Running a business isn’t for the faint of heart. It often takes years of hard work, incredibly long hours that never seem to end, and a few stumbling blocks along the way in order to experience any profit.
While success is indeed sweet, getting there is half the battle.
Unfortunately, though, it’s a tough battle to win. In fact, according to The Balance, approximately 7,000 businesses go bankrupt every year in Canada.
The top reasons why? According to Canada Startup, it comes down to failing to adequately prepare, not hiring the right employees, and lacking a good company reputation.
But perhaps what some might find most surprising to learn is that having a bad marketing strategy can also send a business downhill, oftentimes with disastrous consequences.
And here’s why: not every business owner is a skilled marketer, and yet, many entrepreneurs try to shoulder this responsibility on their own, mistakenly thinking it’s something they can manage themselves.
The catch? It’s not.
Doing Too Much is Never a Good Thing
As the saying goes, “Too much of anything is the beginning of a mess.”
And yet, if you ask any business owner, chances are pretty good that they’ll tell you it’s normal to feel as if they’re being pulled in about 25 different ways every five minutes. We get it. Learning how to effectively delegate can be a tough skill to master, but it’s a critical one. For starters, it can help prevent burnout (something the World Health Organization has acknowledged in its International Classification of Diseases), but it can also help ensure your team is successful if you’re not around.
Between actual customer service, there’s all the stuff that happens behind the scenes that contribute to a company’s overall success. We’re talking about everything from bookkeeping, to finding, hiring, and training employees, to ordering inventory, to everything else in between.
Somedays, it can feel as if you’re climbing a mountain of to-do’s with no sight of the top to encourage you. It can be defeating, overwhelming and dangerous. And if you add marketing to the mix, those dangers are multiplied yet again.
As marketing technologies increase and more and more becomes possible, we’re facing a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have endless possibilities and ways to reach your target market. But on the other hand, you have to somehow find the time in your day (when you’re already squeezing the most out of every minute!) to use them properly and effectively.
Consider just a few of the ways you can reach your audience with marketing:
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Display advertising
- Social media advertising
- A conversion-focused website
And this list is just for starters. As we head into a new year, who knows what’s going to become possible in the next 12 months?
Here’s what it comes down to: finding the time to effectively leverage and master all the skills that are needed for these technologies can be an exercise in futility. It’s the whole, “Jack of all trades, master of none” idea. If you can relate, you know you’re trying to do too much.
Oftentimes, business owners who are struggling to “get it all done” will find that their marketing begins to feel disjointed. There’s just too much going on at one time for it to have any sense of cohesion and consistency. Which brings us to our next point.
Consistency is Key
Ah, consistency. As with anything in life – getting on that treadmill every morning, playing an instrument, learning how to cook a decent meal without burning it – consistency is what transforms average into excellence. And it’s no different when it comes to marketing your small business.
“Sure,” you say, “I can post things on my social media once or twice a week, no problem.” And don’t get us wrong, while that’s great, consistency is about way more than that.
Consistency in Branding
It doesn’t matter what kind of company you’re running, be it a clothing store, a spa, or a heating and cooling company, your brand – which is essentially your company’s personality – is what builds trust among your customers.
We talk about branding more in-depth in this article, but we’ll sum it up for you by saying that your brand is a collection of perceptions in the minds of your consumers. It’s how someone feels about your company and it’s a reflection of everything you do. Your logo, tagline, emails, website, and even the way you answer your phone, are all tools that help build your brand. They introduce your brand message and invite prospective customers to get to know you more.
As this Entrepreneur article says,
Consistent messaging, backed up by a compatible brand experience allows your audience to form an expectation about your brand.”
Let’s take a quick look at some companies that have branding perfected.
Whether you’re a die-hard Apple fan or not, there’s no denying the strong presence this powerhouse of a company has established in the marketplace. With every piece of marketing, Apple is selling an experience of luxury, simplicity and innovation.
Next up, let’s look at Starbucks. (‘Cause who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee?).
Through all of its marketing – right down to the signature green aprons worn by its baristas – Starbucks has a goal. “By consistently utilizing the Siren logo, an expanded palette of greens rooted in our iconic green apron, and a constrained family of harmonious typefaces, we bring purpose and cohesion to every interaction customers have with our brand,” it says.
If you’re not trained in the art of branding and marketing, it’s way too easy to forget about their importance when you’re creating collateral for your business. Especially if you’re being hasty about things because you have to get on to the next task on your to-do list.
But it’s important. In fact, according to this article by Oberlo, consistent presentation of a brand has been seen to increase revenue by 33 per cent. That’s nothing to sneeze at!
If your messaging changes often, or you’re constantly leverage different typography, tone of voice, photography, and illustrations, customers are going to be left feeling confused.
Consistency in Scheduling
As a media and design agency, we see it time and time again: a business will hop on the social media train and post avidly for a while, and then suddenly, the posts will start to dwindle and eventually fall off completely.
The same thing happens when it comes to a blogging schedule. Far too often, businesses will start out publishing posts once a week, but then fail to maintain a consistent schedule.
You’re busy and life happens. But is this inconsistency a good move for your business? Nope.
As this Forbes article states, “Whether you publish blogs every day or once per week, it’s crucial for your organization to choose and adhere to a schedule. When your content quality, quantity, or schedule isn’t consistent, it can confuse your customers. Keeping with a regular strategy not only helps create a better customer experience but it also helps build credibility, reputation and brand trust.”
A lack of consistency can also impact your bottom line. According to Techipedia, consistent brands are worth 20 per cent more than those with inconsistencies in their messaging.
But it’s easier said than done, right?
Nowadays, most businesses find themselves engaging with their community on multiple platforms, which can be challenging to stay on top of while also trying to run a business.
Lucky for you, there is social media scheduling. These tools allow you to automate and simplify the process of posting to your various social media channels by enabling you to schedule large amounts of content at the same time. A scheduling tool can be a great help if you’re trying to plan ahead, and publish at your optimum posting times, while trying to push out content across various channels simultaneously.
This can be a huge help in leveling the playing field between smaller businesses and bigger brands by allowing small businesses to plan ahead and schedule their social media content in advance, saving hours of time and making it much easier to increase their social media output,” explains Dominique Rideout, 1dea project manager. “This can be especially useful during busy periods of the year.”
With less time spent manually publishing content, explains Dominique, opportunities are often created for smaller teams to find the time to create more reactive content and jump on the latest social media trends, all of which could be enormously impactful in relation to social media growth.
Not sure where to start? Here are some of our top picks:
- Loomly, which is used by more than 18,800 marketing teams around the world (including us!);
- Hootsuite, which is suitable for all sizes of businesses, and offers a range of affordable options;
- Sendible, which is used by more than 30,000 agencies, marketers and brand managers;
- Sprout Social, which offers enterprise social media management software.
This all being said, content schedulers can only take your marketing so far. There are limitations, of course. And so, if you really want to take your social media to the next level, talk to a marketing agency (*cough, cough) who can help you set and stick to a posting schedule, while at the same monitoring and tracking when your engagement is at its highest, so you’re getting the most bang for your buck in more ways than one.
Marketing is Complicated
We know that as a business owner, it can be hard to loosen the reins and hand your marketing over to someone else. But it’s important to remember that when you’re doing everything on your own, there are bound to be blind spots you simply don’t see because you’re too involved. And sometimes, that means stepping back.
With that, here are a few reasons why.
The Tech is Tricky…
The unfortunate thing with marketing is this: what worked well five minutes ago doesn’t work now. (Well, that might be a bit of a stretch, but we’re trying to make a point here!).
Facts are facts: marketing is a constantly changing, ever-evolving machine that requires you to hold on for dear life, keep pace, and know how to pivot when you need to.
Take TikTok, for example. Although it was released in 2016, it has positively exploded over the past few years. In fact, it’s now one of the fastest-growing social media platforms and, according to Forbes, an “advertising haven for businesses.”
But for business owners who are still getting used to old marketing faithfuls like Facebook, it’s a big ask to get them to incorporate this video-making platform into their marketing strategies.
And yet, this tech platform is only one example.
Can you keep pace? It’s important that you do. As this Forbes article says, “Technology is revolutionizing marketing, which can be the key to the success of most businesses.”
In the coming years, the tech isn’t expected to get any easier.
Artificial Intelligence is rapidly becoming something that all businesses will need to consider, for example. According to Business News Daily, almost 42 per cent of consumers use conversational AI and chatbots to make purchases. And yet, the same article goes on to say that most small businesses don’t use this technology.
At the same time, the importance of SEO is also expected to increase throughout 2023. While SEO is most certainly not new, this article by HubSpot says its strategies are becoming even more ingrained within modern-day marketing strategies. In fact, the same article goes on to say that when it comes to the trend marketers will invest the most money in for 2023, SEO ranks third behind short-form video and influencer marketing.
Next up? Mobile optimization. Because most consumers spend the bulk of their time on their mobile devices (in fact, more than half of annual online website traffic comes from mobile devices) it’s important that businesses adapt and invest in quality mobile web design.
With all this being said, it’s important for us to point out that these three examples are only just the start of all the ways tech has transformed – and will continue to transform – the way that small businesses market. Do you feel confident you can keep up with emerging technologies?
The Data is Trickier…
Take it from a copywriter who has been actively trying to avoid arithmetic her whole life and hasn’t quite managed to be successful at it: math matters.
In marketing, we use data every day to learn more about existing customers and prospects in order to tailor marketing effectively. Using data, we can:
- Predict consumer needs
- Predict future desires
- Gain more clarity about our target market
- Build strong relationships with our customers
- Help us determine which marketing channels suit our audience best
- Personalize our customers’ experience
- Spot emerging trends
- Identify buying patterns
But as business owners ourselves, we know it’s hard to find the time to pour a cup of coffee, let alone spend hours pouring over data to learn what’s working and what isn’t.
Here are a few examples of ways you can collect data:
- A/B test your newsletters. Did one subject line perform better than the other? Did a certain image seem to resonate better with your audience?
- Display advertising engagement
- Website activity, such as page views, form submission, and purchases
- Identify trends
If you’re not using data day-to-day with your marketing, you’re fighting a losing battle. “Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the Web like deer on a freeway,” said author Geoffrey Moore in 2012.
Why take that risk?
But The People are Trickiest
While the technology behind today’s marketing is a beast all its own, it’s actually the people you’re trying to reach that are making things more complicated than you likely ever could have imagined.
We like how Aberdeen Strategy and Research put it: “Marketing isn’t complicated. People are.”
And here’s why: consumers today expect more than they ever did from traditional advertising. They want marketing to feel organic and personalized and they never want to feel as if they’re being sold to (even if it’s clear to you that that’s exactly what you’re doing!).
So what do they want? Well, it may come as a surprise to learn that it all comes down to relationship-building. In the words of Bob Burg, a leading authority on influence and referral marketing, “All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to those people they know, like, and trust.”
For you, this means a commitment to educating your customers about what matters to them. You do this by giving away quality content that’s so good, you could charge them for it. It’s about demonstrating trustworthiness and acting as a thought leader in your chosen industry.
It’s called “content marketing” and according to The Marketing Journal, it’s “the strategy of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly-defined audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
What’s this mean for you as a business owner, then? Instead of blatantly pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer smarter. Think of it as handing out free tips, advice, and other valuable information that your customers will appreciate, and in turn, come to trust you because of it.
You can accomplish this by creating short how-to videos, creating impactful infographics, blogs, podcasts, social media posts, and newsletters.
Let’s say, for example, that you own a spa. While your ultimate goal is to get customers to book massages and pedicures, you have to go about this by doing more than straight-up advertising.
Here are some examples of content marketing you might wish to try in an effort to solicit more business without directly selling:
- A long-form blog on proper skin care, with tips and tricks on how to ensure skin stays healthy and glowing;
- A video on how to successfully do an at-home manicure;
- An infographic that gives advice on the best gifts for spa lovers this holiday season.
If, on the other hand, you are the owner of a bakery, you might want to try:
- Providing free recipes;
- Creating videos that teach your customers helpful baking tips (like how to soften, not melt, butter!);
- An infographic on the steps to take in order to achieve perfect, mouthwatering, flaky pie crust.
Seems like a lot of work, right? And in some ways, it’s easy to feel as if you’re giving stuff away for free.
Well, yes. To be sure, it takes time and commitment to create valuable content that your customers will find useful. But, as this Forbes article says, it’s worth it. More than worth it, in fact.
Content can generate engagement and revenue while you’re asleep, just like an e-commerce site or any other digital approach to building a business. Content can create traffic, engagement, followers, sales, repeat sales and conversations around your brand. Even if you produced the content a long time ago and haven’t done much with it yet, it’s not going anywhere.”
Now the question becomes, “How on earth do I create all this content with the limited time I have?”
This is where a marketing agency can help. Of course, you can’t do all this yourself! As we spoke about earlier, trying to do too much results in inconsistency and often, marketing will come across as disjointed.
A marketing agency, trained in the art of content creation, can work with you to develop a solid content strategy that can help ensure your business keeps pace with the competition or even becomes an industry leader.
Doing Too Much Means You Risk Failing
The biggest takeaway? Don’t think you can do it all yourself, because the reality is this: you can’t.
As this Inc. article states, “Too many entrepreneurs treat their business like a DIY project: They want to do it all themselves. But a business is not a bookcase or backyard chicken coop. It’s a demanding, ongoing, ever-changing entity. Sooner or later, your workload reaches a critical point where you simply cannot do it all yourself.”
Don’t risk letting things get that far. While burnout is all-too-real, it can also mean your business ultimately fails. And when you’ve put all your hopes and dreams into one basket, is it worth that risk?