Marketing is one of the biggest challenges small businesses face today and businesses seek advice all the time on implementing an effective marketing strategy to improve sales. Yet, they either take random action or take nothing forward, because they don’t know what will work best for them.
There’s certainly a plethora of guerrilla marketing advice on offer, especially on the internet; everyone’s a guru! Yet businesses are more challenged than ever by their marketing:
- in understanding the interplay between advertising and marketing;
- in making choices that play to their niche and their skills; and managing costs
- through proper analytics about sales, profit and customer value.
Tactics like more targeted networking, better branding, direct mail, advertising, social media and mobile marketing are all well and good, but they need testing. You can’t score a goal if you don’t take a shot and you can’t bake a cake if you don’t turn on the oven.
Two things are certain: you need to pull the trigger and you need to be consistent. Choose one or two marketing methods that suit your industry and skill set and take your best shot.
Here we discuss five good habits to get into if you want to ensure you’re implementing an effective marketing strategy.
#1. Ideas – what to do
Marketing has a lot to do with putting ideas to the test; there’s no one single method that will work for every business. My advice is always to research marketing activities that align with your business ethos, current skills and resources, and select 3-4 things you can commit to doing consistently (daily, weekly, monthly) on a regular basis.
Studies show that repetition creates habits (usually in around 2-3 weeks) and also you get better at what you are doing the more you do it and learn from doing it. Doing some marketing related tasks every day will become a marketing habit, and good marketing habits will consistently pay you back in new business and customer loyalty.
#2. Action – when and how to do it
Implementation goes hand in hand with your marketing plan. A poor plan with great implementation is no better than a good plan with poor implementation.
Don’t lose sight of your unique value proposition and target ‘ideal’ prospects. It is what sets you apart from your competition; helps keep your marketing focused and effective, and stays true to your business vision.
Looking at the impact over time, such as using a simple chart to track results, will increase your motivation to continue with those marketing tasks that are working well and allow you to know which activities are not hitting the mark and can be discontinued.
In turn, this will create a further good marketing habit: that of monitoring and reviewing what is the best use of time and people.
#3. Accountability – have you done it and how did it go
Your accountability system should help you manage your marketing plan. This can be a simple spreadsheet where you create columns to track activities undertaken: date, activity, target completion date, resources required, cost, the person responsible, actual completion date, outcomes, and notes/comments.
Accountability is another good marketing habit. Planning can feel like doing – it isn’t of course! Your marketing tasks require action, management and follow up. In any organisation, the staff management structure should make clear who will carry out the marketing activities and any reporting relationships.
#4. Predict – when to adjust things and what next
So how do you make sure this marketing you are doing is effective? It starts with managing your activities and being accountable for doing them. But the real indicators come from measuring and analysing what you do.
Good data gives you informed judgement over what is working well and not so well, as a way to evaluate benefits against costs, and to decide what and when to stop as appropriate.
A marketing strategy is not something to set in stone. Get into the habit of being agile and adjusting your plan according to the results you are getting and any changing patterns in consumers.
You should aim to stay aware of changes in technology, market, competition, customers, suppliers and any other external factors, and act accordingly to take advantage of new trends, needs and behaviours of your target customers.
#5. Speculate – when to invest in your marketing
Your marketing is more likely to succeed if you have the right resources and expertise to implement it. If you or your team do not have a clear marketing strategy, or you don’t know how to implement your business’s marketing plan, it’s time to seek direction and advice.
Best select business experts rather than marketing ‘designers’, because it’s critical that your marketing is strategic, context-specific and in line with your values and beliefs; that it is not just some off-the-shelf solution. It’s important to understand how effective marketing must fit your specific business plan, vision, audience and industry.