Small business marketers love the chase. Love the new fangled way to make the phone ring. They love to think of a marketing promotion as a single event. But it's precisely this view of marketing that holds most small businesses back. They fall prey to the "marketing idea of the week" and never fully explore what it takes to create and build a completely functioning, consistently performing, marketing system.
In this article I am going to outline the basic steps that any business can follow on the way to creating their very own marketing system. But first let's explore this word system in the context of marketing. Small business owners have no problem thinking systems when it comes to say, accounting or hiring. When it comes to marketing though, all bets are off. It's as if they are waiting for magic fairy dust to fall upon them with the next great marketing innovation.
Look, effective marketing is little more than creating and operating an effective marketing system. Now, when I use the word system I mean several things. 1) The system is documented - You can't have a system or a step in a system unless you write it down. 2) The system is built on sound marketing principals and 3) You constantly measure, innovate, and refine the system.
Okay, so on to the system building steps.
1) Narrow and define a target market - Small business owners love to say yes. "Sure we can do that." The next thing you know the target market is roughly anyone they think will pay them. You must commit to a narrowly defined target market and you must focus all of your attention upon serving that market like no one ever dreamed of. A narrow marketing focus might be - Estate Attorneys - as opposed to Law Firms.
2) Discover and communicate a core message for that market - Until you can show how your firm is different and offers something unique, you will always compete on price. You must find a way to tell your newly defined narrow target market why you have something to offer that they value. Your core message might be - We show estate attorneys how gain all of the business they can handle - as opposed to: We help law firms.
3) Develop multiple forms of permission based lead generation - No one like to be sold to and more and more advertising is falling on numb ears and eyes. Your lead generation system must be built on several fronts, such as public relations, referral marketing, strategic partnerships, and targeted advertising. Your lead generation message must offer the target market a reason to want to know more. Forget about the sale, look for ways to build trust.
4) Construct a lead conversion and customer reselling process - No amount of leads in the world will help your business if you don't efficiently turn those leads into clients. You must have a plan that maps out what you will do when phone rings, when you make the sales call and when it's time to do more business with the clients you already have. Most small businesses completely ignore this aspect of their marketing, but this is where the real success in marketing lies.
5) Create educational based marketing and presentation materials - Forget about the glossy sales brochure, use your marketing materials to teach how your firm is different, how you solve real problems, how you work, why you work, what you believe and your marketing will be much more successful. Your web site must come from this point of view as well.
6) Define the most important marketing success indicators - Setting marketing goals for such things as leads, appointments, sales, phone calls, referrals, impressions, mentions and anything else you can think to measure is how you turn marketing into a game and how you keep score of the game. Everyone loves and game and the only way to improve something is to measure how well you are doing in the first place.
7) Build an annual marketing calendar and budget and stick to it - Once you have spent the time and energy to think through steps 1-6 you need to commit your plan to a marketing calendar and then allocate (or at least think about) the money it will take to implement your plan. Once you create a calendar it is much more likely that you will look at the tasks assigned to each month like a "to-do" list. So, instead of whining that you should do more marketing, you simply scratch each item off your list and plan for the next. It's an amazingly simple but effective device.
Okay...now the last bit of advice.
Every system needs a champion. Either find someone in your organization who does little else but operate the system or hire a marketing professional and charge them with helping you develop, implement and run the system.
Properly fed and maintained, this little marketing system can become the engine that drives your firm's climb to the top.