As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats. If you’re like me, you handle sales, billing, accounts payable, marketing AND the product (in my case, writing). Why do we do this? Partially because we feel we can’t afford to pay someone to do these things for us (or rather, we’ll have more money if we don’t hire anyone else). We also do it because we think we are the most competent people in the world, and we can’t trust anyone else to do the job as well as we will.
I have a secret. You are NOT the best person to handle every aspect of your business. You’re not. And neither am I. You started your business because you had a specific skill set or experience in an area, not because you were a great accountant, salesperson, and manager.
Think of it this way: if you were forced to pick only one ‘job’ to do in your company, what would it be? That’s the one you’re good at and enjoy the most. So make that your job and find someone else to do the rest.
Entrepreneurs tend to get in their own way. If you’re working in your business and not on it, you miss a lot. You can get so bogged down handling all the different roles you’ve taken on that you end up doing none of them effectively. Do you really want complete control of all aspects of your business if the risk you take is the failure of your company?
It truly helps to have a third party look at the way you do things and assess whether that’s the best way to do it. For instance, I meet so many small business owners who have been ‘doing’ their own marketing for years. But they’re not growing. Marketing for them tends to consist of phone book ads or a poorly laid Google AdWord ad. It’s all they have time for, and they have put the effort forth in spurts. But I can come in and tell them that the phone book ad is a waste of money, and that I can give them a more well-rounded marketing campaign that will cost less than they’re spending now! Who wouldn’t want that?!
If you follow my blog (and I understand there actually are a few of you who do), you hear me talk about Marketing 2.0. You heard it here first! I want to break it down into its most basic form so that you can better understand the importance it is playing in our world of ecommerce.
- First, it is interactive. No longer are we forced to sit on the couch and take our daily dose of advertising. We now can jump in the television (or computer) and change the color of the background, choose what pose the personality takes, and tell them how we like to get our messages. More or less.
Take YouTube, for example. What started out as a way for teenagers to post inane videos of skateboarding falls has turned into the single biggest factor affecting media today. Yes, there are still the ‘idiot videos,’ but now they’re mixed in with product spoofs (spoof or not, it got iPhone attention), commercials that are actually interesting, and now even political debates. What used to be solely for the tech-savvy consumer is now being wooed by major players like CNN.
YouTube works because it is interactive. Once you view a video you can share it with friends. That’s how a silly Transformers rap has been viewed over 510,000 times!
- Marketing 2.0 is a conversation between consumers and companies. Since we have all but removed commercials from our television viewing repertoire thanks to Tivo, companies have to find new ways to reach their audience. That means they have to ask consumers what they want. They’re listening for once!
I find myself watching commercials lately, not fast forwarding through them. The difference is, I’m doing it on my computer, and I choose the ones I want to watch. Marketing 2.0 at its best.
Anyway, the commercial I’m watching is from Burger King. The company, which has changed hands several times (as well as marketing firms) in the past few years, seems to be onto something with its bizarre Burger King showing up in bed with people and dancing in the desert. Whopper eaters mysteriously grow handlebar mustaches. It’s a crazy burger world.
The company must be doing something right. While its stock bottomed out last August at $12.41, it has now doubled since then. You used to not have any particular image in mind when you thought of Burger King a few years ago.
Now they have rebranded to become something funky that people want to be a part of. Even back in 2004, when the Subservient Chicken came out, people spread the viral marketing campaign like wildfire. (Many an hour did I spend trying to figure out if it was live or manual. Didn’t that chicken ever need to use the bathroom??)
The point is, sometimes you have to step back and look at your brand. You may like it, but if sales are dropping faster than, well, Subservient Chicken droppings, you may need to consider a rebrand.
Many companies don’t believe they have anything newsworthy to tell the world about. They couldn’t be more wrong. Every single business has something that’s worth putting into a press release. It’s just a matter of looking at it the right way.
Your news doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. It might not even matter to anyone outside of the company, but if you’re proud of it, toot your horn!
The more news you have, the more active your company appears to be.
Can’t think of anything to write a release on? I’ve written about press releases before, but I want to expand the list. Here’s 24 ideas for you.
I have an MBA, so of course I can rattle off the elements of marketing mix at the drop of a dime. Okay, I lied. Let me drag my marketing book out from under the futon, rescuing it from rabid dustbunnies.
To the very technical, a marketing mix consists of:
We all know these are important. It’s a given. I’m going to shake things up (sorry Dr. Kim) and redefine marketing mix. I’m going to define it as:
Marketing. Public Relations. Advertising. Branding.
You’ve probably heard of all of these, but aren’t sure what the differences are. In truth, they overlap a lot. The lines are often blurred among them. Here is a spot-on illustration of how they differ!
I couldn’t say it better than that, but I’ll go ahead and ruin it by trying. Let’s order them in terms of blatancy to the most subtle.
1. Advertising (bang your message over someone’s head)
2. Marketing (consumers are aware you’re paying for the placement)
3. Public Relations (they don’t have to know you called the news station after rescuing that kitten from a tree)
4. Branding (word of mouth is a great example). Branding is usually seen as the most sophisticated because it involves associating the brand with a lifestyle or particular experience, therefore the advertising can be around the Brand rather than the product or service.
Driving through my Orlando suburb, I see so many businesses that are destined to fail. It pains me, because I know with proper planning, these businesses would have been successful. That’s all it takes. Do you have a plan?
Many companies have business plans, primarily to secure financing. But marketing plans tend to get overlooked, maybe because a marketing plan is for you, not your investors. Businesses may not see them as necessary, but they absolutely are! A marketing plan will help you prioritize your actions and lay out a clear step-by-step map to help guide you to grow your business, and in conjunction with your budget, will help you determine the scope of what you will and will not be able to accomplish.
Step 1: Marketing SWOT
For my fellow MBAs, SWOT is all too familiar. It stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Jot down what your company’s strong points are, as well as areas it could use a little work. Survey your industry and determine where there are opportunities for your business to grow, and where competitors may threaten to take some of your market share. If you want more in depth information on SWOT, click here
Step 2: Marketing Creativity
Now comes the fun part. You get creative. Think about all the forms of marketing that appeal to you or that are hot in your market. If you’re really savvy (or hire me) think of marketing ideas that aren’t yet abuzz, but soon will be. Riding the wave of Marketing 2.0 may be your key to success.
Research ROI and costs involved, and decide which aren’t worth the trouble. Mark them off your list. ROI on marketing is a dark art at best, so a gut check may be in order as well as tight status checking to ensure you don’t bet the bank on an inappropriate marketing mix.
On a road trip recently, my family stopped at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant. I don’t have any particularly strong affiliation to the restaurant. To me, it’s a lot like Chili’s and Applebee’s. A good place to get a hot meal, nothing more, nothing less.
I hadn’t been in a Ruby Tuesday in a few years, but right away I noticed a difference. The plates were square. And the tables were clear of the drink special clutter. The menu was basically the same, but there was a slight air of sophistication that I took note of, highlighted by fewer items on the menu, large colorful pictures, and elegant text. And now, that is what separates Ruby Tuesday from other restaurants for me.
Differences In Marketing
It doesn’t take much to differentiate yourself. In this example, you see that by changing the accessories (a very affordable expense, I imagine), Ruby Tuesday is shifting its image from an all-American hamburger joint to something more upscale. It’s subtleties that count.
Think about your business. Likely you’re not the only one of your kind. How do you set yourself apart from the competition? What makes you special? What are your competitive advantages? If you don’t have answers to these questions, you need to find them out.
It eludes me why so many people put marketing last in their financial planning and budgeting. I understand that electricity and paying employees’ salaries is important, but marketing is just as important. Without it, you have no customers, so you don’t need electricity or employees!
I think entrepreneurs assume they need a star-dazzling six-digit marketing budget. Nothing could be further from the truth. To get started, when income isn’t yet rolling in, I suggest my clients allot just 10% of their revenues to marketing. As revenues increase, you can increase the amount or set a dollar amount.
When I started Egg almost a year ago, I had ZERO funds for marketing or anything else. I was so afraid my company wouldn’t make it without marketing money. But as soon as I committed to setting aside just 10% of my revenue, I slowly created a marketing pile of money that afforded me networking opportunities, small website advertising, and print collateral. These channels helped me build up Egg, and now my marketing budget has grown to meet my company’s growing success.
If you’re not getting the business you want, and you’re constantly discussing marketing to no avail, your marketing strategy sucks.
Here are some clues to look for:
1. You don’t have a marketing budget.
Budget? What’s that? If you think setting aside money for marketing is a waste of time, you’ll soon be looking for employment.
2. You don’t have a marketing plan.
Flying by the seat of your pants is not an option when you’re an entrepreneur. Being flexible is, however. You need to have a marketing plan that lays out what activities you will engage in each year, quarter, and month, and how much will be allocated (see point 1).