Talk It up, All the Time

There's a little more to it than that, but the basic message — that effective Marketing requires consistency and persistence — is right on the money.

By Anthony Noel

 

Our series "Fatal Mistakes" rolls on with a look at Marketing, the fourth of five operational areas we'll be examining.

When the series began back in February, a lot of metaphors were tossed around relating human health and the well-being of your business. Along the way, we've lightened up a little on the medical jargon, but when it comes to Marketing, it's not overstating things one bit to say that effective marketing is the lifeblood of every business.

A large percentage of shops where CWB is read are in the one-to-19-employee category — small businesses in every sense of the term. (Our publisher learned this, by the way, as part of our marketing program!)

At such small organizations, and sometimes even at larger ones, Marketing is often done on an "as needed" basis. There are many reasons for this, none of them any good, although many of us justify our lack of promotional action with that tired old cry, "I'm a woodworker!"

Whether you use that excuse or some other one, know that if you expend effort on marketing only when you need to get work in the front door, you're allowing your company to live, very realistically, on borrowed time. That well is like any other: one day it runs dry. The less consistent your marketing efforts, the less knowledgeable you'll be about your market.

Right about now, a quick definition of Marketing seems in order.

Marketing consists of researching and identifying potential customer groups, and creating for them effective messages about your products and/or services which lead to sales.

Sales is not Marketing, and marketing is not sales, no matter what you might have heard to the contrary. Here's an analogy to clarify the point: A resume is a marketing tool. An effective one gets you the interview. The interview is the sales call.

Marketing takes many forms, from simple to highly elaborate. Not surprisingly, the loftier a company's growth and fiscal goals, the more creative and intensive their Marketing efforts tend to become.

While it's a lousy excuse to let yourself off the Marketing hook by complaining that it's not why you got into the business, there's no disputing the fact that an advertising/marketing company or specialist can shoulder much of the burden for those with little or zero interest in re-inventing the wheel. Marketing is one of those disciplines where those who specialize in it have a pretty good handle on what works. But before you go out and hire an ad agency, let's take a few steps back.

We closed out our look at the operational area of Capital Expenditures last month with following rule: "It is always more sensible to let demand dictate growth than to bear the fiscal and mental burdens of excess capacity and capital investment." And, it is inside this rule where the reasons for consistently marketing your business — regardless of how busy you personally may be — can be found.

Reason One: Marketing helps define demand. Just by "getting out more often" (to describe marketing in its simplest terms), you will automatically gain a better sense of what your customers want and need.

Reason Two: Marketing helps dictate capacity. By consistently being in touch with your customers and (this can't be overemphasized) by doing the work necessary to getting new ones, you will have a more instinctive grasp of which capital investments make strategic sense for your business, versus those which may be premature or altogether ill-advised.

Reason Three: Marketing turns on light bulbs. When you know what's working and what's not, what's needed and what's not, what customers want and what they don't, it gets you thinking about the services and products you offer now, and about others which may hold tremendous promise but never occurred to you.

You see, Marketing is a self-perpetuating process. It is the ultimate brainstorming session, because it never ends. The more you do it, the more it tells you. It pays you back, not just in added customers (although that is and should remain its primary objective), but in previously unidentified opportunities; in a reality-based picture of your shop's present and short-term capacity needs; and in helping define potential demand for the longer haul.

So, now that you know what marketing is and how it can benefit you, how do you begin? And just where are you supposed to find the time, anyway?

As suggested earlier, that second question is the reason many shops never begin Marketing on a consistent basis. It doesn't have to be that way. The question really isn't how to begin so much as it is "How do I not stop?"

Every company, even those which have been fabulously busy forever (yeah, right!), had to be marketed at some point, even if only to get their first few jobs. So the way to begin is by doing what got you started. The trick is the "not stopping" part.

Assuming you plan to do marketing under your own roof, and assuming further that you're a smaller shop with little or no dedicated sales staff, it simply means carving out a block of time each day or each week to work on Marketing your company.

The approaches are as limitless as your imagination, and the fact that you know what you do best and most profitably is a great foundation on which to build. But the real key is being persistent. Making a call or two and then waiting around for the phone to ring is certain death.

If time constraints will not allow you to manage your firm's marketing efforts personally, or the money is not there to hire someone who can, even on a part-time basis, contract help is available in many forms — from full-time advertising/marketing firms to independent manufacturers' representatives who are remunerated only when leads generate sales. And remember, Marketing is a business expense like any other. Start building it into your pricing now, and soon you'll be able to afford that dedicated Marketing staffer.

However you choose to pursue Marketing, the goal is to keep your company uppermost in prospects' minds when they are ready for the products and services you offer. That is very difficult to do when they hear from you once in January but nothing again until November, when your shop is emptying out and you need more work — to say nothing of the selling >disadvantage such desperate work-chasing creates for you.

An effective Marketing strategy consists of smartly designed and targeted messages, delivered to an audience carefully identified by solid market research.

Presented persistently to viable prospects, a sound Marketing strategy provides a big advantage over the competition when those prospects are ready to become paying customers.

                                                                                                                                                                                           

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