As with most businesses there is an ebb and flow to sales, productivity, and growth. I was at a business meeting at my favorite breakfast restaurant a few weeks ago. They have a few locations throughout the city and suburbs. This one in particular was not up to par as the ones I frequent more often. While the food and service are still consistently good, it is in a little older area of town, in a little older building, and was considerably less busy than the other ones.
As I was leaving I was speaking to the cashier, who it turned out was the co-owner of the restaurants in town. I asked about the decline in business and she agreed that it was becoming a problem for this location. I spoke to her about her marketing efforts. She said they are doing the same marketing approaches that they always have done. I asked if she and her husband would like to sit down and I could discuss how my marketing firm could come alongside them with a fresh approach to increase awareness and drive people to their restaurants. She said that things are getting tight and wasn’t sure if they could afford to do anything different.
Her response is not uncommon to business owners that may be experiencing a slump or may just be stuck in a rut and aren’t growing. Business owners can be divided almost down the middle into two ways of thinking about when to market:
- The business owner that is thriving tends to push off marketing and business development efforts until you either get to the bottom of the barrel or you lose the big client that was paying all the bills,
- The business owner that is in a slump or has plateaued believes they simply can’t afford to put money into marketing when their business is slow.
Both mindsets are at risk of skewing their growth and could permanently damage their business. The savvy business owner is the one that knows even when you are very busy you still market your business. The well can dry up at any time and sometimes for reasons that are out of our control. One of the outcomes of the recession is that business owners have been knocked out of their comfort zone and are being required to do marketing and business development differently.
Short term and long term marketing strategies are necessary to amp up your business. While short-term strategies will focus on sales and business development, there are several long-term strategies that will create sustainability and mitigate many of the slumps and plateaus from extreme ways of thinking about when to market your business. For our discussion here I want to focus on the long term strategies that can move you out of the slumps. Tammy Hawk-Bridges, author of the book Yanking Bootstraps – Bootstrap Your Business to Success, discusses long-term strategies. She provides several long term actions that can move your business forward quickly.
1. Focus on new business often. Come up with a business development, marketing plan that you operate inside every single day! Waiting until you are thirsty to dig a well makes the process very difficult. If you make business development a consistent effort you will always have great prospects.
2. Build a strong pipeline. This partners with #1. You need to fully understand the pipeline process. Think of a funnel, it’s very wide at the top and gets narrower as it goes to the bottom. The top is how many leads need to go in and the bottom is where only a few customers will come out. So for example if you want 100K in sales you could potentially need a prospect pipeline that is worth 400K. This is a great eye-opener and once you do this exercise you will realize immediately why you don’t have enough sales.
3. Tools that attract prospects. It’s time to put some great tools in place that can create leads for you even when you aren’t trying to sell. This is the wonderful think about new marketing strategies! You can put great content out there and then people will come to you! Be the light and they are the moths, attract your ideal client to you. You need to have great information that they need to run their business.
- Grow your list – come up with a how-to or EBook of sorts that your ideal client can download from your website.
- Internet optimized – Make sure your website is ranking for keywords that are relevant to your business. You want people to find YOU before your competitors.
- Review your website – Is it focused on your ideal client, is it a great resource of information? Does it make someone want to get in touch with you?
- Email Marketing – This gets you in front of your customers and ideal clients on a regular basis. Be a great resource of information, earn trust, and be authentic. Above all read your analytics and use the information to identify prospects!
- Blogging – Create great content that brings prospects to YOUR door. This is a lot of work and only the truly committed will succeed at it but the payoff is huge when it hits! No more hitting the pavement for sales!
- Sharing – Share everything! Social media and the digital world is built to share the love! Every blog article you write share it across all social media channels. Write great content that makes others want to share it and guess what? You are viral!
4. Treat it like a real business. You need systems in place for success. Set financial goals as well as goals for leads and business won. Close your business out every month and get real about where you are.
5. Accountability. Hold yourself accountable for your own success, adapt to a NO EXCUSES and no self-inflicted obstacles mentality!
It is human nature to pull back when business is slow or forget marketing is needed when business is booming. When to market is now. It’s proactive and preventative at the same time. Take stock, take control and let’s grow our businesses together! What do you think?