Is your marketing planned, structured and consistent?

Or are you like most people who squeeze it into whatever gaps are left once everything else is done? That’s if there are any gaps at all of course!

One of the biggest reasons that businesses don’t grow as fast as they could is because they don’t have a clear marketing plan and don’t treat it as a priority.  Of course it’s always tempting to let the marketing slip when things are busy and you have plenty of clients. But so many people allow their marketing to really dry up during those times and then have to start again from scratch as soon as they need more business.

Ideally you should have a documented marketing plan for at least the next 3 months. This will keep you on track, help you become more consistent and help you generate a steady flow of prospects so that you can avoid the peaks and troughs that are such a challenge for many businesses. Your plan doesn’t have to be full of bells and whistles. A really simple excel grid will do a solid job. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be done!

If you know that adding more consistency to your marketing is something you really need to build into your business, then here are a few tips and ideas to help you. Some of these are quite typical marketing ideas, some are a little quirkier; the options are broad!

Plan a referral strategy

Very few businesses regularly ask customers who else they know that could benefit from their service. yet referrals from existing customers are very often the hottest prospects you’ll ever deal with. There is a level of immediate trust and credibility as a result of your customer’s endorsement that’s worth its weight in gold.

So what opportunities do you have to ask this question of your customers? And how can you make it as easy as possible for your customer to introduce you to others? You might consider offering them an incentive if you feel that’s appropriate but you don’t have to if that doesn’t feel right to you.

Identify partnerships

A great question to ask yourself is: what is it that your customers buy just before they need your service? For instance, for me that might be booking some time with a Virtual Assistant because they’re feeling overwhelmed and need more systems. It might be time with their accountants to work out what’s happening with their finances and whether their current cashflow forecast supports their growth plans.

That means that Virtual Assistants and Accountants make really good partners for me. They’re people who may be talking to my potential customers before those customers have decided they need to work with somebody like me. They’re also not competing businesses so recommending their customers use me actually allows them to add value to their own clients.

So who are the people your customers are likely to be dealing with just before they need you?

This can take some time to work through before the answers become clear. You need an open mind and some creative thinking to unearth the opportunities that could be out there for you. And then you need a plan to build strong, genuine relationships with those potential partners. Bear in mind they need to have a very significant level of trust in you so don’t expect fast results and do be prepared to put some consistent effort into proving your credibility.

Schedule your social media

Choose the social media platforms you’re going to focus on and define how frequently you’re going to post on each of them. Plan your content at least a month ahead so you make sure you share all of the key messages that you want your prospective customers to see.

Think about the things that naturally happen during your week that would be interesting things to share and could be a useful source of images too. Work out how much time you or your team need to dedicate each week to creating the content and make that a fixed, repeating slot in your diary.

Plan, book & follow up your networking

Book your networking meetings into your diary well ahead and treat them like a fixed appointment. Book in some separate time in advance to prepare what you want to say when you’re there. So many people I meet say that networking doesn’t really work for them but they haven’t taken the time to plan the message they want to share to make themselves appealing to the people who might need their service.

Just 15 minutes of prep could make all the difference to your networking results. Also book in time in your diary after the event to follow up with the people you meet there. There’s no point in going along and collecting a glamorous range of business cards that you then do nothing with!

Keep in touch

This is probably the most overlooked strategy in businesses I speak to! Do you have a mahoosive pile of business cards somewhere from networkers that you’ve never followed up with? Do you have a list of previous customers that you’re constantly getting round to contacting but never quite have the time? You are far from alone on this one!

Decide on your contact strategy – it might be regular email newsletters. Make them useful and interesting though, not just sales pitches or they’ll just be seen as spam! You might set your sales team a target to recontact a specific number each week or you might plan to meet 1 or 2 each week for a coffee. Whatever you decide is the best strategy for your business, add it to your marketing plan and schedule in the time to make it happen consistently.

Other ideas

This blog could seriously run and run but let’s not get too carried away! Here are a few other things you might want to consider:

  • Ask clients for testimonials every few months and share them on social media
  • Send outbound mailshots, postcards, or lumpy mail. Lumpy mail includes an interesting enclosure (the lump) to catch people’s attention and make it more likely to be open and be remembered. If you think direct mail is dead you’re in for a surprise. So much is done by email, social media and messaging apps these days that the mailshot market is much quieter than it used to be, which means its effectiveness is rising again
  • Consider press releases or industry specific magazine articles. Your local newspaper is generally crying out for ‘good news’ news stories so you may find it a lot easier to be featured than you expect.
  • Telemarketing – in-house or outsourced externally. Again there is still a market for this if it’s done well

So hopefully that’s given you an idea or two for your marketing plan. One final thought to leave you with is to focus on consistency over volume.

If you don’t have a lot of time then trying to feature daily on every social media platform known to man will quickly run out of steam. One marketing strategy done consistently well will always deliver better results than several sporadic strategies. Don’t try and bite off more than you can chew. Add one thing to your plan at a time to make it manageable.

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