Starting any B2B or B2C business isn't easy. While small and midsized enterprises account for over 95 percent of all businesses, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 50 percent of small businesses survive for more than four years.
Why is that? We have observed three major factors that can be fatal:
1. Managers often face too many "important" or "urgent" situations, and find themselves with too little time and skill to evaluate and execute the correct decisions;
2. Even when they know what they want to do, businesses often lack the resources, including funding and appropriate staff, to act in the short, and often long term;
3. Frequently, newer organizations lack the knowledge and expertise to profitably develop the marketing and marketing communications strategies, plans and executions necessary for their growth.
Add to this the current explosion of digital marketing choices; for a beginning business, what used to be a fairly straightforward marketing process has turned into a complex web of choices. Limited resources also means increased importance on understanding and determining the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing dollars, much less how to improve it.
A recent survey by Forrester Research found that sixty percent of buyers are now making their purchase decisions without interacting with a sales person, or even standing in front of the actual product. The implication for all organizations is that all marketing programs must be focused and crystal clear, and this is especially true for newer organizations.
Optimizing Marketing And Marketing Communications Planning
Navigating through today's rapidly changing demographic, economic, technical and political landscape can be overwhelming for any company (or nonprofit, for that matter). Marketing strategies, plans and executions must be developed and executed with intelligence. And businesses must understand and have confidence in what results to expect.
Most strategies, plans and executions aren't perfect, no matter how solid you and your staff think your assumptions have been. Ask yourself, "Is here anything more that can be done to ensure the success of your program?"
Actually, there is. Engage a marketing and marketing communications professional, for two to three months, to evaluate your plan and make recommendations on how to improve it before you commit your capital and other resources to it. Choose someone who has the ability to see the entire picture of your business, including customers, prospects, employees, competitors; someone who understands new and traditional media; and, someone who is passionate about improving your ROI.
Does this sound like a lot of work, time and money which you can't afford? Frankly, often you can't afford not to take this step. An investment with the right professional should more than pay for itself, and should profitably improve sales in both the short and long term. Apolitical, fresh eyes and candor can go a long way toward improving ROI, and should also help you, your employees and other stake holders eliminate some of the stress about the future.
What Exactly Will A Marketing Consultant Do?
During this two to three month engagement (perhaps more, depending on the situation), a marketing professional will:
1. Learn all aspects of your business, including interviews with your key constituents;
2. Evaluate the existing marketing and marketing communications strategy (target audience, category, brand benefit / point of difference, reason to believe), plan, spending, and specific creative executions and media selection;
3. Recommend specific changes to the overall program where necessary, and bring in other professionals if needed because of their specific areas of expertise;
4. Provide a procedure for measuring and evaluating the new program and the objectives of the agreed upon plan. Benchmarking and on-going analysis are key elements of successful programs, allowing for change or refinement as you proceed;
5. Inform and discuss the reasoning behind the completed plan so that the organization fully understands the rationale behind it.
The end goal of this outsourcing is to improve your ROI by using professional expertise and leadership to provide an integrated and holistic plan with meaningful tactical executions. And, importantly, doing so before purchasing time, money and resources to a new and lengthy plan. In other words, "Look Before You Leap."
Selecting A Marketing Consultant
Ideally, you should look for an established, media neutral B2B and B2C consultant, with brand experience across industries, companies and nonprofits, both large and small, who is willing to tell it like it is so candor will flourish. Don't settle for a consultant with experience in only your niche or industry, or someone selling only one particular discipline. One size fits all often means nothing fits! And be sure your selection is analytically driven, and willing to test their recommendations in the real world.
The often hectic, early years of your developing company may, in fact, be the perfect time to undertake a long range professional review of your business and opportunities, avoiding the dangerous practice of relying on "this is the way we've always done it "as a business plan.
Hopefully, some of these thoughts will help, but as Mark Twain said, "The secret of getting ahead is getting started."