Most business owners and senior managers are usually far too busy. We simply have too many things to do each day and we rarely have the necessary time to take a step back and plan. When you are dealing with a crisis, a staff issue or a difficult customer you soon find that the half day you set aside for strategic thinking gets gobbled up by more pressing issues.
Covid-19 and The Gift Of Time
Covid-19 has changed work for nearly all of us. The lucky few are finding themselves run off their feed providing medical related or home deliveries of key items. For the rest of us, after initial disaster planning, the last few weeks have probably been strangely quiet. If you are now working from home you have had all that travel time released and you don’t need to attend so many pointless meetings. Maybe you have been put on furlough or had your hours reduced? Well you have been given that extremely rare gift of time. How will you use it?
Don’t waste your time aimlessly engaging on social media or compulsively checking the latest stats on Covid-19 infections. Use this rare downtime to make proper well thought out, well researched plans. There are plenty of areas you can turn your attention to that will be extremely worthwhile. Spend your time productively now and as soon as restrictions lift you will be ready to go with all guns blazing to save and grow your business or make yourself irreplaceable.
We tend to do the same marketing activities because they are known quantities. We can order from the same suppliers, we can use the same list of potential customers, attend the same exhibitions, we don’t have to produce a cost benefit analysis, we don’t have to learn anything new and we don’t have to convince anyone else that a new idea is a good one. We haven’t had to put ourselves out on a limb to suggest an investment in an unproven strategy. However, in this fast paced ever changing world in which we live in (reminds me of a song…) we have to adapt or die. Now is the time to do some research and come up with a robust marketing strategy.
You might find that your tried and tested marketing strategy is still a good one but, if you do your plan right, you will also find different ways to target your existing customers and you will identify new markets you have never tried to reach before.
What Is A Marketing Plan For?
Marketing plans identify who we are going to sell to and how we are going to do it. It sounds simple enough and it can be! It can also be quite complicated.
The sort of questions you should be asking yourself are; Can you get current customers to buy more? Are there new customers you can find that have never used you before? Can you get people who have used you and then gone elsewhere to return? Should you be selling directly to your customer at a physical address, online or through third parties like distributors?
Know Your Customer
Quick wins are getting historic customers to buy from you or current customers to buy more. You have contact details for these customers and a history. Email or call and find out what they like about you, what they don’t, why they haven’t bought more from you or what they want that you don’t currently offer.
These conversations offer you a trove of useful information and quick wins that can increase your sales; maybe you didn’t realise that the delivery method you use doesn’t work for your customers, maybe your customers want more ecological products, maybe they want a supplier who provides monthly account statements or invoices online. Do they use those keychains you have been paying for or perhaps these days they would find personalised phone cases more useful? It isn’t always a radical product or service innovation that is needed, some small practical improvements to your business processes can make you a much more attractive supplier to your customers.
It’s also worth reviewing your online reviews and any complaints you have received. Review them subjectively, are there areas where you need to do better to be competitive?
Find New Customers
Don’t just rely on your existing customer. Spend some time thinking about the people who your product or service meet the needs of. These are your customers – if there are groups you aren’t targeting yet you should be. You know to understand where they go, what they read, how they buy and what influences them. The Office of National Statistics has a vast trove of information on peoples, ages, incomes, economic activity, incomes, housing and rental prices and the list goes on. You can filter the information in lots of different ways in different areas so if this information would be useful get stuck in.
Once you understand who your customer is you can select a marketing strategy to target them; social media campaigns, Google Ads, physical advertising in key locations, flyers, attending conferences or other events…….
But remember “Nobody reads ads – people read what interests them – sometimes it’s an Ad”. Whatever advertising avenue you choose you need to remember you are communicating with a single person who has a need you can meet. Communicate this clearly and loudly!
Spend Some Time On Your Website
“A bad website is like a flat tyre. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.”
Wise words! It is remarkable how many businesses still have really poor websites which lack basic information. It’s no good spending all that time analysing the market and putting marketing strategies in place if you can’t convert the people you have worked so hard to drive to your website.
At the very least your website has to contain enough information about you to provide a good sense of trust to your customers. Here are some very basic things to check that simply must be in place;
- View your website on a PC, tablet and an Apple phone and an Android phone. Does it look good on all of them and do the basic functions work? If not, fix it!
- Is your address and contact information on there and easy to find. If not get the information on your website. Who is going to buy from a business who does not make this information transparent? It is also a good idea to have an ‘About us’ page and to be transparent about prices, payment terms and returns and warranties.
- Your website has to be secure. Open your internet browser, visit your website and look in the top left. You should see a grey padlock icon – see below ringed in red. If you don’t then your website needs work. These days browsers will warn people not to visit websites that don’t show this symbol.