In my previous post, I talked about knowing the difference between marketing inspiration, and marketing education. While exciting, inspiration is often ultimately discouraging, setting expectations of small business owners far too high.
In this post, I’d like to talk about the ways that you can put together a marketing education of your own, learning about your business from marketing writers, competitors, outside industries, and your own history.
Many marketers that work at companies like ATAK are pretty split down the middle between who have gone to school for business or marketing courses, and who came up through the school of hard knocks, running their own businesses and watching others.
As a small business owner, you don’t have time to invest in a formal education, and risk your business just for marketing experience – that would be foolish. There are many ways that you can learn more about your own business, and find ways to build a marketing strategy that’s going to work for it.
That’s right: spying. If you are being outcompeted, learn how and why. Join your competitors’ email newsletters and social media (but use a profile and address that don’t identify who you work for!). Get the layout of its campaigns, its content calendar, and its brand strategy.
Observe your competitors to see what they are doing right (or wrong) and you can adjust your company’s messaging accordingly. It will allow you to see what you are missing.
It’s important to avoid getting competitor tunnel vision. While it’s useful to see strategies and make adjustments to your own marketing, remember that you aren’t just competing with this one company. If you start making changes based on every move a competitor makes, you will never make progress and you will lose what is valuable about your message. If you’re getting competitor tunnel vision, it’s time to hit unsubscribe.
I’ve advised before that you should look outside your industry for marketing education and information. While at times it can be annoying, we really are surrounded by marketing. Observe the marketing campaigns that happen around you with a critical eye by asking yourself the questions below.
Evaluating Marketing Campaigns
What action does this campaign want me to take?
How does it want to make me feel?
How do I really feel about it?
Did it persuade me?
What is the key value the company is offering?
What is this campaign saying about its competitors, directly or indirectly?
There are many marketing and business writers. It’s a very busy industry, and an industry just as prone to fads as any other. From Thought Leadership to Growth Hacking to Tribe Building to Relationship Selling, it’s important to recognize that many business and marketing writing trends are just as fickle and well thought out as any other fad.
There is a lot you can learn by reading a variety of marketing and business books, but sticking to one very closely may get you dangerously close to marketing inspiration territory.
I like Business Model Generation as a way of looking at your marketing from a holistic perspective. It offers many ways of thinking about the channels and interactions that build your business into what it is and how it works.
Your Own Company
Often the least favorite place for a business owner to look at their marketing education is inward, but there is a lot for you to learn from your own business’s history.
First, do you have a business plan? It’s very likely you built a lovely business plan and then shelved it in favor of taking care of your day-to-day activities. Dust it off and find out where you are compared to where you planned to be. If you haven’t met your goals, you have a pre-built path you want to follow.
If you don’t have a business plan, it can be a very good place to start. A business plan helps you distill your operations to the most essential, most valuable activities your company performs, how you best perform them, and how you intend to maximize and make use of your profits. Remember that a business plan can change. All smart business people will make changes and adjustments to their behavior based on data, and that includes your business plan.
Once you have laid out or reviewed a business plan, take a look at what your company is best at, and the ways you carry out those activities. This should lead you do some Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. These are the numbers that offer a picture of your overall business performance, such as # of sales, sales revenue vs profit, the sales cost of a new customer, and foot traffic to your store.
You may not have historical data for all of your key performance indicators, but you might have some. If you do, start tracking it as soon as possible. This is called benchmarking. Benchmarking allows you to compare your past, present, and future performance by the same key metrics. Find out how you’re doing versus this time last year, or the difference between summer and fall sales.
The more time you spend being aware of marketing that happens around you, and the fluctuations in your business performance, you will to be more likely to see the path to move forward with your own marketing strategy.
If you would like to talk to the marketing team at ATAK Interactive, call us for a free quote about your ecommerce and other business needs. We’ll talk to you soon!