Everyone’s business and the goals for that business are different. Therefore, marketing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Someone running a boutique business with limited clients and premium fees is going to have a very different marketing plan from someone selling a $99 online mini-course.
You need to take into account your personal situation, your capacity in terms of time and energy for clients, and your available time, budget, and skills for marketing.
Your Personal Situation
For most entrepreneurs, there is a very thin line between their work and their personal life and that line too often disappears. That’s the reality. Yes, we all know we should shut the door on our business at 5:00 pm and not think about it until the next day. That’s not how entrepreneurs operate. While we can take time out for relaxation and family, the business is still looming in the back of our minds. Just as our business affects our personal life, our personal life affects our business.
- Your personal situation will first and foremost have a very direct influence on how much money you want and need your business to make.
- Your personal situation will affect the amount of time you have for your business and when you are available. It will affect the amount of time and money you have for marketing.
- Your personal situation will affect your mindset, whether you see everything as an insurmountable challenge or just another task to check off the list.
A single mom with three kids is going to have a very different situation from a married man with three kids. While he may be a SuperDad, he still has the help of a full-time adult partner when it comes to getting the kids to and from school, soccer practice, groceries and meal prep, doctors’ appointments, and just having an adult to talk things over with. The single mom is doing it all and looking forward to the day her oldest can drive. Their income levels may be very different. Men tend to ask for and command larger fees. His partner probably holds down a job or runs a business, too. Or maybe works in their business, which may double their capacity for clients and workload. Women tend to set lower fees (I always urge women to up their fees!) and are more willing to discount their fees to accommodate a prospect’s budget.
As much as we like to think of our business as separate from our personal life, for most entrepreneurs and small business owners, the two are closely intertwined.
One of the most important factors in my discussions with business owners is capacity. If you are a coach, consultant, or speaker, you are limited by time and sometimes geography. How many clients can you comfortably handle per month and still give them great service? If you are selling an online course, do you offer email support or any one-on-one sessions as part of the course package? Do you review students’ submitted materials? Is any of this something you can hire out or must you do it personally? If you’re selling a hard product, do you have any manufacturing limitations? Any shipping limitations? If you get a huge order, can you afford to buy the materials necessary to fulfill that order?
Many business owners know all too well the pitfalls of not having enough customers. But having too many, too fast presents its own challenges. You want to have a comfortable number of sales as your initial goal and once achieved, allow your business to run at that level to determine if you want to scale up.
Time, Money, and Skills
Time is life. Yes, time is also money, but in reality, time is life. Your life. How you spend your time defines your life. That’s my PSA in this article.
That being said, when creating a marketing plan, the relationship between time and money is inverse: The more money you have to put into your marketing, the more aspects of it can be hired out, and you will be able to put in less time. If your funds are limited, you are going to have to put more of your personal time into the marketing, your marketing strategy choices will be different, and you may need to learn new skills to pull everything together.
Having money to market makes everything easier. (In fact, having money in life makes everything easier.) But it also has its pitfalls. In my book, The 8 Step Marketing Plan, I tell the story of a woman who went through close to $100,000 in her start up business, throwing money at every advertising opportunity that came through the door. She tried any and all avenues to bring business in because she had the money to do so. Until she didn’t. At which point she knew a lot of tactics that didn’t work and she closed her business.
She had no marketing strategy. She used no tracking tool or analytics to see if her marketing was working. If a customer came through her door, she would have no idea how she got that customer.
With less money to spend, she might have been more strategic (or at least more careful) about where she advertised. She might have pre-set a budget for various strategies and measured the results of each to check her return on investment. She may have actually taken the most basic first step of defining her target market and focusing her marketing efforts on them so she didn’t advertise to people who weren’t going to buy her services ever.
You need to have some money to put into your marketing. Having clearly defined marketing strategies also includes important details like how much a strategy will cost to set up and how much it will cost to keep it running long enough to see if it provides measurable results. A small direct mail marketing campaign may cost $1,000 every time you send out to a pre-determined list. You may have to mail to that list four to seven times before you see a consistent response rate. Or any response. But if you only have the money to send to the list once or twice, it’s not worth doing. You don’t have the money to let the campaign prove its worth.
Your skills will save you both time and money. I have worked with many entrepreneurs who have followed the mantra of “hire out low level tasks” which is all fine, well, and good if you have the money and the time to hire things out. I have dealt with business owners who don’t know how to upload a blog post or send out a broadcast email. “My web guy does that.” Great. Until you can’t get hold of your web guy and you need to get something out pronto.
Learn how to do these basic things, then hire them out—or hire a person in. Once you know how a job should be done, you won’t be at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. A good copywriter is expensive. A bad copywriter is also expensive, usually in several ways. You need to be able to recognize good copy when you see it. You need to be able to track and measure your campaign results, which is just basic math. You need to know how much revenue is going in and more important, how much of that revenue you get to keep.
No Magic Beans
The most effective marketing plan is the one you can actually implement and follow through on. Recognizing that all of these things are significant factors will help you create a marketing plan that is workable and practical for your business. Most small businesses don’t need and can’t use the templated plans offered on the web or the plans that are taught in business school meant for large corporations. They do need something that actually works. And that starts by addressing your personal situation, understanding your capacity for accommodating clients, and making an honest assessment of your time, budget and skills. Although, there is no all-in-one magical marketing solution that will fit every business, developing your own marketing plan isn’t rocket science. And you are more likely to end up with a plan that works for both you and your business.
I specialize in marketing plans that are Practical, Implementable, and Effective—easy as PIE. I lay out how to create your own customized marketing plan in my book, The 8 Step Marketing Plan. On sale now at Amazon.