Re-setting marketing expectations is often the first task in my work developing marketing plans for entrepreneurs. If we could just pop a Facebook ad up with a $5 daily limit and get all the business we need, everyone would be doing it. We wouldn’t need any other marketing strategies. Case closed.
There are very few magic bullets in marketing and those few unicorns are usually expensive or reserved for a select few. I work mainly with entrepreneurs who have written a book to help grow their business and their platform. In the book world, the magic bullet is having Oprah hold up your book and say how it changed her life. (Again.) Most of my clients don’t have that kind of access. I don’t, either.
We carry around certain dreams in our heads that we don’t say out loud because we know they’re not realistic—they sound preposterous, even to us. That’s why they’re called dreams. They are big and perfect and set in the time of Someday. And they are enormously helpful when it comes time to setting business and marketing goals. They are a fantastic end goal. They generate creative ideas, enthusiasm, and help people keep going when things don’t go their way.
Resetting marketing expectations leads to a different kind of enthusiasm. What was once a pie-in-the-sky number is adjusted down to an achievable goal which could then be the first step to that dream goal; it’s a clear path to the dream. In my work, we start with defining the goals of the business before setting the marketing goals. Sometimes the dream needs to be adjusted because it turns out, it was somebody else’s dream.
Many of us have been sold on the idea of passive income and we try to create a hands-off, no time involved business out of the gate. Just click the Easy Button and let the money roll in. Unless you’re buying an absentee owner business that is already profitable, that’s not how it works. Take some time to define the type of business you want to run, number of clients, number (if any) of employees, amount of time you want to work in your business, money you need to make, your business skillset, working with clients one-on-one, in-person, remotely, not interacting with clients at all…
Some of these items come into play when setting your revenue goals. Others define your capacity to carry out the activities necessary to reach your goals. All of these factors come into play when you are working on your marketing plan.
Once you have decided on your goals and strategies, you will need to set up your marketing. Marketing takes time. If you’re doing everything yourself, it will take longer. If you can hire out and are lucky enough to hit upon competent people out of the gate, you can get your marketing up and running faster. That’s the first part.
The second part is giving your marketing time to take hold and either work or not work. Studies show that people don’t buy until somewhere between seven and ten “exposures” to a product or service. In fact, the vast majority of advertising doesn’t even register in people’s consciousness for the first few times. Knowing this upfront, we budget both time and money to see the campaign through. Then we track and measure the results so we can see what is working, if one component is working better than another (or with a certain audience segment), and tweak.
Clients are always disappointed to learn that results not only vary, they’re not instantaneous. By resetting their expectations, I prepare them for the long haul which helps ensure that they won’t quit on a campaign prematurely.
It also helps them to budget not just for the campaign, but for their business. I see marketing gurus urge people to invest hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in online advertising because “the sales will come in before the credit card bill comes due” and “those first sales will pay for all your ads.”
Maybe. But I wouldn’t bet the payroll on it. The first month or so of online ads is almost always testing, measuring, and tweaking. Once you have an ad working, you scale it up and try to create others like it. But there are no guarantees that your first ad set is going to bring in record revenue. In fact, it probably won’t.
Some costs you can control and plan on, such as a direct mail campaign. If you’re sending out 1,000 letters to a targeted audience each month, you can figure your printing and postage costs down to the penny. The costs of other marketing strategies may vary. Pay per click ads allow you to set a limit on your daily spend, but if you have a low limit or are not bidding enough per click, your ad isn’t going to be shown. Everyone starts out with a $5 or $10 daily limit. And that’s fine. But if your ad isn’t being shown, you may have to raise up what you’re willing to pay or even put a high daily limit for a week or two to get the ads shown. Going in, you can’t plan for specific results (or lack thereof) but you can use a cost range to decide how much money you want to put into each strategy.
How much money you have for marketing controls what type of marketing you can do. Most of us don’t have several hundred thousand dollars to create a professional half hour infomercial and schedule it numerous times every weekend for months. Some people hamstring themselves by working with no budget whatsoever. Marketing is an ongoing business expense. Expect to put out some cold hard cash at various points in the process and put it in the budget as an ongoing expense.
Expectations: Entrepreneur’s Skillset
Strategies are set according to time and budget considerations, then the target audience: where they can be found, how they like to consume information. The final filter is the entrepreneur’s abilities, time available, and preferences. If I lay out a strategy that involves doing Facebook lives every day for a month and my client hates to be on video or doesn’t have the technical skills to do a FB live, then the strategy is no good. My client won’t do it. It’s non-starter.
Understanding your strengths—the things you are good at and like to do, and matching them up to the best ways to reach your target audience goes a long way towards removing that squeamishness that many business owners have about marketing themselves. I have seen the relief on clients’ faces when they learn they don’t have to take a giant leap out of their comfort zone. Yes, we do stretch the boundaries of that zone sometimes, but a marketing plan has no value if the person I’ve created it for can’t or won’t carry it out.
Examine Your Expectations
If you’re working on a marketing plan for your business, start by examining your expectations. Is this a Hail Mary pass or a workable plan? What do you want your marketing to do for your business and are the results realistic in terms of the amount and type of marketing that you will do? Do you have the skills and temperament to see the plan through? Can you hire someone who does?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with big dreams and innovative visions. They are needed to move this world forward. By adjusting your expectations to a stepped goal progression, you can bring those someday dreams to reality.