I was out for lunch earlier today, walking down in Gastown towards Waterfront station. I was enjoying all the Christmas ornaments and festive lights in the windows of coffee shops when I noticed a new building I hadn’t seen before, even though I had walked by the neighbourhood many times.
Have you ever had this experience? If you live in Vancouver, I would imagine you are saying “yes” because new buildings are growing like mushrooms around here. And when you see a new building, you think – first, “when did that happen?” and then, “what was here before that?” As a rule of thumb, for some reason, it’s absolutely impossible to remember what was there before, right? It’s some sort of a mystery I can’t figure out, but somehow the brain just focuses on the new building, and you can’t remember what was there before.
Have you ever felt like that in your business and specifically the way marketing small businesses works these days? When you look around and all of a sudden, you see something that wasn’t there before, and you have no idea how that “thing” became a “thing.” TikTok, Snapchat, all-new-and-improved (hopefully) Twitter?
Marketing is changing at a crazy pace, and it’s hard to keep track of trends (good luck if you are still trying to do that AND run a successful business). At some point, maybe you even thought that you didn’t need to be a part of the race because it’s so daunting to keep track. Your business is growing, your customer retention is high, and your sales and business development departments are busy. Why change something if it’s not broken, right?
Well, yes, and no.
Here are some points to consider if marketing is still an afterthought in your business.
1. Marketing is a marathon, not a race
Marketing cannot be an afterthought because you can’t stop and start marketing and expect consistent results from it. Consistency is one of the factors that make marketing successful. Why else do you think big brands spend so much money on marketing their products? According to financial reporting, PepsiCo is devoting between 2.3 and 3.5 billion U.S. dollars to advertising and promoting its products annually. That’s roughly 10% of their revenue, by the way. You’d think they don’t need to market their products anymore – after all, everyone knows about it already, why spend so much money on marketing still? That’s because they know that to stay competitive, marketing has to be consistent, and the companies must stay visible to maintain and increase their market share as more competitors enter the market. This is especially true for any industry that is mature or that has low barriers to entry. 2020 has changed the way people view business. Most businesses can operate more effectively now with the help of technology. And even if your business still requires face-to-face interaction with your customers, you know that your competitors are working on making their operations more productive with the help of technology. This brings us back to keeping the edge and staying competitive. With marketing. Consistently. It’s a marathon, not a race!
2. Not all marketing (activities) lead to sales, but all sales (efforts) benefit from marketing.
I see a lot of confusion around marketing expectations. In particular, the confusion about the purpose of marketing and sales. Yes, marketing is a key activity to increase a company’s sales, but marketing is not the same as sales. They absolutely go hand in hand, but what you need to remember is that if you expect a clear dollar value (ROI) from your marketing, you might be disappointed with your marketing team unfairly. Here’s why. When we are talking about ROI as a product margin from sales, in plain language – you bought your product for $4 dollars and sold it for $6 – your margin is $2 – the math is clear, and this is how it should be. With marketing, it’s not always as clear because marketing serves multiple purposes.
Your marketing campaigns might work for you to increase your company’s visibility, recognition, brand equity, and customer retention (as in the example of Pepsi above). So, when you work on your marketing strategy, make sure you have clear objectives, and KPIs determined before you launch any promotion. This will help you evaluate your campaign and know what success looks like for that particular promotion.
Sales efforts, on the other hand, are expected to bring specific results – closed leads, usually carrying on the conversations that the marketing efforts started earlier. And this is exactly how sales and marketing work together.
Say you have a long sales cycle and have been working on getting in front of key stakeholders. Your marketing team can help you run ads to those specific companies on LinkedIn to get your brand visibility high. Or marketing could create blog posts about your upcoming webinars and boost them on social media, resulting in your potential clients that you’ve been working on seeing the blog posts, are reminded about you. When you email them to follow up on your previous conversation, they may feel that they already know you. This is a simplistic example of how sales could work together with marketing. If your sales department doesn’t have marketing support, you might be missing out on low hanging fruit of integrating your existing knowledge, increasing the company’s credibility and increasing the effectiveness of your sales department.
When your sales team closes that big deal because marketing was running brand awareness campaigns, you may not see that specific conversion for the ads. You may not be able to track down exactly what marketing efforts contributed to that sale, which is disappointing for the marketing department (mostly their ego because the credit goes to sales, not marketing). But who cares about egos in business, right? The lead is closed, the business is growing, and everyone should be happy. But don’t forget to celebrate with the marketing department – their creative souls need encouragement, too.
3. Marketing solves (communication) problems
Last but not least, marketing solves communication problems. Communication is at the root of our human experience, but somehow we find ways to misunderstand each other or make it mean something entirely different from what the communicator intended to deliver. I truly believe if all communication problems were solved in the world, we would all live happier lives as a society. Same for businesses; if we all communicated more effectively, businesses would be more effective, productive and purposeful. What does this mean to your business? It’s all about the clarity, consistency and connectedness of your messaging in the company, both internally and externally, with clients.
How your products and services are communicated to your clients matters. Almost any problem can be solved with clear communication. Just look at any specific problem you have in your business right now and think about whether you can trace it back to communication. It could be inconsistent communication, unclear communication or communication that is not purposeful – not connected to your business values. Marketing can solve these problems for you by challenging the status quo and looking at fresh ways of communicating internally and externally so that you don’t have to be surprised when a new “thing” appears in the marketing industry or in your company. You have no idea where it came from or how it became a “thing,” just like all those buildings in Vancouver.
Get your marketing infrastructure organized and consistent to avoid any surprises in 2023 by redefining the purpose marketing serves in your business. Not just an afterthought, a knee-jerk reaction to the external changes in the world or your industry, but a key strategic force to growing your business and continuing to redefine the industry you are in.