March 14, 2016
I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I hate marketing. On the surface, marketing sounds like it should be fun. You know, coming up with fun slogans or filling balloons with helium and tying them to the front door, or maybe creating a cool sign with some flashy graphics. You know, marketing… like they do on Madison Avenue.
When you’re doing marketing you get to tap into your inner Mad Men. Of course, after you try it, you begin to understand why Don Draper drank a little too much.
Over the years, I’ve spent thousands of hours – and what feels like millions of dollars – promoting and marketing various companies. In many ways, marketing is like being stranded on a desert island with a flare gun. But if you’re an entrepreneur, run a small business or manage a museum store when to your own marketing devices, chances are you have few if any flares for your flare gun. And the flares you do have are damned expensive.
To extend analogy out a little further, once you have fired your expensive flare now you must sit on your desert island and wait. You can only hope that your flare will be seen by a passing airplane. But there’s a good chance it will be missed. What’s next? Light a signal fire!
Finding marketing solutions that are effective and deliver results is a problem that’s confounded both professionals and amateurs since the beginning of business. Worse yet, what worked once, may not work a second time and forget about a third, fourth and fifth time. And the problem has only grown larger as more companies look for ways to get noticed when we are being marketed to 24/7. It is fair to say that messages buy have nearly approached the point of maximum saturation. And for small operations, the challenge to create successful marketing can be overwhelming. The difficulty in marketing effectively has been compounded with the importance of social media. If you are bad at traditional marketing, chances are you’re probably really rotten at social media marketing.
A few months ago, Entrepreneur magazine ran an article, 8 Reasons Why Your Marketing Sucks. Steve Toback, the author, wrote, “Marketing may be as much art as science, but it’s still a complex and nuanced discipline that takes a great deal of experience to develop some level of understanding or expertise.” If that doesn’t turn you off to marketing then nothing will.
At the same time that you’re pulling your hair out creating an effective marketing campaign, you need to understand that marketing is a necessary evil. While nonprofit retailers rely mainly on being discovered by invested patrons as they pass by, marketing is an essential way to fortify the bottom line.
Marketing takes many forms. It can run the gamut from a simple ad in the newspaper or some new signage, to a full-blown campaign that can potentially reach thousands of people. But the secret to any good marketing plan is to have a well thought out strategy supported by clever and effective tactics. All of your marketing efforts should be well considered and well-planned, otherwise you are just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.
If you are responsible for most or all of your own marketing, then it’s critical to have a strong idea of your objectives, a plan to achieve them and good tools to get you there.
Your marketing plan should include some basics:
Social Media: You need a Facebook page, a blog, and maybe a Twitter account. They’re free, they’re easy, and they work.
On-site Marketing: Consider your signage, your visibility, and your curb appeal. Are you doing everything you can to drive traffic into your store?
Traditional Media: Do you have a rate card for your local newspapers? Probably not. While social media may be the reigning marketing champ, don’t discount using traditional media as a way to build your business. Traditional media includes direct mail, newspaper, radio, television, partnerships, cross promotions, and (analog) brand building. And while traditional media can get expensive in a hurry, it’s a worthwhile tool to have in your marketing toolbox. Not all marketing needs to be digital.
Showmanship: In the old days of movie palaces, those guys knew how to use showmanship to build an audience. A savvy theater managers used klieg lights, contests, giveaways, demonstrations, and marching bands to drum up a little business. For the most part, showmanship is free but it takes a little creativity and hard work to be effective.
Now that I think about it, marketing can be fun. If your business demands you spend time doing inventory, payroll, budgeting, ordering, hiring, firing, and occasionally plumbing, then marketing can be the fun part.
Steve White is a writer, entrepreneur and marketer living in Denver.