Marketing – plan it, budget for it, track it and keep refining it
I have had many conversations with business owners who say they don’t ‘do marketing’ and all their clients come from referrals. My argument is, regardless of the size of your business, every action, conversation and piece of collateral generated in transacting with your customers leaves an imprint in their minds and forms a perception of your business.
Marketing, and more broadly communications, should be viewed as integral and important foundations for success. Too many businesses, however, still seem to treat marketing as an afterthought or something they should start doing when things suddenly go quiet – by then it’s often too late.
What defines marketing for you
There are many things which can fall under the communications and marketing umbrella including; branding, brochures, websites, social media, PR, advertising, merchandise, signage, direct marketing, networking, presentations and the way your staff present themselves and interact with customers.
Strategy and planning are two critical elements of marketing. Every business or not-for-profit will require a unique approach, so annually you must sit down and work out what will be necessary to support your objectives/targets for the year.
Marketing should be proactive and planned
You want to target opportunities to reach your audiences with your key messages. These rarely just ‘come up’, you have to go looking for what is right for you, which happens well in advance at the planning stage.
When we see the economy take a downward turn, or there is general uncertainty around, often the first thing cut is the marketing budget. That is the complete opposite of what you should be doing. When times are tougher, you need your marketing to be more creative and work harder to drive people towards you.
Remember, marketing essentially is about building an emotional connection with your audience, to make them want what you are offering. If you don’t create, maintain and energise this relationship, people will go elsewhere.
How much do you need in the budget?
The general rule is a minimum of 5% of your gross turnover for the year. Average budgets can stretch to 10%. If your marketing is working, it’s feeding your business and making it stronger. If it is not generating a return, then you need to change tack and review your plan. Tracking and setting up targets for each marketing initiative is crucial, as is reviewing each initiative and pinpointing what worked and what didn’t in order for informed decisions to be made for future initiatives.