Whether you lead a professional firm, run a family business or direct a nonprofit, you won't survive or thrive without marketing. But, too often, marketing is the task you hand off to the intern, the first part of the budget that gets cut and the fourth wish you'd make when the genie only offers three.
Many business owners have misconceptions about the marketing process, or even the definition of the word. Marketing isn't branding. It isn't publicity. It isn't your logo. It's much more than that.
Marketing is who, what, where, when, why and how your organization interacts with others in order to meet your business goals. What could be more important?
There are plenty of excuses not to market:
- A restaurateur might think, "With the new point of sale system, the issues I'm having with employees and the negotiations over the rent, I just can't get to it."
- The managing partner of a professional services firm might say, "Marketing takes time, and time is what we sell."
- The leaders of a nonprofit might say, "Sure, we need to do marketing to raise more money, but our donors expect us to spend their contributions on programming, not operations."
And anyone might say, "There are so many different ways to market. How do you choose what to do, and how can you even tell if it's working?" Here's the good news: Just because it's important, doesn't mean it's impossible. You don't have to hire a high-priced consultant or add a marketing professional to your staff. There are many simple, measurable marketing techniques that any enterprise can implement, measure and benefit from.
First, think under-complicated
Like any other plan, a marketing plan should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based (SMART). But it doesn't need to be complicated. Don't try to do everything — you're sure to fail. Instead, be under-complicated. Set one goal for the next 12 months. Then identify three strategies to get there. For each strategy, choose appropriate tactics and decide what success looks like. Then stop planning and start executing.
Avoid these common traps:
- Focusing on a tactic before you've determined your strategy: Sending out a press release is a tactic. Building brand awareness in a new market is a strategy that could include media relations (press releases included), events and community contributions.
- Doing something because it's the hot, new trend:But trendy doesn't mean appropriate for every organization. Posting photos of lawyers on Instagram is probably not the best idea for a professional firm, but getting your restaurant customers to share beautiful photos of new menu items could be great for a restaurant.
- Copying your competitors, even though you have no idea if their marketing is working:What did Mom used to say — if Jimmy jumped off a building, would you jump, too?
Janet Kyle Altman is the marketing partner at the accounting firm Kaufman, Rossin & Co.