Of course at Limeslade we think marketing is one of the most important business activities there is. But our whole business is based on that assumption, so we would say that, wouldn’t we?
The idea that marketing should be done in a silo, separate from other business activities is widespread. What constitutes marketing is confused (or confusing) and it’s often at the bottom of people’s priorities.
We often ask our clients why more of their time isn’t dedicated to marketing. There are numerous answers that crop up, but the three below seem to feature prominently…
I don’t know what I’m doing
This is usually the number one response when we begin talking to people about their marketing. And why would they know what they’re doing? You’re good at something and people are willing to pay for that, so you turn that into a business. You’ve probably had no experience of marketing before now.
Many start-ups begin working with people they know and already have a relationship with and this works well. But when the time begins to grow, the only way to do this is to expand your network and raise awareness of your skills.
Most people are doing marketing and business development, they just don’t realise it! Their first marketing idea is to produce brochures and marketing collateral. There is a place for these, but they should really be at the bottom of your marketing ‘to do’ list.
Step one in the world of professional services is to develop your personal brand and encourage your colleagues to do the same. The old adage is true, people buy from people. Get out and meet people. Make connections and take the time to take an interest in people. Be careful of being that person who attends a networking event but is only interested in talking to people that they think have potential to be clients. The rest of us can spot that guy a mile off.
Networking and business development begins with being nice. Be someone people want to talk to, be interested in others and their businesses and listen carefully. Sometimes you’ll get talking to someone and it will be clear they will never become a customer of yours. But think about how they may be able to help your clients or whether an introduction to a prospective client may earn you some brownie points.
Fee-earning comes first!
As of course, it should. Even in our business, when it comes to marketing for our clients or ourselves, we always put our clients first.
You may feel as though you don’t have enough hours in the day. Where on earth would you find extra time for marketing on top of running your business? But without continual and consistent effort you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle should one of your projects end.
It’s easy to spot those companies that suddenly find themselves with a lack of work. Having never heard of them before, you’ll spot employees at every networking event. Their social media will go wild and they’ll be sponsoring things left, right and centre.
This screams of an ill thought out strategy. The most successful companies make time for these activities all year round and have a well-developed plan to refer back to. Think Coca-Cola for example – they don’t just advertise when the sun’s shining and you need a window cleaner (funny how times change…). They have a plan to capture customers all through the year. However, it means setting aside a small amount of time every week and encouraging your employees to do the same.
Use that small amount of time to attend some events, meet a colleague for coffee or write an article. Update LinkedIn or get involved in some extra-curricular activities connected to your industry. An hour a week is probably sufficient for most people. Our old friend, Mike Ames says 20 minutes a day. Whatever you do, keep it up!
Companies taking this approach tend to be affected less by peaks and troughs relative to their counterparts with a more scattergun approach.
We have a marketing department
Why should spend any of your own precious time marketing if you have a marketing department? It’s a sensible question and often seems like a no-brainer.
You might be happy to leave the marketing activities to them. But have you ever thought about how integrated they are with the other business processes?
Many companies have marketing departments entirely separate from the services and products they can provide. Where this is the case I would encourage spending time with your marketing team. Get to know their skills and knowledge and above all, share yours with them.
If you ensure they are recognised as a valuable part of your business, the work they produce can improve significantly. Invest in developing your marketing team the way you would with your technical staff.
A marketing department that understands your industry is a much more valuable asset than many businesses seem to realise.
Equally, take time to learn from your marketing team. As consultants, we often come into companies and give suggestions for improving marketing activities. When we speak to the in-house marketing teams, they tell us they have been making the same suggestions for years only for them to fall on deaf ears.
Remember you hire your team because they are good at marketing. Trust their instincts. If you’re paying people to do as they’re told, as the adage goes – you might as well have a dog and bark yourself.
Still not sure where to start?
Think you could do better but not sure where to start? Sometimes we know what we want to improve, but putting practical steps in place to achieve this is the hard part. If you think your marketing and business development activities could do with a kick start, why not call us and have a chat?
We may not be able to work together directly, but we’re always happy to meet up for a coffee and a chat. You never know where we might be able to help each other out in the future.