Timing of Marketing – Always

Typically, traditional forms of marketing can be expensive on the grand scale.  Print, billboard, radio, and TV can be very costly to get impressions up and consumers to your store or online shop.  For small businesses, a marketing budget is usually underfunded and can get cut easily as capital will be pulled for bigger items.  But if you have a very exciting (which does not imply expensive) marketing program around your shop or products, it is a better problem to chase your supply chain than to chase the sale.

Here is a simple model that will help you get sales lined up and pushed through in three easy steps:

  1. Pre-order Marketing:  Tell them before they want it
  2. Order Marketing:  Tell them when they want it
  3. Post Order Marketing: Tell them after they want it

Pre-Order Marketing

Lining up a demand or a pre-order sale helps in many ways.  By doing such, you have a better understanding of what your demand might be and you can therefore plan your supply chain to produce the supply plus a little more to ensure every customer gets what they want, when they want it.  Moreover, you do not have to invest the capital for something that may sit on your shelf and have some sort of inventory cost.

Order Marketing

Obviously, when you product is available, you need to communicate that it is.  Most small businesses forget to do this or stop doing this because their demand is too high and they cannot scale production accordingly – another problem that is better to have.

Post-Order Marketing

I often forget to use the product/service that I couldn’t wait to get and probably spent too much on simply because I find myself very busy with other things and forgot about it after the first 5 hours of use.  Don’t forget to remind your consumer how great of a product that you sold them is by showing the functionality of it.

Service Industry: The Job is Not Done Once Complete

A few weeks ago, I wrote about 3 Keys for a Service-Driven Small Business.  These 3 keys are most important before and during a job.  However, today I want to expand upon how to succeed as a service-driven small business by discussing one of the most important thing to do after the job.  Similar to sales or selling, the job is not done and the relationship is not locked-in once contact information is exchanged.  Likewise, your job as a service small business company is not complete once the job is done.  You must continue to follow-up after the job multiple times to check that everything is still good, everything has gone as planned, etc.

Following up on a completed job is one of the most important things that you can do to solidify word-of-mouth referrals by taking your company/brand from ordinary to extraordinary.  Furthermore, aside from checking to make sure that the work you performed is still holding up as transacted, you will also be showing your customers that you are invested and take pride in the work that you do.  This ensures consistency, quality, and a level of satisfaction that one day you might be able to charge a premium for since your brand/company will become known as one of the best in your local market.

Below are three things that you will be guaranteed to see when implementing a plan of following-up:

Positive Brand / Company Perception:  Your customers will begin to view your business as “the step above” within your industry and even so far as among local service companies.  Word-of-mouth referrals is one of the biggest drivers for service driven companies and therefore, positive attitudes toward your company will without a doubt lead to more customers.

Quality Improvement:  Let’s face it, there are always errors, faults, things that go unplanned, etc.  Mitigate your own risk of failure or not fully meeting your customer’s expectations by following-up and addressing any concerns or problems after the fact.  This might wind up taking time away from another site to spend potentially hours fixing the site that was already paid for, however, you will never leave a customer unhappy.

Ability to Increase Price in the Long-term:  As you gain more customers via word-of mouth and as your quality becomes unmatchable, you will then gain leverage to charge a premium for your services since you offer proven outstanding services.

Is there a right number of times you should follow-up with individual customers?  I don’t think so.  Your customers paid a lot for the services that you performed and with that, they expect outstanding service.

What Social Media Platforms Are Right For Your Small Business

A little over a month ago, I wrote an article that discussed the “Social Media Marketing Fallacy“.  It is very easy as a small business owner to get caught up in the latest marketing bubbles.  I truly believe that Social Media Marketing is a marketing bubble because many create social media accounts to develop a social media marketing strategy, even though it might not make sense to be on certain social platforms.  If you are doing social media marketing correctly, the rewards could be great but if you are are using social media incorrectly, you are just wasting your time.  Here are some things to consider in your small business social media marketing strategy so that you are using social media correctly:

What consumers are using what platforms?

The latest marketing bubble is Pinterest.  Many are recommending that small business owners create a Pinterest account to hop on this bandwagon.  However, sites like Pinterest might not make sense for all small businesses.  The Pinterest consumer is mostly females and moms that like digital scrap booking.  If you own a roofing company or a men’s store, Pinterest might not make sense for you.  The same holds true for any social media platform – Twitter users are different from Facebook users, who are also different from YouTube users.  Find the platform that is right for you before proliferating your small business social media accounts and wasting your time!

What platforms enable you to achieve your social media objectives?

Pinterest is more for sharing visual appeal, Facebook is for interacting, Twitter is for updating, etc.  If you have no images to show, then Pinterest clearly won’t be beneficial for your small business.  If your goal is to simply send updates to your consumers then Twitter and Facebook would be best.  However, if you do not have the manpower to monitor the Facebook conversations, then perhaps you should steer clear of having a Facebook account.  One of the worst things for your business is to have consumers ask questions on your Facebook wall and not receive a response!  Whatever platform(s) you choose to use, you need to own the conversation!

Are You More Convenient Than Your Competitors?

Take a look around you.  If there is one thing that marketers do well, it is to make products and services more convenient for their consumers.  Convenience has been on trend for a long-time.  For example, the number of microwavable frozen foods has proliferated in the last 15 years.  Moreover, if you were to do an audit, I would bet that more frozen foods are microwavable than oven-only, although microwavable implies “oven ready”.  Outside of frozen foods, even the marketers at Tide have been challenging themselves to reinvent the way we do laundry to make it more convenient.  Tide has removed multiple steps in the washing process (detergent, stain-remover, and brightener) by combining into one process through the launch of the Tide Pods.  I don’t think there has ever been a trend as clear as this one that is screaming at you – the small business owner – to leverage immediately.

The proliferation of more convenient products and services is seen all around you: Fandango, fast food, at home grocery deliveries, iTunes, TiVo, Ronzoni boil in a bag, EZ Pass, Chase check deposit smart phone app, etc.  Not only has convenience been an on-going trend across multiple consume categories, but it also is a behavioral need that marketers and product developers are constantly trying to improve.  It is also obvious that the need for increased convenience in our lifestyles is becoming more apparent.

In today’s world, you can narrow down all sets of purchasing consumers that are in the labor force (implies the ability to purchase due to income) into 3 cohorts:

  1. Married couples
  2. Cohabitating partners
  3. Those living independently

Among married couples and those that are cohabitating with a partner, most likely both spouses or partners are working unless a child is in the picture.  If a couple has a child, maybe only one member of the relationship is working.  In either case, these relationship types demand products and services that are more convenient.  If both members of the relationship are working, then time for standard household operations is limited.  Even in the scenario where only one member is working and the other is raising a child, time to conduct household operations is still limited since the member that is not working is pre-occupied with the child.  Therefore, cohorts 1 and 2 in the above are living a lifestyle that demands more convenient products and services.

For those living independently and are working, they are in the same situation as if both spouses in a relationship are working – time is limited for household operations since there is no one at home to take on the household operations.  With that said, even cohort 3 is living a lifestyle that demands more convenient products.

My reason for painting the above picture is to facilitate the point that the size of the prize for consumers that demand more convenient products and services is massive.  Unlike other need fulfillment tactics, achieving convenience is never finalized – you can make your products and services more convenient, but there will always be opportunity to improve the convenience through some form of innovation or process improvement.  With that said, the question is not are you convenient but rather, it is are you more convenient than your competitors?

I’ve yet to see the implementation or activation or convenience trickle down from big business (Tide, Apple, Fandango, etc.) to small business (you).  This is your opportunity to make convenience the next small business marketing trend by implementing increased convenience in your marketing strategy.