#2 A comprehensive marketing strategy for your small business
Updated: Feb 19, 2019
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This is a continuation of the answer to Martine's question. To see the first in this series. Last week I promised last I promised that should Martine and her husband engaged my coaching services, I would continue to reply to her question here. The good news is that they did engage my services and the good news is that I am keeping my promise to you all. This is where you smile because there is no bad news.
I was pleased to learn from your latest response to Eugene that you are going to start with what you usually refer to as a ‘comprehensive marketing strategy’. My husband and I own a small hotel in The Netherlands and because of the location, a lot of tourists come to this area especially in Spring and Summer. Your blogs opened my eyes to the fact that the person we engaged for online marketing services knows how to build websites, set up social media accounts etc. but she does not speak the language that you speak in your blogs about a comprehensive strategy. I have two questions. 1. Will you please start with what a comprehensive marketing strategy is. 2. If we engage your services on setting up a marketing strategy will you help us with the implementation? We are not old (40’s) but we are far from tech savvy. We don't mind coming to you. Thank you. Martine (Not her real name).
I am really glad you asked what a comprehensive marketing strategy is because it’s a very important question. I believe it is important firstly, because of the way I see ‘marketing strategy’ being used. If you search for ‘marketing strategy’ right now you will get endless posts that have nothing to do with strategy but everything to do with selling services, software and other tools that help with various tactics that are used in implementing a marketing strategy. Tactics such as building landing pages, developing websites, building opt-in funnels, building sales funnels, how to pitch, Search Engine Optimisation, various optimisation techniques and many others are taken out of context and masquerade as strategy.
Secondly, because not only do clients entrust their marketing strategy to people who only offer some tactics but they think that the formulation of a marketing strategy is something you can outsource. A few months ago, I told someone who offers a very good service and has no clients that I could help her with a comprehensive marketing strategy. She enthusiastically told me that she had just engaged the services of someone who was ‘developing a new website for her that was going to do wonders for her business’. I recently saw her new website. She had an ordinary static website. Now she has a stunning static website and a new logo. I will touch on what a static website is when we get to specific tactics. She is still battling to reach clients and she does not realise that all she paid for was a cosmetic change to her original static website.
The purpose of this communication is:
1. To make it clear that there is a world of a difference between strategy and tactics
2. To make it clear that the formulation of a strategy cannot be outsourced
3. To start a simple guide to formulating a marketing strategy for a small business if you cannot afford the services of someone who really knows about marketing. The operative word here is start because it is not possible to cover this topic adequately in one blog.
You will not benefit much from only reading this in 9 minutes. You will only benefit if you invest time in going through the previous blogs, answering all the questions below and doing this as if your life depends on it. Your business does depend on it.
1. The difference between strategy and tactics
Let’s start with a simple definition. The Business Dictionary defines strategy as ‘A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.’ They define tactics as ‘Means by which a strategy is carried out; planned and ad hoc activities meant to deal with the demands of the moment, and to move from one milestone to the other in pursuit of the overall goal(s).’
I hope that these definitions help to show the big difference between the two.
It is clear that strategy should always be formulated before any tactics are implemented because every tactic is a means to an end and never an end in itself. If anyone offers you any of the tactics out of context and calls them marketing strategy you should not walk away from that person. You should grab your money and run! Fast! Very fast! Am I saying that my young friend should never use the services of people who have better technical skills than her like the website developer? No, what she did is like engaging the services of a designer of invitation cards when you need the services of a wedding planner.
What is a comprehensive marketing strategy?
The description ‘comprehensive’ is in fact redundant. It’s like saying a young baby. All babies are by definition young. A strategy is by definition comprehensive but I use this tautology to emphasise the importance of the only effective approach – a comprehensive approach.
In simple terms, a marketing strategy is the overall plan for reaching the overall goals of a business and marketing tactics are the practical steps that lead to the achievement of the overall goal. For ease of explanation, I will use a simple and straightforward example – the overall objective is to increase turnover by 20%.
A marketing strategy cannot be divorced from the business strategy. For instance, if you have positioned your products as accessible affordable products you cannot just take a shortcut and increase your selling price by 20% to up your turnover by 20%. Every aspect of your strategy should be within the framework of the overall strategy of your business.
I hope I have managed to show the difference between strategy and tactics and show the importance of the comprehensive approach.
2. The formulation of a strategy cannot be outsourced
This does not only apply to a marketing strategy but to all strategies in both business and personal life. No person or software or template can develop a marketing strategy for you without your involvement.
You don’t walk into an attorney’s office and ask him/her to formulate a will for you. Only you can decide on the content and all an attorney can do is advise you on technical matters like creating a trust if you need one and also help you with the format of the will. In fact, if you have a simple will that does not involve complicated matters like trusts you can use a template. You can prepare an adequate will with a good template but no attorney can prepare a will for you without your involvement.
I cannot emphasise this enough – no one can prepare a marketing strategy or for that matter any strategy for you. No midwife can deliver a baby in the maternity ward while the mother is chilling at the movies.
In the previous blogs I have repeatedly said that the skills that are crucial for Future Readiness are thinking skills and people skills and not digital skills. The crucial skill you need here is to have your thinking cap firmly on. You do not need digital skills to reinvent the wheel. There is software that simplifies the implementation of any strategy and your role as a business owner is put together a strategy and since most tools are user-friendly it is a matter of knowing what is available. This is where a business coach who helps you with strategy comes in handy because that person knows what is available and what works.
The good news is that once you have your strategy you can outsource some of the tactics. For instance, if having a website or improving your website is one of the things you want to do you can use user-friendly templates or pay someone to build a website for you. With the awareness which I hope you have now you will be selective with outsourcing because you will not pay someone who builds static websites. We are not yet there but I would like to mention the fact that sales do not happen one website at a time but one landing page at a time. You should make sure that you deal with a person who knows the difference. In fact, the truth is you need a URL to make money online and not necessarily a website. I’m getting ahead of myself, that comes later.
The bottom-line is, you cannot outsource strategy - period.
3. A simple guide to formulating a marketing strategy
Today we’ll only look at starting the process of a marketing strategy, continue with that over time and then get to the different tactics.
Of course, if you have never prepared a strategy before getting guidance from an experienced person is first prize but I hope this simple guide will help those who cannot pay for such a service. This is why this free service exists in the first place, to help those who cannot afford to pay me as a coach or afford to pay any other competent person. Of course, things move very slowly here. I believe you are better off on this slow free bus that takes you in the right direction than on a high-speed train that is going in the opposite direction.
A business strategy for a small business
Let’s look at an overall strategy before starting with a marketing strategy because a marketing strategy is part of an overall business strategy. You can use a complex model or you can use this straightforward common-sense approach.
First revisit the previous blogs because I have mentioned important aspects of this process in them. http://www.makheni.com/blog. I refer to some of the blogs below.
I will not repeat what I said in those blogs but I will just touch on the highlights that you need to keep in mind when you formulate and write down your overall business strategy.
· BEing precedes DOing so before you think of what value you and your business will add to your customers you should think of your values.
· What do I offer?
Revisit this - http://www.makheni.com/blog/the-what-of-selling
· What value does my business / my products / my services add? Stated otherwise, what problem do I solve or what need do I fulfil?
· Who is my customer?
· Who are my competitors?
(More details when we get to the marketing strategy)
· What is my competitive edge?
· What do I want to achieve? (Define your objective in terms of what problem you solve)
· (If you are not a start-up) Why have I not yet achieved what I set out to achieve?
· What obstacles do I / will I face?
· What can I learn from the mistakes of others? (If you are not yet a reader it’s time to develop this good habit)
· What mistakes have I made and what can I learn from them?
· Whom do I need to help me to achieve my goals? (Including partnering e.g. if you sell tangibles products online it is good to partner with a company that specialises in logistics)
· What do I need to help me achieve your goals? (Resources and resourcefulness)
· What skills do I need to acquire?
· What skills don’t I need to acquire? (that is where outsourcing comes in – you don’t have to become an accountant)
· What habits do I need to unlearn?
· What new habits to I need to learn?
· What do I need to do in the short term?
· What do I need to do in the next year? The days of five to ten-year plans are over because now the world spins too rapidly for that.
A comprehensive marketing strategy for a small business
What do I want to achieve?
This differs from the same question you answered above. I will use my business as an example. The overall goal of my business, Real Solutions Training (RST) is to help individuals, entrepreneurs and organisations to achieve their goals. One of my marketing objectives is to reach x number of people in x number of months/years. This would suffice if RST had been a non-profit organisation. Since RST is a business, I also state my marketing objective in these terms: To make x amount in the next year/every month.
I ask clients this question all the time and get answers like ‘I want to be financially independent’ or ‘I want to be debt-free’ or ‘I want to have a successful business’. Those are not goals but wishes that we all have but only those who set real goals and take positive action get there.
Do you remember good old-fashioned SMART goals? Contrary to popular belief, it remains relevant. Set your Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound goals. As they say, the more things change the more they remain the same.
Please answer the questions under business strategy as well as this one in writing.
Next week we start with ‘Who is my customer?’ and continue with other questions. In the meantime, do yourself a favour - you should not only invest time in answering all the questions above but also invest time in revisiting these:
Till next week
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Makheni Zonneveld has extensive experience in helping organisations, teams, individuals and entrepreneurs with real transformation. She employs these communications tools: Online and face2face coaching, speaking, training, storytelling and writing.
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