Everyone’s always talking about marketing secrets.
‘Discover how I made 7 figures in my first year of business!’
‘Come to my webinar and find out my hack to earning big in just 5 minutes a day!’
Ok, I’m exaggerating but you know what I mean. The online marketing world seems veiled in mystery. Everyone has been programmed to keep something back. To entice the click. To tempt someone to buy.
Marketing finally makes sense for small businesses
But there’s one marketing secret that I can tell you right now that, when I’ve told people, they’ve told me that marketing finally makes sense to them.
Are you ready?
When people talk about ‘marketing’ what they actually mean is ‘marketing communications‘.
Was that a bit of an anti-climax? Stay with me, it gets better.
The way I was trained, marketing is logical and easy to understand. Which is why it came as such a shock when I left corporate and started to help small businesses and personal brands; everyone was getting it backwards. Let me show you…
Marketing is a way to achieve your small business goals
Marketing is a way to achieve your business goals. You get clear on what you want and then work out the best way to get there. And preferably you’d choose a way that fits with your strengths and how you want your business to run.
In the bigger companies I worked for, like EE (a UK Telecoms company), marketing is the lifeblood of the organisation. Drawing together intel from finance, customer services and the sales channels to make sure the offers are going to sell and to minimise losses of people wanting to switch providers.
But if you Google the term ‘marketing’ today all you’ll see is people talking about marketing communications.
Here’s an illustration of the three levels of planning within any business.
Mission and vision of your small business
Mission and vision arguably sit above marketing but in the big businesses I’ve worked for, marketing plays a key role in deciding the position of the whole business. The senior marketers then work to translate this into the corporation’s branding and offers. When you’re running your own small business, having a clear vision of where you want to be in 5-10 years’ time is hugely motivating but it also gives you a compass bearing for you to base your strategic decisions on.
Imagine you’re the owner of a brand spanking new ship. You can set sail without plotting your course and making sure you’ve got all the provisions on board, but it’s unlikely to make for a fun journey….
Watch the video for more detail.
Strategies for your small business
Strategies are the big decisions that allow you to move closer to your long-term vision and mission. A key point here is to remember that you’re not a giant organisation and you can’t do everything! That said, even business behemoths limit the number of strategies they’re implementing at any one time. Focus and improvement is always better than doing #AllTheThings.
So, what are strategies and what makes a strategic goal strategic? I consider a strategic goal something that will take about a year to implement and come to full fruition. It might be that you’re pivoting towards a new customer type. Or you’ve decided to become an author. Or you’re going to launch a membership as your first foray into a ‘one-to-many’ business model as a way to reduce the amount of one-to-one work you’re doing.
All these things can be done quickly, but you’ll get better results if you plan it through. The risks if you don’t plan it through are that you might find out too late that your new target audience doesn’t want your stuff, the book you’ve written in a weekend doesn’t bring you the type of business you wanted and that membership you launched overnight is a total time suck. I mean, those things might not happen, but a spot of planning can’t hurt!
Tactics for your small business
Let’s have a closer look at Tactics. Tactics are the nitty gritty implementation part of marketing. They’re quick, sharp and come into the short-term part of marketing planning. You can get a tactic up and running quickly and you should be able to see some results within a few months.
Here are the 4 P’s of the marketing mix: Price, Product, Place, Promotion.
The 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix introduced in 1960 by EJ McCarthy
We love a good P in the marketing industry! The 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix include… can you see it? The whole universe of what most people think of as marketing is hidden there at the bottom…
Cooee! There it is. Promotion is another way of saying marketing communications. Hey there, you attention seeker! Promotion gets all the glory. It’s the most discussed area of marketing and often the sum total of what people think marketing is about.
Examples of marketing communications include: social media, online advertising, SEO, podcasting, networking, PR, exhibitions, blogging, email marketing, leaflets, billboards and bus signage. I could go on and on. In fact, I’ve tried to list as many marketing communication channels as I can, just for shits and giggles.
‘Fess up- did you think all those things were all that ‘marketing’ involved?
Don’t worry if so, it’s understandable. Marketing communication is the part of marketing we see every day, so it’s natural to assume that’s all there is to it. But trying to nail your marketing by diving into social media and blogging is like trying to get paid as an artist by lobbing some paint at the nearest piece of paper. You’ve got to think about what picture you want to create and who’s going to look at it.
Why do most people say ‘marketing’ when they mean ‘marketing communications’? And why does it even matter?
At some point, the ‘communications’ got dropped off the end and everyone started referring to the tiny slice of that final stage of the marketing function as ‘marketing’. The rest all just fell away.
So you see thousands of small business owners leaping off the cliff into the shark infested waters of marketing communications wondering why they can’t get leads on LinkedIn when they’re not yet clear what their service offer is. Or why they find blogging so difficult, when they still don’t understand who they’re serving. Or why they find it so hard to explain why someone should buy from them, when they’re not clear on that themselves yet.
Starting with marketing tactics first is like putting your shoes on before your socks. It’s back to front.
There is a time and a place for everything, and the time and place for marketing communications is right at the end of the marketing process. Otherwise, it’s destination ‘Time-Waste City’. Bleurgh.
So, why is marketing so hard for small business owners?
Because people don’t understand the full marketing function, they miss out on some of the essential work. Do the foundational work and the rest becomes SO much easier!
If you try and ‘do the marketing’ (marketing communications) before you’ve actually done the marketing (all the groundwork and marketing strategy piece) everything is extremely slow going, confusing and you feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.
Calling it a ‘secret’ in this blog title is a bit of an understatement. It’s more like a conspiracy. Even seasoned, highly educated, career marketers have written books declaring that ‘marketing is dead’. One such occasion infuriated me so much I made this film called ‘I see dead marketing‘.
Marketing has always been about knowing your customer and offering them what they need at a profit.
Philip Kotler, (a.k.a. the father of marketing) defines marketing as:
Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.kotlermarketing.com/phil_questions.shtml
Seriously Phil, you could have jazzed it up a bit, it’s a bit dull! But the point is that marketing isn’t just telling people about what you’re selling. It’s deciding what to sell in the first place.
It’s because of this mass misunderstanding, that people do marketing the wrong way round.
How do I get a marketing strategy for my small business?
To save you the pain of trying to piece this all together for yourself, I’ve put together a super simple template that takes you through the elements I’ve talked about in this blog.
Click here to sign up and get it. I’ll also send you a short video tutorial that takes you through how to fill it in.