If you said to me ‘Barry, I generate most of my business from referrals - I don’t need to market my business’... you’d be dangerously wrong.
For many years, I believed that marketing was for people who didn’t have many clients, and needed to constantly ‘fill the funnel’.
In fact, in one of my earlier businesses, we literally survived off word-of-mouth referrals. And we did really well, growing a million dollar business this way.
Work was plentiful. Cash was rolling in. We were always busy.
But one day, it stopped.
Suddenly, my quote book was empty. My staff were underbooked. In the meantime, bills still needed to be paid. But nothing was fueling our cash flow. It was a stressful and scary time.
If you’ve ever experienced ‘feast or famine’ in your business, you know what I’m talking about.
That’s why it’s important to have a strategy in place to help you stay afloat in all kinds of weather. It doesn’t matter if you’re running your business solo, or if you’ve got 10 staff, until your business has a marketing strategy, you’re playing with fire.
Why is it important to have a marketing strategy in place?
At The Game Changers, we’ve worked with many clients who generate a lot of business from referrals, walk-ins, and word-of-mouth.
But when the industry shifts (as industries often do), all their competitors who’ve been marketing and advertising for a long time simply increase their ad budgets and they weather the storm.
In the meantime, you’re looking around wondering what happened, and scrambling to get some sort of campaign going. But you’re starting from step 1… while your competitors are already visible in your market. They already have winning campaigns they can rely on. In the meantime, you’re struggling to learn the ropes and keep your business going.
I’ve seen it too many times, and it breaks my heart. Especially because I know that getting a marketing strategy running doesn’t need to be hard, expensive, or time consuming.
So today I want to share with you 10 tips for creating a strategic marketing plan for your business.
Tip 1: Be clear on your vision
Aligning your plan with your vision comes first. Where do you want to take your business in the next 5-10 years?
What do you want it to look like? How many staff do you want to have? Where do you want to be positioned in the marketplace?
It’s not enough to say ‘I want more clients’. Get specific. If you don’t get clear on where you want your business to go, how can you expect to get there?
Tip 2: Decide on your goal for your brand
Your business is more than the sum of its parts. The more your customers recognise your business as a brand that represents a certain set of characteristics, the easier their buying decision will be.
How do you want your business to be represented among your peers? Among your competition?
What do you want to be known for? Do you want to be the Big Kahuna, or fly under the radar? (Hint: you can still build a multi-million dollar business by being largely incognito and operating through partnerships and joint ventures.)
Tip 3: Designate a budget percentage to reinvest back into marketing
As the business grows, we want our budget to grow as well. Create and determine an acceptable budget based on revenue (usually 5-10% is a good number to start).
Don’t skimp on this - even in leaner months. Think of your marketing as a bank that you deposit into, so it pays you back with interest long-term.
Tip 4: Be clear on your niche
Try to please everyone, and you’ll end up pleasing no-one.
Successful marketing requires specificity. Who are you serving? Who aren’t you serving? What is an ‘inch wide, mile deep’ niche that you can provide products and services for?
It’s so much easier to ‘niche down’ to a point where you can target a specific type of client with a specific type of issue.
Tip 5: Be clear on your offer
Once you understand who you’re talking to, define the offer you need to put in front of them that will ignite them into action. What’s a no-brainer option? How can you position yourself as a value-based business instead of a commodity?
Tip 6: Be clear on which channel you’re operating on
Your prospects hang out in a variety of channels. They might be on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Instagram. They might be reading newspapers, or articles… once you understand your niche and your offer, where can you put it in front of your ideal clients most effectively?
Don’t try to cross-channel market until you’ve absolutely nailed it in one channel. Then expand.
Tip 7: Market even when you’re busy
When you’ve got cash-flow coming in, you can afford to spend a bit of your budget to build an audience. Think of this investment that will pay dividends when organic client attraction dries up. You’re also building credibility through your marketing, which makes the sale process tonnes easier.
Tip 8: Don’t just see marketing as a way to attract new clients and leads
Marketing is not just for reaching potential customers. It’s also for reaching potential employees, joint-venture partners, and other opportunities in your wider industry. It’s for attracting talent to your business that can help it to grow.
Likewise with attracting opportunities, other movers and shakers in your industry. They are more likely to want to do deals with you because they see you’re investing in your business, and they’re seeing you’re out there doing great work.
Tip 9: Do your research
Too many business owners build marketing campaigns that are based on assumptions of what they think their market wants.
While experimenting is a healthy thing I recommend for any marketer, your core focus should be on gathering hard data that can inform your marketing efforts. Most of the time, especially if your business is new, what you think you know about the market is actually quite different from what the truth is.
At The Game Changers, we’re regularly surveying our clients for their feedback. What do they love about us? What do they want more of? What do they want less of? How can we improve?
We’re constantly aiming to improve our services based on what the actual market wants, not what we think would be a good idea. You should be doing this, too.
Tip 10: Have solid tracking process for your campaigns
There’s no point spending your budget on activities that aren’t actually performing for you. Tracking each part of the marketing process means that you can tweak and refine every step of your funnel until you’re at least 95% sure it’s performing as well as it possibly can.
If you don’t break down your ROI across every step of your efforts, you’ll never know what is actually working, and what is not.
Ready to build a robust marketing strategy?
If you’re wanting a hand on putting your strategic marketing plan together, if you want a way to attract talent outside traditional means like Seek, or want to find a way to attract more clients, investors, and opportunities, reach out to us at The Game Changers.
My team would love to connect with you, see where you’re at, and see how we can help you moving forward.