Posts Tagged ‘small business marketing consulting’

How Training for a Half Marathon is Like Committing to Incorporating Marketing Into Your Business

October 25, 2016

13 weeks. One quarter. A lot can happen in that timeframe. This blog tracks what can be accomplished in 13 weeks with parallels between training for a half marathon and incorporating marketing as an ongoing, integral part of growing your business.

Half-Marathon View:  13 weeks ago I committed to training for my first half-marathon. I hadn’t been running much during the summer – maybe 3 or 4 miles every once in a while. I was working out regularly so I was fit, but not running fit. In late July, I worked out with a friend who inspired me to go for it. She encouraged me that I could train and run 13.1 miles. The farthest I have ever run in a race is the Falmouth Road Race – a 7 miler. This was (in my mind) doubling the distance – I know math, but seriously. I don’t buy the thinking that if you can run 7 you can run 13. I know if I can run 7 miles,  I can run … 7!

I printed out a training schedule and I had just enough time for what they recommended – 13 weeks.

The 13 Week Plan

My 13 Week Training Plan

However, that assumed you had a base of 8 miles per week. I didn’t. I had to build it so I ignored that minor detail of having a base and started ticking off the plan, day by day, week by week.

 

Business View: Set a goal for the next 13 weeks. It may seem daunting, but you can do it if you put your mind to it. What’s the goal? For this blog, the goal is you are going to (finally!) incorporate marketing into the ongoing fabric of your business. Stop dabbling with unfocused random marketing tactics. (The equivalent of running a few miles here and there) Stop putting off investing in your business and convincing yourself you will do this next year, when you have more sales, when there aren’t so many other demands on your time. You know that will never happen. You too are starting with no base as your company has not been investing in marketing (really) so off you go! Commit to the goal and get started!

Half Marathon View: Training – the first few weeks. I was not used to running so my week did not have that time baked into my calendar. I had my weeks planned with work, personal commitments, and my gym workouts. There was little ‘free’ time that I was looking to fill. Now I needed to make time for adding more exercise and specifically incorporating running into my days. Every week I mapped out which days in the week I would run and planned the longer distance run to be done over the weekend.

Business View: Training – the first few weeks. Marketing is not on your calendar either. You are the CEO – you wear many hats. You aren’t looking to add more things to your calendar. You are busy. Your days are also booked solid running a business. Where is finding the right marketing partner going to fit in? Just like running, you book time in your calendar and you make the time to evaluate your options. You wisely realize you don’t need full-time expertise so hiring makes no sense. You are looking for a marketing partner – one point of accountability that brings the team needed over time to scale as you need it. Work on the plan to identify partners to evaluate. Start building your base.

Half Marathon View: Summer vacation. I packed my sneakers and my running watch. There was no extra time in the training plan for a week off. As it was I was starting behind with no base. I could not afford to lose any time and risk injury by ramping up too quickly. I had to keep building endurance and getting the miles in. While going to the pool after a busy day of sight-seeing was really appealing, I laced up and went out for runs along the San Diego coast.

Business View: Summer vacation. Maybe I can skip a week and play golf, lay in the sun and get away. I have survived this long without focused, consistent marketing integrated into my business. Business is a bit slower this time of year anyway. After all, it is summer, I can let this slide a bit and skip a week right? OK, I know, Labor Day is around the corner and we need to get going now to build the fundamental marketing foundation we will need for a strong final quarter of the year and a strong next year strong. I will not take time off – I will work on evaluating potential marketing partners to help me get a marketing strategy and plan in place. I build a short list and keep working on it.

Half Marathon View: Building Weekly Miles and running distances I have never run. The plan is becoming a bit daunting. The mileage for this week includes a 10 mile run. I have never run 10 miles at once in my life. I am psyched out. What if my plantar fasciitis starts acting up? What if I can’t do the miles? What if it is hot on Saturday and I run out of steam? Out the door I go to run 10 miles. I am wiped out when I finish the run, but have achieved an important milestone. I have run double-digit miles!

Business View: Your trusted advisors are turning up the heat – have you selected a marketing partner? You are down to five weeks to present a clear, actionable marketing plan for the rest of the year and for 2017.  Pressure is mounting and time is running tight. There is no room for not completing your ‘homework’ required as key input into the marketing strategy. Where are the 3 top initiatives and supporting goals and milestones due this week? You select your marketing partner. You commit to investing in marketing to help strengthen your team to drive future growth. A milestone is achieved! You are relieved and encouraged.

Half Marathon View: Final weeks. Building confidence. Visualizing achievement. Going from 10 miles to running 11 multiple times to running 12 miles. Focused. Committed. Slightly nervous, but prepared. Eat well. Get sleep. Don’t get sick.

Business View:  Final weeks. Feeling prepared for the upcoming meeting with the board. The bulk of the hard, strategic thinking is done and now it’s fine-tuning with your trusted marketing partner. You are seeing the benefits of securing a team bringing their proven marketing expertise to the table. You’re excited about the potential for the business now that a solid marketing team and plan is in place. You feel confident in the health of the company and the solid footing it is now on. The time and investment will pay off. You can start to sense it as can the other members of your team.

Half Marathon View: It’s Game Day. It’s windy. It’s cool. No chance of rain. My play list is ready. I have my chews to take every 3-4 miles for energy. I am ready. My only concern is the wind and not being too cold or hot. My #9 hat for Ted Williams (my Dad’s favorite player) is well-worn, but it is my running hat. I have affixed 3 things to the hat that mean a lot to me: an American flag pin, a pink ribbon for breast cancer and a dark blue ribbon for colon cancer. I wear a bracelet for Alzheimer’s.

My Running Hat

My Running Hat

 

I change my outfit twice. My friends convince me to start the run wearing gloves. I have trained for 13 weeks. Off I go! I complete my first half marathon by sprinting to the finish with a big smile on my face. Mission accomplished. I never walked. I did it. Wahoo!

Business View: Game Day. You are ready for the board meeting. Your marketing partner is well-prepared, confident and poised. The planning and thinking and strategizing over the past 13 weeks has come together. Initial marketing plans have been implemented to build momentum and are showing results. The company is stronger and your management team is stronger. The past 13 weeks has made a difference in your business. You set a goal, you built a marketing base (foundation) and you and your marketing partner crushed the meeting with the board. You executed on the initial plan and now you have the expertise and strength to rely on to build and grow your business with your ongoing marketing partner. Wahoo!

Mary Honan, For Marketing Matters

Mission Accomplished

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Hey Mother Nature – take this!

March 8, 2015

Mother Nature made her impact.  This is a winter many of us won’t soon forget:  record-breaking cold; record-breaking snow; roof collapses; the MBTA and commuter rail service in Boston struggling to operate. Roads in Southie changed to one-way streets due to the massive snow piles limiting the space for two cars to pass. Let’s face it, Mother Nature has been on a rampage.

Mother Nature making an impactThis winter has had a broad effect on the economy.  Your business may be down because of Mother Nature.  Auto sales were way off in February.  Restaurants have been hit hard due to so many weekend storms and cancelled reservations.  I met with an insurance sales guy last week and he indicated business was down due to so many snow days that made booking and keeping appointments a challenge.

So what do you do as a business owner?

 

How can your business fight back?

Focus.  Plan.  Execute.

The recommendation is not new.  It’s very simple.  Simple to state, but not easy to do.

When we get beat up and business may be down, it may be tempting to get distracted with any new shiny object and get off track.  Don’t!  The key is to get back to basics.  Focus on what’s most important for your business and put together a phased, logical plan and then execute.  This is what any good marketing department or marketing agency should be doing for you.  But, if you are not investing regularly in marketing and instead treating it as a project, that is where you need to make a change.  You are wasting time and money with limited impact.

What should impact look like?

Monthly measurable results.  Just like we measure wind chill and snowfall amounts, measure the impact of your marketing efforts.  If you are not getting detailed, metric-laden marketing reports, you need to evaluate the value you are getting.

Some examples of the impact reported to For Marketing Matters clients in their February Impact reports (return on marketing investment):

Brand:

– New logo with tagline completed for a client; branding standards established; email signatures created for all employees

– New designs and messaging materials developed

Awareness:

– Online reputation management; response to positive and negative postings

– Social media posts, growth, reach

– # blogs written and exposure/reach achieved via these posts

Credibility:

– Customer success stories written and communicated to prospects/clients

– Speaking opportunities secured; award submissions

– # press releases distributed and coverage secured

Leads:

– Total Leads and leads by lead source as compared to target leads needed (client has monthly leads exceeding target so leads are not an issue; converting leads is the issue); # web leads including if prospect has budget approved with majority of leads having urgency of less than 30 days to act. (does your sales team get leads that give you this level of information?)

– New sales tool kit materials completed and available for sales team to use (including this month internal FAQs to help sales consistently and completely respond to questions; two new sets of PowerPoint slides addressing industry standard and opportunity for prospect to earn LEED credits)

– Ideal Target Profiles completed and distributed to sales to enhance targeting and shorten sales cycle

– Detailed website analysis; new web content developed and stats including SEO results and ratings

– Detailed email marketing results with lead reports for sales to act on

 

The above is an overview of the type of impact that we make in a month.  Impact is client-specific, but normally falls into the above categories.    Whatever your priorities, your marketing department or agency should be managing, measuring and reviewing IMPACT with you monthly.  Not activity, but impact. It is important to make that distinction so you as CEO are not wow’d by  activity.  To quote, Joe Friday from Dragnet, “Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.”

Marketing is an investment and like any investment you should expect a return. If you are looking to fight back and make an impact, start with assess what marketing is doing for you. If your business priorities involve increasing awareness, gaining credibility and building leads then the marketing function plays a critical role. If you are not seeing the monthly impact from your current marketing investment, take a good hard look at what you are doing and who is doing the work.

Don’t let Mother Nature be the only one making measurable impact.

 

Failing to plan is…

November 25, 2014

You know the quote:  Failing to plan is planning to fail. Benjamin Franklin.

So how is 2015 planning progressing for your business?  And, specifically, how is the marketing plan coming?

Plan Word Shows Guidance Or Business Planning

 

Next Monday is December 1st!

So here are some recommendations to help you get started on documenting the strategy for 2015, defining the business goals and then developing the marketing plan to get you on the right path for a great 2015.

Note this will be tougher if you have NEVER had a marketing plan.  If you had a marketing plan in place for 2014, then leverage that as your starting point.

 

Below are 8 steps to get started on a useful plan:

1. Define and document your strategic objectives.  What are the top 1-3 things you MUST accomplish next year? (Not tactics.  Strategic objectives.)

2. Identify the resources needed to achieve these objectives.  (people, money, processes, partners, new clients).  Keeping at a high level, what is it going to take to get you where you want to be?

3. How will success be measured?  If possible, identify intermediate metrics for success along the way and then ultimate success metrics. (revenue, # new clients, margin, # of new square footage operational in the new facility, etc.)

note:  with key business goals defined, then the marketing plan can start taking shape…

4. Define the fundamental focus of the marketing effort.  In other words, is the focus increasing awareness, generating leads and acquiring new clients?  Perhaps retaining existing clients and acquiring new clients to support your growth strategy?  Are you introducing a new product line that marketing will be critical in announcing and bringing to market?  Clearly define the priority and the marketing strategy  that will support the above business objectives.

5. The marketing plan needs to be developed within a budget.  Any increase from this year?  Know what range you are working with to avoid the frustrations of building a masterpiece only to learn your masterpiece has to be re-done to fit the approved budget.  Document the assumptions and as details are developed, code each.  Suggested coding would be critical (critical strategically), important (fundamental work that needs to happen) and nice to have (not essential, but would be beneficial).  With this coding, if budget money becomes available during the year, you know where the money will be funneled vs. late nights preparing for a board meeting figuring out how to build your compelling story of why marketing should get a slice of the pie!

6. With a defined marketing strategy and a budget, phase the marketing plan.  We start with defining the marketing priorities by quarter – then breaking that down into months.  This keeps you aligned with the overall business objectives and enables you and your team to not lose the forest through the trees.  Stay strategic.

7. Revisit the marketing foundation.  As part of the marketing plan, there are ongoing foundational elements that require ongoing marketing work.  The Dream list is never done.  What capabilities or services lack the support of compelling client solution briefs and testimonials?  Make sure your plan does not lose focus on efforts to strengthen the marketing foundation in the new year.  Weave this work into the marketing plan.

8. Summarize the marketing plan on one page.  If the executive summary is clear and solid, the detailed plan will be that much better.  Just like an elevator pitch can be the most challenging part of messaging work given its brevity, the same is true for a one page summary.  It forces us to clearly and concisely present the plan that is then detailed across many pages.

It’s getting late in November.  If your fiscal year is a calendar year, you need to get going to be set up for success come January 2.  If you are running a business without a business plan and without a marketing plan, maybe it’s time to think about your New Year’s Resolution now.  After all, as Peter Drucker says:  “What gets measured, gets managed.”

A solid plan is a great way to get ready for 2015.  No time like the present to get started.

Know when to walk away, know when to run!

November 14, 2014

I am not one to quote Kenny Rogers frequently, but boy does this line capture it for me.  Not all business is good business.  Not all revenue is worth it.  We all learn the hard way and with hindsight being 20/20, we commonly look back and think – should have walked away.  So what does this have to do with marketing?

Everything!

A solid business has to start with a solid foundation.  For Marketing Matters has 13 essential elements to be on solid ground and the first two are:

#1.  Define your value proposition.

#2.  Develop your target profile.

If you have completed #2 and I mean documented as clearly as you can EXACTLY who you want to be selling to and working with, then you are in MUCH better shape to assess prospects and decide whether the opportunity is a good match for you and your business.  Congratulations if you have this in place.  Most small and medium-sized businesses skip this step.  Responses include:  Oh, we know that.  Sure, we have done that…. so, I ask them for a copy.  Uh, Oh, it is in our heads.  We don’t have to write it down.

I have a documented target profile and I ignored it.  I was introduced to a business owner, referred by another business owner that I have a lot of respect for and admire.  As a potential source for referrals, I wanted to help his client out and show what FMM can do.

As a marketer, I ignored my target profile, my notes from my initial meeting and my gut. Complete idiot. This business owner did not fit my profile at all.  He is a classic dabbler:  not interested in strategy, just marketing tactics.  His priority was getting an email blast out the door.  He was looking for a silver bullet and I took the bait.  I should have RUN.

Of course, the project (note to self – my business model is NOT to engage in projects, but to earn serving as the outsourced marketing department) had a tight timeframe and details were sketchy.  Again, RUN.  Just this once I will deviate from my core business strategy.  I was referred and I want to deliver.  I left the initial meeting with such clarity of how we could help his business have a clearer, stronger go-to-market plan.  So, I respond with “Sure, we can start with a project.”  In my mind I would still develop some of the core marketing foundational work that he really needed as part of the project and, of course, he will see the benefit.  In my mind, I will help him and it will be all ok.  Doh!  So not true.

To avoid reliving a nightmare of a project, this blog is focused on how you can learn from my stupidity.

Document your target audience.  Don’t skip this step.  This is NOT simply a title and industry.  Dig into the details of what are they like, what is important to you about this company and this individual. My ideal client is MARK.  Not because he is a man, but because he or she wants to make a Mark in this world – they are passionate about what they do and they invest in their business.  They are not dabblers.  They are not do-it-yourselfers.  They are smart, passionate, focused, driven and committed to growing their business.  To do so, they surround themselves with professionals to have the expertise and insight that they need and value.  They are optimists (working with pessimists is a drag for me). They know what they don’t know and they are not nickel and dimers.  I am their partner, not a vendor. They get ‘it’ and they appreciate accountability, hard work, insight and they value results.  They value having a plan to stay on course, but are open to evaluating what is working and what is not.

Once you have this type of target profile clearly defined, convert it into questions to evaluate prospective clients!  Once you have the profile and the associated questions to evaluate prospects, use it.  Be consistent.  I ignored my notes.  Not because I wanted to work with the business owner and his business, but because I wanted to deliver on the referral.  Stupid.

Then leverage your written target profile to help you and others in your company consistently and clearly evaluate prospective business.  Not all business is good business.  Not all revenue is worth it.  Not only will it help you RUN AWAY from potential clients that are not a good fit, it will help you scale your business to have more business development folks evaluating potential business in the same way. Make it part of your sales process.

If you don’t have a target profile developed, get this done.  In the meantime go with your gut.  I know a great marketing company that can help you grow…but you’ll have to fit the ideal target profile!

 

This is not a good sign

March 23, 2014
The importance of alignment

The importance of alignment

Is this an accurate image of how your marketing and sales groups operate? Each headed in their own direction? If so, you as the CEO have a fundamental problem and it is not just an internal issue.

Alignment is required. I use this term “alignment” consistently when working with my clients. For all of my clients a marketing plan is in place. As we make measurable progress building awareness and generating leads, the client conversation naturally leads to the importance of alignment with sales. What specifically do I mean by alignment? Visually it would mean moving the sales sign in the above image so it is right under marketing and headed in the same direction. The direction is defined by the company strategy and priorities.

1. Why under marketing? Simply, marketing builds the top of the funnel through its efforts focused on building the brand awareness, generating leads for sales to then nurture and close. Sales leverages the marketing message to retain clients, expand business and handle leads from marketing to convert to clients.
2. Why in the same direction? Honestly, this seems like it should be obvious. Do you want marketing focused on acquiring new clients through lead generation efforts yet sales is only focused on expanding existing clients so there is no appetite or bandwidth to work the leads that marketing is bringing in? The two groups need to be aligned to the priorities of your company. I have clients that struggle with the ‘alignment’ word. Some clients prefer ‘partnership’, but to have a partnership you first need to be aligned.

Alignment is key. Alignment between marketing and sales MUST include the following:
Strategy. Make sure you have alignment at the strategic level. In other words, if your growth strategy for 2014 is based on acquiring new clients while retaining existing and expanding within existing, there is a direct implication to the role that marketing will play to reach BOTH existing clients and new and that naturally affects the sales organization and how it develops its sales plan for the year.
Goals. The goals for both marketing and sales need to support the strategy. These should be measurable and tracked consistently for both groups.
Incentives. Many companies only have a sales incentive plan. Why don’t you have an upside for marketing that is ‘aligned’ with the behavior you need that is also then aligned with sales? Make sure you are not equating aligned with the incentives being the same! Marketing should have incentives tied to the top of the funnel while sales should have incentives tied to the middle and bottom of the funnel.
Priorities. As CEO are you confident that the quarterly and monthly priorities within marketing and sales are in alignment? Are they pulling in the same direction or working against themselves?

The reality is that all your functions need to be aligned, working like a well-oiled machine. I am focused on marketing and sales because there is SO MUCH opportunity for companies to grow by getting these signs aligned and headed in the same direction. The upside is HUGE.

How will you as a CEO or President get the signs headed in the same direction starting in Q2?</strong>

At the risk of thinking about this as an organizational exercise, keep in mind the real negative impact of having these two groups not in sync is felt by your clients and prospects. They are the ones getting mixed messages. That should be enough reason to work on this intersection and make it a priority.

Two weeks left in Q1. SMB CEO, are you where you wanted to be?

March 14, 2014

Hey Mr./Mrs. CEO or President of a small to mid-sized growth business!

It’s the middle of March. Hard to believe based on the cold snowy days here in New England, but enough talking about the weather. Let’s talk business. Specifically, YOUR business.

Time for action. Stopwatch on white background. Isolated 3D imag

There are two more weeks left in the month of March. Two more weeks left in the first quarter of 2014. Just eleven business days left. Tick. Tick.

Are you on track to meet your Q1 goals? Do you have the actionable information you need to confidently answer this question?

At this point in Q1, the marketing plan for your business should be rock solid. The plan is being executed and you as CEO should have the following information readily available QTD (quarter to date) from your VP of marketing (internal or agency):
1. # leads generated by marketing efforts by source code MTD and QTD; conversion rates to quotes and sales
2. Analysis of key channels including website updates, analysis, key SEO term rankings
3. Event plans for upcoming events to define goals, metrics of success and roles to generate ROI on exhibiting at trade shows
4. Media coverage secured; updated media list and upcoming planned interviews
5. Reporting on brand awareness
6. Status of sales tool kit and new materials developed QTD to support sales process
7. Timing and schedule of any remaining marketing initiatives planned for Q1
8. Any other key metrics reports for top strategic goals – direct marketing, email marketing, webinar attendance

If you are serious about growing your business, look at your business like a CEO. Surround yourself with talent to achieve your growth goals. Discipline, rigor and accountability are not only critical to bigger business’ success. They are why small businesses get bigger and so many SMBs stall or ultimately fail. You can maintain your culture while still instilling discipline, accountability and reporting to help you do your primary job: leading the business in growth and prosperity. As a marketer, the above list is an example of the types of information you should have to assess the execution of the marketing plan. As CEO, you need this same degree of reporting and accountability from all key functions. The clock is ticking. Q1 is wrapping up quickly. What decisions and investments will you be making to make Q2 a great quarter for your company?

Tick. Tick.

Giving Back with Passion

June 5, 2013

As a marketer, I get attached to ideas and to marketing efforts that I am passionate about and that fit so well with a client’s strategy. At the end of May, a program that For Marketing Matters was instrumental in designing, creating, bringing to market and managing concluded. It is with pride and sadness when such a program comes to an end. The program is the Jaffarian GAME ON program. I named it and nurtured it since its launch in the beginning of the school year in 2011. I am proud to have been part of it. Kudos to Gary Jaffarian for his commitment to youth and his passionate belief in the importance of keeping students involved in high school athletics. Jaffarian Volvo Toyota donated $52,550 to local high school athletic programs and booster organizations to reduce user fees, save unfunded sports and buy new equipment and uniforms. Wow! $52,000 is a lot of money and Jaffarian’s commitment to giving back is commendable and part of a long legacy for this family.
Charitable giving should come from passion. It then becomes so much more. Game On!

Jaffarian GAME ON

Jaffarian GAME ON

A marketing lesson from Sandy

October 30, 2012

One good thing about Sandy is we had plenty of notice that the storm was forming and was headed our way.  The news reports gave us time to get ready.  Many of us create a mental or physical checklist in advance including:  groceries, water, batteries, charge the cell phones, test flashlights, stack wood for fires in case of power outage, and secure all outdoor items that could become airborne.  We do what we can to be ready, and then hunker down and leave the rest to Mother Nature.

In business, if you know your goals are to increase awareness of your products/services, retain existing clients and acquire news ones, what is your checklist to make that happen?  Does it include the following?

  • develop a clear, concise and compelling value proposition
  • define your target audience being as descriptive as you can
  • document stories that explain what you do and the benefits delivered to convey expertise and credibility
  • build and maintain a dream list; a segmented list of clients, prospects and suspects that need to be informed and aware of what you offer

Don’t wait for a disaster to build a solid marketing foundation.  Learn from Sandy and start with a plan. For more about the importance of a marketing plan, click here to read a recently published article written by Mary Honan, Principal of For Marketing Matters.