company salesperson kept calling her with all these great deals, so the owner spent a couple thousand dollars to participate in their next mailing of more than 50,000 households. Sounds promising, but the problem was that these coupons are mailed to apartment, condo, and townhome households NOT just single-family homes — the company’s target market. So, most of his money was wasted and because he was pressured not simply to advertise, but to offer a discount, he got a lot of tire-kickers looking to beat him up for the lowest price. The whole effort bombed. Then, he called me. I took that same money, purchased a list of single-family homeowners then using his existing stationery, envelopes and business cards, created a direct mail letter that brought in business.
Understanding the Phases of Marketing – The Acquisition, Retention, and Reactivation phases guide the strategy of which marketing methods to use at any given time. Not understanding these lead to very expensive mistakes. Here’s what I mean: A telecommunications company purchased an email list. They spent a significant portion of their marketing budget on the list purchase and the effort failed. Why? Email Acquisition will almost always fail in the B2B segment because email filters are often so tight, nothing gets through. And, because B2B email lists are usually 20% more expensive than a standard mailing list, the break-even point can be unattainable. Had they consulted with me beforehand (not after as they did), I would have advised them that email marketing is ONLY appropriate for Retention or Reactivation strategies and would have recommended they purchase the standard mailing list and either had a postcard designed or suggested they use their existing stationery as a direct mail package.
Connecting all the dots – Sometimes I see a situation where a client has a sales function and has a technical function, but no marketing to pull it all together. This leads to missed opportunities, mixed messages and other problematic roadblocks to creating more revenue. This last story is a perfect example: A custom software company had a large pool of tech coders writing software to continually better their product. The company also had several salespeople strategically located across the US. They had a website built by the owner (a software engineer) and his in-house tech team. Sales was never asked for their input. This resulted in a website filled with technical jargon that did not support the sales team, so each salesperson had to create their own stories on the fly out in the field. On occasion a prospect would go to website and get a completely different message. I worked with both sides to create a benefit-driven website as well as marketing collateral materials to use in the field and at trade shows. Everyone was now on the same page with the same branding and messaging. Ah…marketing nirvana at last.
Happy New Year and may 2018 bring you only wonderful opportunities.