Most small business owners wear a lot of hats. You work the sales floor, you’re the maintenance and IT staff rolled into one, you answer the phones and open the mail, you’re the entire C-level suite (yet you get only one desk), and you get to be the director of marketing as well. With so much to do, some of these jobs get pushed to the back burner or even fall behind the stove—and marketing tends to be one of them. If you’ve been shoving marketing off to the side of your small business priorities, you’re not alone! Read this post for some motivation to get started today.
Why Marketing Slips Through the Cracks
The problem with marketing is that it’s important but not urgent. You’ve probably heard of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits program, and how he divides the tasks of life into four separate, but unequal, quadrants.
- Urgent and important: Meeting a major deadline on a critical project.
- Urgent but not important: An interruption from a salesperson with an “urgent question” that, it turns out, could have been easily handled via email.
- Not urgent and not important: Leafing through an office supply catalog
- Important, but not urgent: Marketing!
Marketing often falls squarely into that category because marketing (as distinct from sales) is about setting priorities and creating strategies. Taking an order from a major customer is an important sales task but it’s not a core marketing function; deciding how to structure your pricing so that your important customers become more loyal IS a core marketing function.
The trouble is, we’re so busy and overstressed that sometimes only the tasks we consider “urgent” get done. But like the other items in the not-urgent-but-important-quadrant, marketing is critically important and businesses that want to be successful have to prioritize getting the marketing done right.
Related eBook: Marketing Goals Pocket Guide (free download)
The Purpose and Importance of Marketing
One common roadblock for many small business owners is that they think of marketing as something that is deployed to fix problems. “We’re not getting enough sales, we need to do more marketing!” Sound familiar? The source of this mistake is that we think of marketing as being penicillin—something that fixes a problem in the system. But marketing is actually more like a vitamin—something builds and nourishes a healthy body if taken regularly. You don’t create and deploy a good marketing strategy to get more sales tomorrow; you create and deploy it so that you’ll have sales for the next year or five years or ten years. That’s one of the basics of business growth.
It’s Never Too Late to Start Marketing
Chances are, you feel like you don’t have the time to market your business. First because, well, you’re a business owner and you don’t have time in the first place! But also because having not put in the time yesterday and the week before and the month before that, you feel yourself to be at a deficit going in. You needed to put in 100 hours on marketing over the last year, but you put in zero, so you have 100 hours to catch up on just to get started. Yet you don’t have 100 hours (nobody does) so you feel like it’s impossible.
The truth of the matter is, there really is no such thing as a marketing deficit. Of course, it would have benefited your business to have been marketing all along, but not benefiting your business is not a valid reason to continue not benefiting your business. Also, the number of hours of marketing you’ve missed does not matter and does not mean you have to start with 100 hours of marketing.
You can start today with just one hour a day—a half hour even. What’s important is being consistent. Pick a realistic amount of time you can allot to marketing each day. It is then that you can stick to it and make progress, and also over time, increase the amount of time you spend each day. No matter how busy you might be, you can find an hour somewhere to do something that you know is really very important.
How to Market in an Hour
In an hour, you can put together a short web page describing a product line, or write a blog entry about how your service can help solve someone’s problem, or make ten short phone calls to important customers to check in and see if the things you’ve already sold them are still working for them.
By continuing to make those small but steady investments, your feeling of deficit will disappear and you’ll start reaping the rewards of an ongoing marketing effort. Find those hours and put them in, and it will get easier and easier with every hour you invest.
How to Maximize Your Marketing
To maximize the return on these small daily investments, it helps to have an underlying marketing strategy. Many millions of words have been committed to paper (and now computer displays) about marketing strategy, but the key thing to remember is this: your marketing strategy, in simplest form, is just a description of how you and your company relate to your customers via the products and services you offer.
Do Your Homework
You own your business and know the most about it, so it may be tempting to just form the marketing plan yourself. However, while you have great ideas, those ideas really need to percolate around your company, your community, and your customers.
You can come up with the basics of your strategy in one of your hard-won marketing hours, but then spread the word. Talk to your employees. People in your local area. Current customers. Close friends and family. Get input and feedback from everybody, while still remembering your own unique vision for your company. A marketing solution that you grow from the seeds of ideas and conversations with those it ultimately impacts is almost certain to be a thousand times better than one that you just form on your own.
If You Start Today, It Will Be Easier Tomorrow
Start working on this today. Find some time and put some ideas down on paper or on a screen about what your company’s marketing strategy is going to be. Then start working to implement that strategy, a bit at a time, until you have a rich marketing program in place. It can be done–you just have to start doing it.