In most SME businesses, marketing is either focused on planning or doing.
Rarely is it focused on both. Why is this?
I think it is because the marketing services offered to SME business owners are either focused on planning (i.e. consultants) or doing (i.e. design, web, search, pr, social, direct, e-mail etc.)
SME marketing is rarely truly joined-up marketing, focused on both…. But it should be!
Good marketing is joined-up marketing!
PIMMS™ is the BSA planning model which not only helps you plan your marketing but also creates a coherent, joined-up marketing process for making things happen – sustainably. Let’s take a look at the key elements of PIMMS – Plan, Implement, Monitor, Manage, Sustain
Planning is not about having a plan! It is about thinking through your goals and defining the processes you want to operate in your business to help you achieve your goals.
These processes must be practical and logical. Things you can and will do.
It is particularly important that you write down your decisions. If you don’t, it is easy to use the benefit of hindsight to massage your memory!
If you quietly forget the actual decisions you took and choices you made, it is impossible to reflect on them and consistently adapt to reflect the reality you find.
Never forget, it is impossible to foretell the future. Planning is about defining your best guess based on the information you have and using this to decide what actions you will take to help you achieve your goals. As you move forward, you are always learning. Used properly, your new knowledge can help you make better decisions.
Why are you in business? How do you want your business to operate? What do you want to achieve, for yourself, your family, your employees, the wider world?
Your goals are the endgame of the PIMMS process. Once you have defined them, you can then set out the path you choose to take to achieve them.
Remember to make sure your goals are SMART – SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed
A famous quote from Peter Drucker:
“The purpose of a business is to create a customer”
To achieve this, you need to give your customer a reason to do business with you. This is your proposition.
Remember, customers don’t trade with you out of the goodness of their hearts, they do so because they get value from you. You might solve a problem for them, or make them feel better? Maybe both?
By defining (and writing down!) your proposition, you crystalise it. This allows you to objectively test it in the real world.
Never mind what you think, do you really solve problems and/or make people feel better?
Unless you are lucky, you will also have competitors. Other businesses who are trying to solve the same problems, deliver the same benefits as you. How can you differentiate your business to show how you deliver benefit more effectively?
Try not to think in terms of what you do. Instead, put yourself in eth position of your customer. What do they receive from you? Your perception of what you do and your customer’s perception may be quite different.
Remember what Peter Drucker says; the business goal is to create a customer.
It is the customer’s perception of your proposition that is most important.
Your Target Market
Creating a customer is central to your business. Where are you going to find your customer?
Having a clear idea as to who is likely to be your customer makes it easier to find them and to make sure you are targeting your marketing in the right direction.
In practice, defining a target market can prove challenging as there is a flip side. By specifying who is your target market, you are, by default, also defining who isn’t!
By excluding some people or businesses, you are saying here is a group of people who could (at least in theory) do business with me. However, I am consciously not planning to market to them as I believe they do not represent a significant opportunity to create the sort of customer I am looking for!
What if you are wrong? Actually it doesn’t matter. You know enough about your business that you shouldn’t completely miss your target audience, and anyway, if you do miss some opportunities, you can target them later.
Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event
Also, remember that your target market will always split between ‘People who know you’ and ‘People who don’t know you’. A good customer will trust you and that means they will know you. Building trust can take time.
It can be helpful to accept that creating a customer is a process. To this end, building a database of ‘People who know you’ and using this as a CRM* tool to grow relationships can be a great way to create customers.
Knocking on doors
Sooner or later, if you are going to create a customer, you have to communicate with your market. OK, maybe not actually knocking on doors (though why not?) but you have to get out there and take your proposition to your market.
Deciding what to say and how to say it can be overwhelming. There are so many different options – and so many people trying to tell you how their way is the best!
The key is to make a clear, written action plan that you are comfortable with – and then make sure the actions happen.
Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event
It doesn’t matter if your action plan isn’t perfect. What does matter is that you get out and do something. By having a written action plan it is much easier to manage your joined-up marketing process and when it comes to reviewing how things are going, a written plan is extremely valuable.
Here are some ideas you may find helpful.
- Different approaches will be more suited to different types of customer. If you are offering personal/professional services, a more individual/one-to-one approach makes sense.
- Have different approaches depending on whether it is someone who knows you, or not.
- Don’t do too much
- It is better to use one or two communication tools well than to try to do everything
Measuring the Process
By measuring response to your marketing communication, you can see what is working and what isn’t.
Remember though that it isn’t just about signing up customers straight away. Good customers may take their time to decide to work with you. In fact, a customer who takes their time in the first place can often be a more loyal and long-term source of business. It is worth the wait.
Most digital marketing communication tools such as e-mail, search, social etc. have extensive analytics tools allowing you to measure how people are engaging with your marketing.
Using these tools can help you find opportunities to build conversations on a one to one basis.
Refining the Process
A joined-up marketing process does not just happen. It needs to be driven. This can be challenging because marketing is also the easy thing not to do.
Doing no marketing has no impact today or tomorrow. Not responding to customers or dealing with enquiries does!
It can be difficult to allocate regular time to managing your marketing, particularly if you don’t have a marketing process. You find yourself working from scratch – and this takes up more time. Another reason why it can be easy not to even start!
Having a planned process that delivers meaningful measurement of how things are going makes it much more likely that you will put time to marketing. Even a 10-20 minute weekly review of an established process can point to opportunities that drive real progress.
Stick at it
I have said it several times:
Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event
Don’t expect instant success. You might get it, and if you do, count yourself lucky. However, normally you need to work at it.
As someone once said, ‘…the harder I work the luckier I get…’
Actually, when it comes to joined-up marketing, I think it is important not to have to work too hard. If you do, you are more likely to stop.
It is worth making the time in the short-term to build your plan and getting your marketing process up and running. This will pay dividends later. A good process is much easier to manage!
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