No matter what your business specialty, at the end of each year you’ll always find a smattering of articles touting predictions for the coming year. With few exceptions, most of the 2012 marketing predictions and 2012 small business trend related articles I’ve come across this year have been little more than noting that trends already in play will continue.
While still helpful, hardly the secrets to success most small business owners are looking for. I mean, we all know that social media has earned its place as a legitimate tool in every business’s marketing arsenal. We all know that success is tied to our ability to build and develop online and offline communities, fans, followers and referrals. And it's not news to anyone that we have to set ourselves apart from the competition (which, by the way, is fiercer than ever!)
We know what the problems and challenges are, and most of us know what the trends are, what we don’t know is how to take advantage, how to solve the problems and how to overcome the challenges. It’s not knowing what the next big web app or social media platform is going to be, it’s knowing how to use it to build business. It’s knowing which of the hundreds of choices available are right for your business, customers, employees, products and services.
From old-fashioned to new-fangled, visit my blog every day for the next 10 days for my Top 10 Marketing Ideas for Small Business Success for 2012:
1. Process – not practice – makes perfect.
It’s not that practice isn’t a good thing, because it is. This is something I understand well; I took piano lessons from the age of 7 through my sophomore year of college. Practicing something the right way helps you improve your ability to perform and leads to stellar, buzz-worthy performances and competitive advantage.
The same holds true for small business.
If your processes or the services you provide to customers are practiced (or performed) over and over the wrong way, you kill your ability to compete, negate any chance of referrals and even run the risk of losing your regular clients. Take time to make sure that you’re practicing things right by thinking through each of the processes that impact the customer experience.
And - maybe even more obviously: create a 2012 marketing plan, and work your plan.
It's just too easy for things to slip from the get-go if your plan simply consists of "doing better" in 2012. Without a written plan, you can't expect staff to understand the big picture, your organizational goals and how they contribute to the success of the business. Without a written plan, you can't develop a playbook for the day to day. Without a written plan, your social media marketing is going to be all over the place and do little to create engagement, build community or support your sales goals. Without a plan, all of your marketing is likely to be hit-and-miss, one-and-done and (worst of all) ineffective.
"Write a marketing plan." Sounds pretty basic, doesn't it.
But, by and large, business owners don't actually do it.
Why? They don't know why they should. They lack the motivation. They lack the know-how. It sounds like work (and it is; but it's not as much work as you think). You can create a process for your marketing that is simple; it doesn't have to be a doctoral thesis!
At it's most basic level, a marketing plan has these components:
Goals (or Strategies), such as:
- a specific sales goal
- launching a new product or service
- developing new products or services
- getting more customers
- conducting a charity drive
- moving customers to new levels of engagement
- getting social media followers
- building brand awareness
- increasing market share
Time-line and/or target dates (or incremental dates when you will measure and analyze results).
Results, which is simply whether or not you met a specific goal, and by how much you exceeded or fell short.
And finally, analysis, which is what went right, what went wrong, and how you will do things differently going forward or 'the next time.' As implied, this is another opportunity to impact employee engagement and buy-in and unleash creativity that can truly help to differentiate your business from competitors.
In fact, the very fact that you are now writing - however simple - a marketing plan is likely to differentiate you from your competitors; using it and executing it is going to take you even further!
Where to start? Click here for a free worksheet.
1. Set a goal
2. Set a timeline
3. Think of (at least) 3 things you will do (or do differently) to meet the goal
4. Do those 3 things
5. At the end of the timeline, measure results
6. Analyze and try again or modify marketing accordingly
It's that simple!
Need marketing plan fodder? The 2012 Small Business Marketing Calendar is a great choice, especially if (like many small business owners) you are maxed-out when it comes to time. It's a great choice if you are just starting (or still need to get started) with social media. It's a great choice if you need a tool to help not only with your marketing plan, but as a staff development and learning tool. It's a great choice if marketing is just one of the responsibilities that falls under your job title.
For those who plan to spend time every day on social media or want to grow their social media and overall marketing efforts, 365 Days of Marketing can fuel your marketing plans in 2012 and for years to come.