In turbulent times, you’ll often hear the advice ‘focus on what you can control’ – wise words designed to prevent our minds from wandering into anxiety-producing ‘what if…?’ territory. Likewise, as a business owner, even when things are completely out of your control, the way you deal with them is not. I frequently hear my clients lament a lack of time when it comes to tending to their marketing efforts. But right now, against all your instincts, you have some space to keep you moving forward and to take positive steps that will serve you well in this period before ‘the new normal’.
1. Stay strategic, but think big
Planning begins with big ideas, so take the opportunity to look at your business, its overall aims and how you see it working in the future. You might be hoping to hand over the reins to someone else in 5 years. Or sell up and fund your retirement. Are you looking to diversify and grow? Lay your ideas out into a simple one-page business plan – it doesn’t need to look beautiful or even be detailed, but it will give you the basis from which to formulate a marketing plan that’s right for you.
2. Stay focused, but acknowledge a changing future
Start a good habit that will stay with you for life: a marketing strategy. All too often, these are a knee-jerk reaction to a downturn in orders or a seasonal blip and they never achieve what’s really needed because they lack thorough long-term thinking. Marketing must support your business plan, not sit in isolation from it. If your business strategy is to sell more of a certain product or service, your marketing plan should demonstrate how you’re going to achieve that.
So, where do you begin? First, identify your most profitable services – those you wish to sell more of. Look at where are you strongest, in what markets and with whom. Consider your ideal customer and what they ‘look like’ demographically. Second, a SWOT analysis may sound intimidating, but it’s invaluable in sense (and honesty!) checking the status of your business. It also will serve as the starting point for marketing and a valuable guide for you and your management team.Remember: focused is not the same as immoveable. When things need to change, then your plans can be revised – but always have a plan.
3. Stay targeted, but know your overall market
When was the last time you really looked at your customer list? What we really want to understand and identify are not just ‘good customers’ who spend a lot and often, but those that might increase their spend if we invested more effort in them. Does their profitability rely on the products and services they buy from us? Which are willing to pay full price? Who is easy to deal with? We also want to see who has lapsed or may be lapsing – what can we do to stop that? Once we identify our ‘hero customers’, how can we find more of them?
Tip: If your budget and resources are limited, focus your efforts on the customers you really want.
4. Stay connected, but do it effectively
Do you have data in old Excel spreadsheets, databases, unused CRM systems, perhaps even in handwritten notes? Now is the perfect time to get to grips with them. De-duplicating and cleansing are essential, so your data is ready to use when the time comes. By now you’ve identified sectors and organisations that you want to promote your services to, so find a reputable provider to help you source marketing data in these areas.
Tip: In B2B and sectors with high job turnover, contact data decay rates can be as high as 70% PA, so data lists that are over a year old are as good as useless and likely to be non-compliant.
5. Stay current, but also clear and consistent
Are your marketing and promotional materials out of date? Or non-existent? How’s your website looking? Are you happy with the way it represents you? Is your messaging concise, consistent and, critically, does it highlight your uniqueness? Are your customer-facing materials reflecting the work that’s required in your business plan and marketing strategy? If not, why not?
6. Stay ahead, but don’t break the bank
Marketing technology can be expensive to buy and implement before you even see any benefits. However, there are a wealth of quick and easy tools out there, many of which are free for small businesses – such as HubSpot, Insightly, MailChimp (for email broadcasts) and To-Do-Ist (a brilliant cross-platform project management app for campaigns that lets you assign tasks).
Tip: Find one that works for you and you can always migrate to a more sophisticated paid version.
7. Stay innovative by staying in the know
Use this time to get on top of industry trends – what are your competitors doing? How could you be more productive and/or innovative? Who can you learn from? Turn to your suppliers for market information and future launch information. And while your regular trade fairs or industry events may be on ice for now, plenty have gone online, so you can still stay in the loop with the latest developments and innovations in your industry.
8. Stay in touch, but do it with care
Your customers or prospects may not be buying from you right now, but that’s no reason not to reach out. Keep in touch, offer advice and – where you can – help. There will be those struggling to pay their bills and so, when they do, be sure to thank them. Others may have to put orders on hold. Reassure them that you’ll be ready to go again when they are. Equally, don’t forget your suppliers and colleagues. In times like these, our relationships are everything.
9. Stay social, but take as long as you need
You may have already dabbled with social media or even dismissed it entirely but it’s a great way to connect and build your network. Look for trade associations, special interest groups, competitors and publications and see what they are doing, the activities they are sharing and the advice they offer. If you’re not sure which platform is right for you, spend a little time lurking on the ‘big four’ (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) to get a feel for how they work in your space, who is doing what and the sort of engagement they are receiving. Watch, listen and get up to speed before you start posting.
10. Stay motivated, but make it light
This could be that hardest tip of all, particularly for team players who are energised by the nearness to colleagues, but motivation comes in many forms. Picking up a book is perhaps the simplest of all. Ignore the dull textbooks and head straight for inspiring and hilarious marketers like David Ogilvy and Dave Trott. Did you ever read Dale Carnegie’s classic ‘How to win friends and influence people’? ‘Scoring Points’ is a really interesting read about loyalty marketing. Watch programmes that can fire you up, entertain you and get you thinking creatively – whether that’s ‘Mad Men’ or Ted Talks.
Director of Up Marketing, Jacky Hobson has been a professional marketer for more than 30 years, including ten as marketing lead on Canon’s European Business Builder Programme. She works on a one-to-one basis with her clients to craft campaigns, generate leads and cement meaningful relationships with their existing customers.
You can see more from Jacky and many other expert voices sharing their essential knowledge as part of Canon Ascent, a programme designed to support business development in the print industry through insights, workshops and mentoring, delivered by industry experts and Canon specialists.