In our digital age of engagement and two-way conversation, many small and micro-business owners recognise the need for marketing to create a strong brand presence and promote their business. Maybe you are currently at this stage yourself, where the referrals – which have provided you with the vast majority of your business to date – have started to dry up? Maybe you’ve reached the tough decision to leave your local networking group as you’re not meeting as many new customers as you’d like? Or maybe you are doing a roaring trade but are starting to become aware of how much you could scale your business and reach a wider audience?
So, you know you need to create a marketing strategy to bring in new leads, but how do you start and where do you go for help and support? Should you start with social media or your website? Or should you look at more traditional options such as the printed press or direct mail? More importantly, how do you avoid becoming that annoying spammer selling your wares in every group on every social media platform in existence (yep we all have had our fair share of them, haven’t we!)
For the majority of you, I’m guessing that marketing isn’t where your strengths or passions lie. If it was, you very probably, would have set up your own marketing consultancy rather than a coaching, accountancy, or any other fab business that you have poured your blood, sweat and tears into. So, outside of managing all of your marketing yourself – and running the risk of
- Complete overwhelm
- Being unable to deliver on your actual business offering and
- Throwing good money after bad on the next big marketing tactic – my recommendation would be to outsource to a company that can provide you with the advice and support you need
I appreciate that it can feel like a step into the unknown, and sometimes a case of trial and error. There are many clients that come to me who have given something a go, either themselves, or with a marketing agency that has approached them, and it may not have worked first time. There may be a number of reasons for this, such as the agency not fully understanding the brief, or the business owner not really knowing what they want out of it, just that they feel ‘it should work’.
So what do I advise these clients, and also those who are looking to dip their toe into the marketing waters for the first time?
Prepare a plan
First and foremost, take some time to think about what it is you want to achieve. Any good marketing consultant should go through this with you and help you to devise a marketing strategy, but it helps if you have had a think about this beforehand. Consider what you believe to be a success, and this should form part of the objectives that are set between you and the agency/consultant.
Prepare a brief
It’s important for the person that is helping you with your marketing to become an extension of your team; the more they understand your business, the better the job they can do for you. Who are your target market(s), what do your existing and future customers look like, and what motivates them? The more thinking you can do around this, the better. It’ll help you further down the line, and ensure your marketing strategy is in line with your business objectives.
Know your budget
You may not know what the going rate for a marketing agency or consultant may be, but it’s important to try to do some research beforehand. Then set your budget based on what can you realistically afford to spend, and what you might expect to achieve with that amount. You may find that it helps to ask other business owners who have used a marketing consultant in the past or drop a request in an active Facebook or LinkedIn group that you may be a member of. You’ll find that a lot of people are more than happy to advise and recommend. This may also save you a lot of time (and money!) in research.
Rely on your gut instinct
This can count for a lot. This person/team will be working on your behalf, so you have to be comfortable with how they represent you. Are they including you in the creative process, getting your input on how you want to be represented as a brand? What similar clients have they worked on in the past? What outcomes or benefits did they achieve?
Sitting down regularly with your consultant will not only increase the close working relationship, but also help to tweak/amend the marketing strategy where necessary, and allow you to check progress against the objectives set out at the beginning.
It may seem like a daunting move, but if you follow the steps above it will help you on the way to getting it right the first time rather than having to invest time and money down the line on correcting potential costly errors.
So, let me know what you think in the comments and feel free to get in touch if I can be of further assistance…
Photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com