The statistics of owning a small business are not for the faint of heart. The Small Business Administration (SBA) states that 50% fail within the first five years, 66% in the first ten years, and only 25% make it fifteen years or more. While there are many reasons for this, marketing always seems to be in the top five. It’s a bit of an ambiguous term, that includes a wide range of activities from creating print materials such as brochures and business cards to how you present your business and yourself in public and online. Marketing can be closely tied to sales but is different from sales in the approach. While both are needed, you will want to be conscious of the two and how they differ so that you can set yourself apart from the crowd and raise your chances to come out on top.
A marketing mindset is one of growth and prosperity. While there are many things needed, such as a logo that represents your brand visually, you will also want to focus on your brand’s presence. Whether your business caters to the general public or businesses, to succeed, your business should present that it is successful and will be around in the next year or years. This can be incredible difficult to do when you are trying to make ends meet.
Often, many find themselves falling back on a sales mindset to offset this issue. Creating a fast turn around sale or discount can help bridge a gap in the budget or help those on the fence jump for your goods and services but you should only use this tactic sparingly. Additionally, pushing customers to engage with your product, such as continually asking for a meeting so you can sell them on what you do or sell can be off putting for the customer and present that there may be a reason why you are so pushy; a reason you are trying to counterbalance.
Relying heavily on sales and sales tactics or not having proper marketing techniques in place, will make people wary of purchasing your goods or services. It presents that your business may be in trouble or may not be in it for the long haul. But it does not need to be that way. What’s great about marketing is that it can be adjusted and changed at any time but there are a few things to keep in mind when changing your marketing strategy:
- Listen to Your Customers: Your customers will tell you what they want and need. Rather than complaining that you are not able to reach them, ask yourself what you can do to reach them. Sometimes what they are asking is not something you currently offer but could possibly in the future. Explore what your customers are asking for and see if you can work it in to your current strategy. Sometimes adding in a particular type of good or service can help build your business and brand in ways you did not foresee.
- It Takes Time: In any marketing endeavor, it will take time. Time for people to realize the change, time for people to learn about what you are doing, how you are doing it, and decide if it is right for them. We tell our clients that it takes a good 3 to 6 months before changes start to happen, and even then, they may be small changes and it can take 6 months to a year to see how those changes are reflected within your business.
- Small Steps Make For Big Changes: It’s the little things that matter so ensuring you are updating your digital presence including any social organizations you belong to make a big difference. If you are finding that your business is not forefront in your friends and family’s mind or they are not active on your digital footprint, ask yourself if you could be doing more. While it may seem like a little thing to do when you are looking at a bigger issue, remember that creating a sound structure to build on is key.
- Marketing Should Reflect Your Values: Everyone who chooses to go down this arduous path does so for a reason, and for many of us, it is following a dream. Sharing that dream with others builds on your brand and provides a plan for your structure. Ask yourself why you started your business and how can you show that in your marketing. This shows your intent, your reasons why you keep going, and builds trust in what you are doing.
- Be Where Your People Are: This may be different for every business, so listening to and understanding your customers is key. While most customers are online, you will also want to ensure you are present in person as well. This can include attending networking meetings, learning series, community and service groups. Any time you are in public, you are representing your brand so finding organizations that support what you are doing and actively engaging with those groups can be a great way to increase your awareness. Think outside of the box, perhaps there is an organization that you can support through volunteering.
- Marketing Does Not Need to be Expensive: This is a common misconception for many business owners. Hope is not a marketing strategy. You need a plan of action, but it does not mean that with it, you need to break the bank. The most valuable thing you have is your time. Using your time effectively, from ensuring your digital presence is updated to volunteering your time to sit on a board are all means of marketing your business without costing you a dime.
- Think Big and Allow Yourself to Dream: When you find yourself stuck or spinning your wheels, it’s hard to break free. Running a business is hard work. At times, it feels as if you have the proverbial quiet toddler and you are bracing yourself for the havoc that may ensue. If you are always on edge and waiting for the shoe to drop, it will. Remind yourself why you started this, reflect on your values, and be grateful for where you are right now, because you have come a long way no matter how young your business is. Ask yourself where to go from here, how you can improve what you already have built, and yes, allow yourself to dream about what could be.
- Plan Your Execution: This is imperative to a change in marketing because it all comes down to presentation. Yes, sometimes change comes at us hard and fast but it does not have to appear that way. Planning out the details needed to support your change helps build on what you already have and the improvements you want to implement. Having a plan not only gives you a time frame to work within but also provides smaller, achievable goals to help you feel more successful during the transition. This not only helps you feel more secure, but also makes others feel more secure when working with you.
Maintaining a marketing mindset, one of abundance, growth and prosperity is not easy, especially when you are focused on the daily tasks needed to operate your business. But it is necessary to maintaining what you have built and project for the future. While a sales mindset can be tempting, sales are meant to be short-term and scarce. When you rely on sales too heavily, you present that your business may also be short-term, your funds may be scarce, and that your business may not beat the statistics. Additionally, too many changes in too short of a time frame, can also have the same effect. If you have found yourself struggling to find your footing in today’s fast paced world, ask yourself how you are presenting yourself and your business. You may have lost the marketing mindset in the details of day to day but you can change your mindset, your approach, and yes, your business’s success by shifting focus from what is to what could be.