Kick-Start Your Business With a New Marketing Strategy

Pop quiz time: Sharpen your pencils and take stock of your shop’s marketing plan.

By the time you read this, it won’t be news that 2018 is in the can any longer. People won’t still be asking you if your 2019 has gotten off to a good start. And, most likely, you have forgotten some of the “just wait until next year” intentions you made toward the end of 2018. In this industry, at this particular point in time, I’ll bet that many of those ideas centered on marketing.

So it’s time to sit down with a pad of paper and a pen, and strategize on doing some things differently. Get some coffee, too: You want to be alert for this. 

Let’s start with my 20-question marketing exam. It’s an open book test, so feel free to look up your answers. 

2019 Marketing Planning Exam

1. What is your target market? Define what that means in average terms for the size of an order, quantity per order, revenue per order, and frequency of purchase.

2. What similar target market could you pursue that you currently are not? List why.

3. How many potential customers that fit your target market are within one-day ground shipping to your company? What about two-day?

4. What is your main customer’s biggest pain point or challenge that you can solve easily?

5. What is the number one thing that you use as a market differentiator to separate your business from your competition? (Sorry, but “pricing,” “quality,” and 

“customer service” are wrong answers and will be marked accordingly.)

6. What is your “unfair advantage” that only your shop possesses? How are you incorporating that into your marketing strategy?

7. Dig into your orders from 2018. Who were the top 20 percent of your customers by revenue? What did their orders have in common? (Open book test, remember?)

8. Who are your top competitors? What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?

9. How are you marketing your business currently? What proof do you have that the strategy you’re using brings you business? What can you do better?

10. With your current marketing materials, can your customers take one step to purchase? Meaning, is there a call to action that produces results?

11. List the best thing about your current marketing strategy.

12. List the worst thing about your current marketing strategy.

13. Think about a marketing idea that you tried in 2018 that didn’t work. What was your number one takeaway from that failure?

14. What was your best and most productive marketing idea in 2018? What was your number one takeaway from that experience?

15. Do you believe in your own product? If I walk into your shop today, are your staff members wearing your work proudly?

16. How many marketing videos did you create for your shop last year, and where did you post them? What was the result?

17. Do you follow and interact with your customers on their social media platforms?

18. Is your marketing plan in alignment with your business plan? Do you even have a business plan?

19. Did you send out a “Hey, how are we doing?” survey to your customers in 2018? What was the overall consensus?

20. How many reorders did you receive last year?

How Did You Do?

Some of those questions might have taken some work. The more thoroughly you answer them, the more the exam is going to pay off. If you really want to get a truthful appraisal about your business, get your leadership team together and have everyone take the test. Then, compare answers. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the opportunities that will become apparent.

For starters, understanding your customer has to be a priority. For better growth, your sales and marketing plan has to proactively connect you with potential customers. Relying on luck or “whoever walks in the door” is a recipe for failure. 

Let’s review the intent behind the test. Questions 1 through 7 will help establish some facts and figures to assist you in setting goals, and they should start the juices flowing on marketing ideas. Uncovering your customer’s pain points and linking them to what you consider your “unfair advantage” is a great place to start.

Questions 8 through 19 are about your marketing journey in 2018. Culling out the good, the bad, and the ugly is a great learning lesson. What happened? What should you repeat? What should you avoid like a glass of six-week-old eggnog?

The very last question is significant. How many orders came from the same customers? Calculate the percentage and start keeping a close track on it (year to year, month to month, etc.). If it is going up, that means your customers like what you’re doing and are happy. Going down? Time to tighten up and make some changes. Repeat customers are the lifeblood of your business. You need to measure that.

Developing New Goals

If you were honest and forthright in your business assessment for 2018, then the direction to take moving forward should be clear. But if you want some help grading your test, here are a few ideas to get you started.

#1: Content, Content, Content  

If you want high SEO value (and you should), nothing beats a great blog. Google and Bing run on words typed in searches; blogs use thousands of words. If you aren’t sure what to write about, start with your “why.” Why are you in business? That’s article number one. What are your top ten most frequently asked questions? Those are ten more blogs for you to pen.  

Another idea that is absolutely killing it these days is video. Craft a one-minute video testimonial from a customer and post that on your social media feeds. Show people why you matter. Take pictures constantly. Your camera is already in your pocket. Use it to document your work, your happy employees, your shop dog, and anything to do with your business life. Post this stuff constantly.

#2: Be Creative  

A lot of people won’t try new things because they worry about what people might think. But we are in a creative business, so don’t be normal. Be fun. Be stylish. But most of all, be yourself. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you can’t afford to be like everyone else. 

Take a look around this industry. I know you follow what other shops are doing. The successful ones are posting creative content continually, and people notice. Be brave, create something, and push it out there.

#3: Look at the Future  

Technology is changing. Search is changing. Are you? Think about how you can use and implement the new ways people are communicating and gathering information.

When someone asks their smart device, “OK Google” or “Hey Alexa,” are you poised to be included in the responses? Be the first shop in your area to nail voice search.

Think about how people will instantly read a text message, but won’t look at their email for hours or even days. Are you capitalizing on this trend? Get your SMS in order.

Have you asked your customers how they like to communicate? Or considered how many are under 30 years old? If the answer is “a lot,” you need to think differently.

#4: Set SMART Goals  

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. When thinking about what you want to accomplish in your shop this year, it’s important to set your goals using this method.

Be specific about what you want. Use numbers. Don’t just say, “We want more business.” Set your goal at $60,000 in new revenue per month, for example. Then work backward from that goal to determine what you need to do to achieve it.

As your work progresses, make sure you’re measuring against your goal and you know where you are at any given point. Personally, I like to monitor what percentage of the total has been reached. It always lights a fire to see that I have 23 percent left to achieve for the period; it makes me hunker down and go after it. But don’t set your goals too high. It might be great to double sales, but is that really realistic or achievable? Get your team together and set a goal that makes sense.

And lastly, set a date. When are you going to achieve the goal? By the end of the month or quarter? By a specific date on the calendar? Setting a deadline for the goal helps keep you on track by emphasizing the time you have to complete the task. 

Read more from the February/March 2019 issue.