Do You Need A Marketing Budget?
I already know what you are thinking. Businesses that understand the value are shaking their heads in an afformation wondering why I even wrote this chapter.
But man small business are quite different. The thoughts of “I can’t afford it”, “I can do it myself”, and “here we go…” are popping in their heads. As you’ve probably figured it out, I am not selling you sensationalism. I am giving it to you as it really is in the real world. I am pulling no punches. I am not expecting you to write me a check. My sole responsibility is to be as honest as I can in this book and give you the best advice I could offer as if I was sitting across from you right now.
So here it goes. Marketing is your lifeline. Its what drives traffic, offers a means of understanding your customers, and keeps your business relevant. It engages and encourages interaction.
It’s also usually the first thing to be downsized in tough times and the most critical aspect to navigating through those same tough times. It’s also the most patched up, overlooked, and underestimated need any business has.
From my experience, it seems that for the startup to the 10mm company, their isn’t enough money after paying required overhead for serious marketing. This business intentionally keeps marketing as an optional expense guided by cashflow. The “larger-small” business falls under this same scenario, except unfortunately, sometimes the politics of bonuses and salaries within management impact the marketing budget.
There are a few more culprits that seem to be consistent players as well. The first is Comfort. It’s basically when business is good, the average small business tends to think this trend will continue indefinitely. This false sense of security results in reducing their marketing effort. In a minor example, I can’t tell you how many businesses have bought an SEO subscription from my business, then gets comfortable, takes their traffic for granted, and reduces or stops the service. The result is they find themselves once again buried in search results and struggling to attain what was taken for granted.
The other culprit is what I like to call sputter: A company will market, get enough business where they are busy, stop marketing because they can’t handle more work, then when things start to get lean, they scramble again to start marketing. This approach is dangerous for small businesses because sometimes when a business realizes they need more work or sales are down, their funds may be lower than expected which results in the paradox of needing to market again, but being nervous about spending anything.
Every business should have a consistent marketing budget. Your business has to market. Even the most optimistic “free” internet marketing evangelists trip over their own feet when trying to claim internet marketing offers “free” options. An audio book referenced in an earlier chapter clearly illustrates this point, so its worth restating. This author offers all the “free marketing” outlets online but its bookmarked with giving away printed t-shirts, introduction kits, videos, content creation, and other support collateral that requires a substantial marketing investment.
Your business’s marketing budget should include the professional(s) needed to give you the best opportunity for success as well as a budget to physically market consistently as a required expense. This is non-negotiable and is a tough pill for some businesses to swallow, but again, my goal is to offer reality, not the sensationalistic paid advertising slings on late night TV to capture the gullable.
A Marketing Professional Is Absolutely Critical
In my career, I’ve seen mistake after mistake. I take it for granted at times that businesses know they are making conscious mistakes, but in reflection, I believe many businesses are unaware of the marketing cancer that weakens their business.
Below are a few examples:
A business makes a decision to run an ad and has the advertiser’s art department create the ad because its a “free” service. The business owner sees he’s being advertised and his ad resembles his website. What I see is an ad with design issues created by an amateur that is disconnected from the overall brand with a poor strategic plan.
A business makes a decision to have a general website produced. What I see an generic, unfocused site with no visibility.
A business creates an Adwords campaign with a few ads. What I see is a business stabbing in the dark with a few ads on an unoptimized, poorly performing campaign.
A web developer is not a marketing professional, a designer is not a marketing professional, an SEO expert is not a marketing professional, and a graphic designer is not a marketing professional… But… There are marketing professionals that have experience in each of those arenas. Again they are rare, but they are out there.
If you can’t find a multi-disciplined marketing professional, you will need a trusted marketing professional to help guide your efforts tempered with your business knowledge.
Having A Professional Without Your Commitment Is Like Handcuffing A Prize Fighter
It will do you no good if you find the greatest marketing mind in the world and constrain that person to small, one-time budget. Of course, this type of professional will make more use of your money than the hobbyist or college student, but even their experience will only get you so far.
Don’t take my word for it. The internet has hundreds of millions of websites. How many can you name? But yet there are thousands of new website projects rolling off the assembly and thrown into the dust bin. It’s very easy to crank out something, but to market with intent with considerably different.
So How Do You Handle It?
Create a budget. Once that budget is created consult with your professional. Be candid about your commitment in terms of your time and financial involvement.
Then engage in a discussion about how to most practically and effective use the budget. I would rather see one finely tuned-razor sharp marketing effort in one area than a scattered, disjointed and unguided marketing attempt across everything described in this chapter. Make sure to expect practical results based upon the commitment you are willing to commit.
Don’t Be Like This Business
If my stories and advice rings true with you, its not because I am a psychic, it’s because I’ve watched the scenarios in this book play over and over again. To conclude this chapter I want to share a story about another business.
Meet Company A. Company A was founded 30 years ago. The owner was a heck of salesman determined to make his company work. He knocked on doors and sometimes knocked them down. He sold his product and grew his business exponentially.
His strategy worked, so he figured why change a thing. It’s always worked, so his philosophy of shaking hands, kissing babies, and knocking down doors was translated to his team. This was the gospel of success to this company and it worked… for while…
Then times changed. The products they sold were out of date. They were in the technology business, so the advent of more cost-effective and powerful solutions quickly antiquated their product line. They were so concerned with what did work, that they were blinded to what was changing in their industry. They were basking in the glory of high profits not seeing the hurricane looming on the horizon.
Times got tough. The recession hit in 2007 and cuts had to be made. Like a starving body, decisions had to be made in terms of what is expendable. Massive cuts were made and marketing was among those cuts.
The good news is this company has a solid customer-base of some of the largest brands in the US. They were able to cultivate those relationships and survive with a skeleton crew. But their stable customer base began to crack and they were nervous.
So they reached out and attempted to jump-start their marketing effort. They had no relevant products, no gameplan, no identifiable market (aside from wanting “Fortune 500 companies”), no marketing budget, and no demographic research. This company was dead and didn’t know it. They figured a fresh business introduction kit, a knocking on some doors will solve their problems yet again if they were true to the old formula.
Needless to say, this company wrote its own epitaph by not keeping it products and services relevant, coasting on success, not listening to their customers, and of course, no investing their money into a solid plan.
Like a man whose body was failing from years of neglect and abuse, they were looking for a miracle that never arrived. Even as their life fleeted from their business, they still refused to see that a serious commitment of time, money, and change was required.
This was a 30mm company guided by poor management. No matter if you are a modest small company or a larger organization, you will find this law of constant marketing that governs business will either help you reach your goals or crush you without mercy.
This real life scenario is sobering to say to least, but you can learn from it and it may be very thing to save your business through thick and thin. Don’t be the company that gets drunk off its own arrogance or ignorance.