Marketing, it's not the size... it's how you use it.
Big or small, marketing is important. Plenty of discussion online is all around the big brands, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything to learn. It's just different.
Marketing for small businesses is not about jumping straight into tactics. There is a sad belief that marketing properly is only possible for larger businesses, with huge budgets and departments but nothing could be further from the truth.
I would argue that small businesses and start ups, of any size are perfectly positioned to do great marketing, here is an example of one of my clients who is a one man band.
There is a belief that it’s incredibly expensive but that’s only the case if you jump into comms without making the value of marketing upfront in the other areas of business. Research, understanding, planning and strategy are all key to success for any business.
Every business needs to be able to adequately answer these three questions:
Where are we now?
Where do we want to go?
How do we get there?
Simple in explanation, complicated in getting there. Simple and clear is clever, convulted and full of jargon is not.
It’s always quality and never quantity.
The value of marketing has always been about clarity, it’s about creating a clear guiding policy for a business. It helps businesses understand the world outside it’s own doors; the market itself. It helps them understand their customers and also and most importantly the limits of their ambitions.
“Limits of their ambitions” sounds like a huge downer but it really isn’t.
It’s about helping businesses with a roadmap. There are many routes to go but some are more fruitful than others and some are just downright impossible to go down. Good marketing helps businesses choose the best routes.
The result of good marketing should always be a resounding “Well that’s just bloody obvious. This is too simple, why am I paying you?”
Okay, maybe not the last sentence.
However, to get to that point of clarity, businesses need to take the time to do great marketing. The problem for small businesses is the binary nature of how marketing is viewed, it’s seen as a choice between either doing or planning.
It’s seen as advertising and communications, not strategy and planning.
It’s not binary, it’s multiplicative and all the components work much better together when the foundations are laid properly.
The arguements against strategy and planning are typically around their long term outcomes and how they don’t deliver immediately. But there is nothing to say that marketing for a small business cannot deliver immediately.
Though I would say any consultant who spends three months working on nothing deliverable for a very small business that needs money now is a poor consultant indeed.
This is where listening to small businesses comes in, if you lay the options on the table as to what matters most to a small business it’s probably going to be cashflow. So, use it as a two-fold means to drive immediate results but also a means to gather research. Even Google Ads can give you a great idea of the locations of customers, something that without research is generally just assumed.
You might run a clothing brand that you assume will be successful in Los Angeles but it turns out it’s far bigger in New York. This requires investigation and this route may be one that helps set the foundations of a proper plan for growth.
The point here is that a little can go a long way and that doing a little is the beginning of strategy and planning. The two should go hand in hand.
Slash wasn’t great at guitar when he first picked one up, he had to listen and learn first.
A warning, this doesn’t mean that businesses should be ‘agile’ which for the most part simply means clueless and all over the place. Agile is something you can do in operations day to day, it is not anything to do with marketing.
Understanding immediate concerns are important but so is the long term.
It’s a rather clear case of doing both, that’s what strategy and planning is.
Marketing strategy in it’s simplest form is about helping businesses to make informed choices about what not to do.
The reality of life is that all we can do is make informed choices based on what we know rather than uninformed choices made on very limited information.
Neither are perfect but it’s better to be alright than it is to be dangerously ignorant. After all, you simply can’t know what you don’t know.
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