Think your business is ready for marketing? Think again.

In a self-serving attempt for a client-attracting, keyword loaded post I started thinking about low cost, high margin ideas for small businesses. Then it hit me: smart management starts with getting what matters right first before you tackle a major marketing push.

Get your house of Ps in order. Now.

Product. If you’re not selling iPhones then think about what your product can and can’t do and where it really sits in the competitve marketplace. Hell even if you are the iPhone, it’s not enough. Apple has always make improvements and shows no signs of stopping.

Service. Are customer and clients always coming back? Or do you routinely underwhelm? Are you clear in what you really offer, how you differentiate? If you sell service instead of a product, make sure it’s worth it. When you’ve done a big promotion like a Groupon deal, make sure everyone from manufacturing to customer service is prepared to meet the increased demand.

Price. Yes you can learn a lot of lessons from Apple, but in case you haven’t gotten the memo: you ain’t Apple. It’s a buyer’s market and your customers are able to call and click their ways to better deals with your competitors in a blink of an eye.

Promotion. One of the biggest fails of a media campaign is fixing the wrapping, not the present. That’s what went wrong with the Gap logo fail. Rebranding will change perception of brand not the stuff, so it’s still just lipstick on a pig.

People. Small businesses can find inspiration from big companies like Walt Disney World. Disney train their castmembers well and does a lot of research to get to know their customers, so that they can excel at creating those experiences that will make them loyal guests, for generations.

Support. Does it suck? Do brilliant cartoonists mock you, do customers villify you on Twitter? If you have not connected the dots, now is the time. Make sure folks in R&D, in customer service and in sales know the problems, offer solutions, etc. Admitting you suck won’t always get you ahead, you will have to actually make improvements.

Place. If no one finds you, it won’t matter if you run the best auto shop in town or have the best virtual temp agency on the web. Location, location, page rank, location.

Maybe it’s time to find some new marketing P’s. Maybe you need to find ways to adapt them to something new, like Danny Brown’s PITS. Once the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed on your P’s of Marketing Checklist, then you can think about your marketing and how to integrate social media.

But all the marketing won’t save you if your stuff sucks, shitty Michael Bay movies a Hollywood exception. How do you know if you’re market ready? Please share.

Photo credit: I gave a few Despair calendars as gifts this year, everyone loved them.

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12 thoughts on “Think your business is ready for marketing? Think again.

  1. First, thank you, very belatedly, for the link love. (I’ve been searching for your post and either the site wouldn’t load, or I couldn’t find the link… aargh!).

    Someone asked me a few weeks ago when the time was right for publicity. Without writing a thesis, I said, “When you have something that warrants it.”

    IMHO, “marketing” too often jumps the gun. Everybody wants to get to market, to market, to buy a fat pig… but their internal systems are often ill-prepared to cope with the results, if their efforts are successful. This was exactly why a while back I wrote a BNET post on getting the foundation of your PR & outreach in place before going out there – messaging, etc.

    It drives me nuts, as Shakirah said, when we (PR pros) are looked on as just the “pushers,” and not as strategic partners. Often we will ask some very straightforward questions that could save clients a great deal of time and grief even on the operational side of things – because that’s how we think, we’re trying to figure out everything that could go wrong and how to preempt/deal with them. But they won’t listen.

    Shonali Burke recently posted..An Ode To Monday

    1. Shonali, ITA you do PR when you have that quaint little thing called “news.” You have a business? Not news. You have a small product update? Good for you. Someone just got hired, promoted, a bust in bronze by a trade association? So does everyone else. But they want to push and push to get to market, get the phone to ring.

      Everyone’s fear is staring at the phone, hearing crickets. But what’s worse is when the phone rings off the hook, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Bad service, can’t deliver on the promises, blah blah. Forget making a bad first impression, try a terrible last impression as the would-be clients will move on to the next best option, never look back.

      Thanks for the comment, I second your “Aarrgh!”

  2. Good Morning, Davina! As I sit here commenting, I am reminded that i need to go make some sucky stuff more marketable! Seriously, as a PR/Marketing firm in one, I shudder each time a new client wants me to ‘push’ them out there without getting their house in order. I’ve alluded to this before, my job becomes more than just PR and Marketing, it’s also business planning and strategic ‘pusher’. I push them to focus on goals and where they want to be, but to also make sure that what they’re ‘selling’ is in fact, what they’re ‘selling’. Enjoyed this post and the multitude of good links. Will revisit to read them all in detail later!

    1. Erica, I’m shifting my practice.. putting in the extra work now so that I can be more of a counselor to new clients. Too often we get put in that position of pushing things out there, but not being allowed to ask those service questions, suggest improvements, recommend calls to action like discounts and promotions. I have a follow up post drafted.. a la what will be sort of my FAQ about how if it’s sucky, I can’t help you. Think about some business or brand that’s struggling; it’s not always that their stuff isn’t known, that people don’t know where to go buy it, etc. It’s that they have found other options that are cheaper, more convenient, faster, and if not better at least less sucky. 😉

      1. Erica and Davina, as a copywriter, I can turn down projects for products that are not up to snuff, but sometimes… how can I tell, you know? I don’t always get samples or a free run, so a lot of what I create is created with a layer of glass (however transparent) between myself and the product. Every now and then, I get a little frustrated because I don’t have the power to make a product any better than it is, or to market it properly. I like to offer suggestions, but a hint here and there does not a plan make.
        Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud recently posted..Trust Me- I’m A Marketer

        1. Just had that conversation with someone.. that it’s hard for me, as a writer, not to EDIT. It’s a challenge to not try to make something “better” if I can, over deliver. Totally agree that a little advice “here and there does not a plan make.” WORD, Shakirah.

    1. Thanks Marcus. Getting a laugh or a smile out of someone while making them think, that’s a twofer. Marketing, the other stuff does more than help, it’s necessary. The age old, “if you have the best product in the world but no one’s heard of it, can find it” argument, right? It helps, can work if it’s smart, strategic, hits the right people. But even then.. you can generate all the awareness, interest you want, but if they get to your website and it’s awful; or they call and the service is terrible, or they can’t deliver on your sales promises, I doubt you’ll close any deals.

  3. Thinking; thinking. It just doesn’t matter, Davina. Whether a business even asks “are we ready for marketing” they just dive in anyway; “ready or not, here we come!”

    There’s a big itch among marketers to take a company into the mix; regardless. Therein lies the problem; with so many naysayers about online engagement marketing who didn’t test the waters before taking the plunge, everyone is grappling with ROI.

    Your post flies over the heads of many a business owner; how can this discussion be made more simplistic with the 10 3-Hat Tricks?
    Jayme Soulati recently posted..Social Media- Are We Talking To Ourselves

    1. Like you said Jayme, it’s about simple.. but forget the tricks. (I do have drafts of simple ideas I’m kicking around.) Many small businesses outsmart themselves getting tricky, forgeting the simple proposition: they offer a product or service at a price that offers value, delivers solutions to its buyer.

      Dave @Area224 did a great little post on “perfect is good, done is better” about NOT waiting until everything was set just so, and I agree. You can’t hold out forever but you also shouldn’t take the plunge without a plan, some strategy and look at what you really do, how you really make your money.

      If you’re a service based business, when was the last time you revisited, improved your processes? Saving just 10-20% of time and therefore labor costs is a huge number that could be rolled back into employee incentives, direct marketing promotions, etc.

      It’s a great point the “ready or not” and that is when smart marketers have to educate clients on being not ready: to handle the demand, the service calls. Taking that plunge unprepared can cause more headaches and be a huge waste of money, that pesky ROI you mentioned. Which I then have remind SMBs that PR and communications types like ourselves need to be part of all these discussions and to join with the likes of Gini Dietrich, sing a little song of “integration, integration.” 😉

      1. Tonight I read where someone started a discussion in a LinkedIn group asking whether a start-your-own-business checklist or step-by-step plan with a social marketing solution would have been helpful to business owners when they were starting their businesses. I hadn’t even read this discussion, but I thought, “Ummm… I know I wasn’t looking for that when I started my business.” I thought guiltily, “Should I have?” I decided not to respond the question. But my thoughts were Jayme’s. People tend to jump right in and then reach for the life preserver. And yet Davina’s advice rings true.
        Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud recently posted..Trust Me- I’m A Marketer

        1. Guilty as charged, Shakirah. Didn’t have a plan either but am working on one. 😉 It’s easier for a business of one to jump right in, but I’ve seen bigger small businesses dive right in and waste a lot of money, buying things they didn’t need. Not even sure they’ve learned from mistakes as they’re just making them all over again.. just on newer shinier objects like social media. They didn’t address one customer complaint, make any effort to improve a thing, which comes back to – more often than not – marketing won’t fix or sell a bad product or idea. So glad you stopped by.

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