Whether you have a for-profit business or a not-for-profit organization, marketing plays an essential role in the success of your business. As a for-profit business, marketing is what you use to bring in revenue and reach your customers. As a not-for-profit organization, marketing is what you use to attract customers and raise awareness about your organization. These are two distinctly different functions but on a more basic level, they are the same – Marketing helps to grow your business or organization...period!
In an organizational sense, marketing is how you interact with the public. It is your message and how you deliver your message. It is how you communicate with the public. It is how you develop and build your “brand”. It is your image and it is what proceeds you meeting the public. Nine times out of ten, people will see your marketing efforts long before they ever meet you, your company, your product or service. Marketing is so essential to a business or organization that they cannot survive without it.
Too often small business owner think they can do without marketing. They fail to budget for it or put forth much effort towards it. These business owners may stay in business but they will not grow. There is an old saying, “It takes money, to make money” this holds true with marketing. The monetary investment you put into marketing will have a return on investment (ROI). At times you may not see that ROI directly but eventually, that business card you passed out, that website you paid to have created, that pay per click ad you were unsure about, that marketing event you attended, that radio/TV commercial you thought was just too expensive but decided to do it anyway, will pay off. It is just like planting in a garden. In one season you plant and in another, you reap what you sow.
So, what is the role of marketing in your business? A very important and vital one.
There is a biblical saying that goes, “you have not because you ask not” as a marketing professional we are always “asking” people to do something….be it spend money, participate on social media, come to an event, etc…. Asking is the essence of marketing. Knowing when and how to ask is the science of marketing. Gathering target audience information, consumer buying habits, focus groups, market share and the like are the tools we use to figure out these two simple questions – How? & When?.
How to ask, falls under taste, tact and creativity. You never want your target market to think you are being tasteless when you ask. You want to be clever and creative and sensitive to the market you are trying to win over. For example, October is breast cancer awareness month. There are a lot of products, services and events being marketed during this month all in the name of breast cancer awareness. For the most part, businesses understand the seriousness of this cause and act accordingly. To do something that would take away from seriousness of this cause would be tacky and tasteless and may cause the loss of current customers and potential customers. When you ask, be sure to think and do your research first so the “how” will appeal to your customers.
Holidays are perfect example of when to ask. You know a particular holiday, be it, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc… is fast approaching, so what do we do as marketers, is have our clients push all of their holiday related products and services. We may even create a special offer or product for a particular holiday. As a consumer, you are always being asked for or to do something, all in the name of “holiday spirit”. As a business owner, holiday celebrations give us the opportunity to unabashedly ask consumers to support our business. In some cases it also allows us to show community awareness and compassion. All of which, can add up to additional dollars for your business.
Each product or service you offer will have a different set of criteria and thus different answers for how and when. Once you conquer the how and when the battle is won. From this point on, you just have to keep it fresh, stay consistent and most importantly be considerate to needs and wants of your target market.
As a business owner, the consumer is expecting you to ask, but to win them over you will need to know how and when.
I know you’re saying to yourself, Mad Lady, what do you mean by that statement? It comes from a bible verse which states – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other”... Which really means, you can’t devote yourself to two things at the same time. Well, I’m here to tell you, and yes, I am speaking from experience, some business owners find themselves pulled in two and sometimes three directions, yet instead of focusing on one business and making it successful, they try to focus on multiple businesses and do so unsuccessfully.
You have to face it. You are only one person. There are only twenty-four hours in a day and only seven days in a week. You can only do so much, so with the time and abilities you have, therefore you need to direct your time and energy into a singular focus and make that focus (business) successful.
I had a conversation with a young and very ambitious entrepreneur who was trying to start two businesses in two different industries, but wanted to find a way to merge them, so they could be marketed as one business. I had to explain to him that there is no way to market these businesses together because they targeted two different audiences, one was a product and the other a service and they would need different identities, i.e. names, logos, websites, etc…. I also explained that he would not be able to give either business his full attention and he was going to be pulled in two directions. He said he had given this a lot of thought and knew his ideas needed some work, so he agreed with me. I think he just needed to hear solid advice from someone else. I advised that he should focus on the one business which he believed would make money immediately and let the other business that would take more capital and time to get off the ground wait until his other business was successful. I explained that many people start multiple businesses, but they do so in succession and not simultaneously. Our conversation gave him what he needed to refocus his ideas and make better choices about his business ventures.
He is not the only person I’ve met who was trying to run two businesses at the same time. I was at a networking event and met a guy who gave me two different business cards. The contact information was the same, but the name and type of business was different. During our conversation, I realized that these were not “businesses” but side jobs. A “side job” is not a business. It may grow into a business, but if you need a “side job” to help support your other “side job” then you are really just working two part-time jobs. A real business owner would realize that they need to focus on their main money maker, grow it, market it, invest in it and make it a business they can depend on as a means of financial support for themselves and others. Once the business has reached that status, then and only then should they branch out and try other business ventures.
Just like the saying goes, “one day at a time”. I want us to think “one business at a time”.
I was reading an article about some young women who started an online business in 2013. Mind you, this is an obscure online business, which is still in the “start-up” stage, but for some reason, in the article they kept referring to their “brand”. My question is “What brand?”. You may have a business, but you don’t have a brand. You’re not a brand until people can identify your business by its logo, name and/or the products you sell. Starting a business does not a brand make.
Branding is the product of three elements - time, quality of service or product and customer recognition. Branding is something that comes as you build your reputation and cultivate a customer base. Branding come with longevity. It does not come when you start your business and purchase business cards.
So for the third time, let me reiterate – A business, without a customer base, without a reputation, without a track record is not a BRAND!
Coke Cola is a brand. Dooney & Burke is a brand. Macy’s is a brand. Firestone is a brand. Marc Jacobs is a brand. Walmart is a brand. State Farm is a brand. Samsung is a brand. Nike is a brand. Tiffany’s is a brand. Do you get it now? These are companies whose name and reputation precede them. Over time, they have built a customer base, they have perfected their product/service and they are recognizable.
Sally Jo, who decided to start Sally Jo’s Resale shop, started a business, not a brand. Now, in a few years, after she has built a customer base with returning customers who trust and believe in the products she sells; after she has become profitable and has a “recognizable” image (recognizable outside of her family and friends), then and only then can she call her business a brand.
Locally in my neck of the woods, there is a furniture store called Gallery Furniture, it started out as a small, working man’s furniture store, but now, 30 years later, it is a well known brand in the Houston area which caters to a middle class clientele. Gallery Furniture has only two locations, but everyone knows it’s founder and owner, who calls himself – Mattress Mac. Thirty years ago, Mattress Mac started a business which grew into a recognizable brand. When you say Gallery Furniture, you know you are going to get a quality piece of furniture. He built is brand the right way, with time, creative marketing, quality furniture and always keeping his promise to his customers.
We as business owners, have to be realistic about the state of our business. We can’t get offended because we’re trying to be something that we’re not. Just stick with your marketing efforts and in time you will be the brand you seek to be. But in the meantime, stop calling your business a brand when it is nothing more than a business.
I pride myself on professionalism and knowing my craft, but I have encountered too many people who seem to think they either know my craft better than I do or feel that the suggestions I give or critiques I make with regards to their business are some sort of personal attack. Now, mind you these are the same people who have “come to the realization” that they need MY help. Really!?! You need my help, but you don’t want to listen to what I say? I’m not even sure how that works? I’m confused. How can I help you if you won’t accept constructive criticism?
Let me define constructive criticism for you. As per BusinessDictionary.com, constructive criticism means:
“A recommended set of instructions that aim to collaboratively improve the overall quality of a product or service. Often containing helpful and specific suggestions for positive change, constructive criticism is highly focused on a particular issue or set of issues, as opposed to providing general feedback on the item or organization as a whole.”
As a business professional who is in the business of giving advice and yes, constructive criticism, it is my job to tell you where you have gone wrong and offer the advice on how to fix the problem. There are too many business owners who are overly sensitive to being told they are doing things wrong, yet in their heart of hearts they know what they are doing is wrong, yet they are offended when they hire you and you confirm what they already know.
In my world, constructive criticism is the process of acknowledging that you have been doing it wrong, but you know now, that it can be fixed and most importantly you are willing to do whatever it takes to fix it. You cannot be so sensitive, stubborn or just arrogant to think that hiring a professional, whether it be marketing, business or other, will come on board to be your “yes man”. They are coming on board to show you how to improve what you have and if that means changing, redoing, starting over, then that is what needs to be done. If you had been doing it right from the beginning then, I’m sure you would not have hired them in the first place.
Embrace constructive criticism. Get off your high horse and accept that you don’t know everything and that there are people out there who can and want to help you. Don’t take advice as a personal attack on you….it is not. Take self out of the equation and know that your business is more important than your immature feelings.
I have pondered this thought for a long while and it struck me - too many people would rather spend more on a single dinner than they do on marketing for their business. They make the conscious choice to enjoy a couple of hours eating a meal with family and friends than taking that money and investing it in their business, which in the long run will help them enjoy more meals when their business is finally making money.
Picture this, you take your family out to Pappadeaux (For those of you who don’t live in Texas this is a nice seafood restaurant, a decent entrée will run you about $25.00. When I go there with my family of three; we can easily spend between $100.00 and $150.00 for our meal. Yes, every bite is worth the price, but this is a monthly splurge for us. So let’s add this up. I’ll even split the difference between $100.00 and $150.00 which comes out to $125.00 and I’ll give a more concrete number of 10 times per year instead of saying monthly, thus giving me a total of $1250.00 annually. Now I ask, how many of you spend just $1250.00 annually on marketing your business? Can I see a show of hands? Just what I thought, everyone wants something for nothing – but only when it comes to marketing.
Everyone thinks that Facebook, Twitter, networking and “word-of-mouth” are the best ways to market because it cost nothing. I caution you to remember, “You get what you pay for”. How has the free marketing been working for you? Even on Facebook and Twitter there are better ways to advertise/marketing your business, but these ways involve spending money. Are you prepared to do that? Are you prepared to actually spend some money on your business? I hope so. You cannot expect to grow your business without spending money and if you do, you are in line for a rude awakening.
The number I came up with earlier is arbitrary. Let’s look at it from another perspective. What do you spend on a nice purse? I mean a designer purse, i.e. a Dooney & Burke, Coach or Michael Kors. These bags can cost upwards of $300.00 to more than $750.00. Many female business owners buy two or three of these bags each year, yet they won’t spend as much to market their business. If a marketing agency/consultant send you a proposal totaling $1250.00, you balk, but let Louis Vuitton, tell you that the purse you’ve been drooling over cost, $800.00, you will move heaven and earth to get the money to pay for that bag, but you won’t do the same for your marketing.
All I can say is shame on you! Shame on you for putting vanity before marketing. Shame on you for splurging on your vices while you let your marketing suffer. Shame on you for valuing a meal over marketing. Your business will only be what you make it. If you don’t invest and nurture it; it will not grow. Remember, the meal can wait but your marketing can’t.
This is the time of the year, most people, especially parents are gearing up for summer vacation. If you are like me and have children living at home, you may think of summer as a time to relax and enjoy the summer break with your kids. But, if you are also like me and have a business, you may be planning for a vacation, but this is not the time for your marketing to take a vacation. Actually, it is just the opposite. Summer is the perfect time to move your marketing efforts into high gear. So for the next three months, let’s think of some new ways to market your business and turn summer into a profitable experience for your business and your family.
These are just a few ways to cost-effectively marketing your business during the summer. Some of these ideas may cost less than a hundred dollars and others can be several hundred dollars, but whatever the cost, remember, there is NO vacation for marketing. Every day you are in business you should either be planning a marketing campaign, in the midst of a marketing campaign or coming out of a marketing campaign.
Have a great Summer!
In the course of consulting with a number of business owners, I find that some can be delusional when it comes to marketing. Specifically that marketing cost money. No matter how many ways I say this, no matter if I put it in writing, no matter if I discuss it in a seminar, people just don’t get it.
Let me put it this way, if you are a business owner and you charge money for your product or services then you have to expect your marketing consultant, coordinator, agency, manger, director or whatever title your marketing professional has to expect to be paid for their services. You also have to expect there to be residual cost, i.e. printing, video productions, graphic design cost, brand ambassador cost, etc…. It doesn’t matter if you, an agency or some online business builds your website; there are ongoing costs associated with that website. It doesn’t matter if you or someone else does your graphic design, there will be print cost associated with producing your marketing materials. Just, know, it doesn’t matter what you do with regards to marketing or running your business, there will always be a cost.
For some reason, people seem to think it is okay for them to charge others for the products or services they provide, but they can’t seem to grasp that someone else is going to charge them for their products or services. My advice to you is if you cannot afford the services as outlined in an email, contract or verbally then you should say so up front. Don’t let your business suffer because you start working with a marketing professional and in the middle of the process, because marketing is a process, you have to stop because you’ve run out of money, no longer want to pay or feel you’ve gotten enough “marketing” thus far and don’t want to see the process to fruition.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again – “You can’t get it for FREE!”
My advice to you is to stop fooling yourself and those you plan to do business with, if your money is funny and your change is strange, then you are NOT ready to do business with anyone, let alone embark on some form of marketing for your business. Get your finances in order. Adjust your mindset. Be a better business owner.
I know you’ve heard this “Trust me, I’m a …” many times before. For some reason, experts in their fields have to remind their customers to just trust them. I’m not sure if it is because there was a breach of trust within the relationship or if the customer/client came into the relationship with a mindset of fear and distrust. Either way, there are times when you have to reestablish trust in the client-professional relationship.
As a marketing professional, I work with a number of small business owners. Many of these business owners “get” marketing, but the ones who don’t “get” it are distrustful. It becomes an uphill battle of trying to educate them on what marketing can do for their business, the value of marketing, the cost of marketing and understanding that marketing is a process not a product.
I can show them marketing successes such as Geico, McDonalds, Walmart, M&M’s, etc… but to these business owners, marketing success is just some sort of abstract idea. They are unable to see that the principals of marketing will work on a small scale just as they do on a large scale. I have to be honest and let them know that having a large or flexible marketing budget will give them a greater reach than a small budget. But with a small budget and a little creative thinking, they can still garner a share of whatever market they are in. Then as their business grows, their marketing budgets will do likewise.
Merriam-Webster defines trust as, “the belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc…” When working with a marketing professional or agency, you, the business owner, must learn to trust the suggestions and direction they offer. I’m not saying that everything they say or do is gold, but if you believe you both are on the same page and that this professional is trustworthy, then why would you block or sabotage their work, when it is all in your best interest? Adversarial relationships are never successful.
My suggestion is that you be present and active in your marketing efforts. Don’t just “leave it to the professionals” and then cry foul when you failed to be an active participant in the marketing of your business. Be open to suggestions. Understand that what you think may be different from the professional. Remember if you really knew marketing, you wouldn't have hired them in the first place, so don’t run them away, just because you disagree or can’t see the big picture. Give the professional a chance to connect the dots and color in the spaces for you and who knows, you just might be sitting on marketing gold.
I know you’ve heard the saying, “Always put your best foot forward.” Well, I said that to my 9 year old son the other day and his reply was, “Mommy, which foot is my best foot?” I had to laugh because when you think about it, it is a silly saying. How do you decide which foot is better than the other? I know that is not what this saying means. It is just a figure of speech, which means to always do your best and present your best self to the world. Or at least that is how I explained it to my son.
In marketing, we have to keep this saying in mind when we present our businesses to the world. You should, never give less than your very best. Unfortunately, too many business owners forget that each and every day is another opportunity to strengthen the relationship they have with current customers and build new relationships with prospective customers. Remembering to “put your best foot forward” will do just that.
Here are a few ways to “put your best foot forward”:
I hope these tips will help you put and keep your best foot forward at all times when it comes to marketing your business.
She is mad and she is not going to take it anymore! The Mad Lady Marketing Blog is just her way to drive home the importance of marketing in business. With over 15 years of experience in marketing, graphic design and communications, this marketing expert is mad (crazy) about marketing and mad (angry) at small businesses that don't understand or utilize marketing to promote their business.
Mad Lady Marketing is MAD!!
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