We've all heard business owners, founders, and executives question the value of marketing. And in many cases they have a legitimate reason for doing so; However, saying marketing doesn't work is like saying "selling" doesn't work. Of course, it works, but only if you do it right.
Most businesses we come across do employ some level of marketing, but there is a big difference between "doing some marketing" and "great marketing".
Furthermore, there are significant disparities around effort (how much time businesses spend on marketing). For example, copying and pasting a newsletter and blasting all contacts with the same message takes no time at all, but creating a targeted and effective newsletter is time-consuming. In theory, both businesses are doing email marketing, but the result will be very different.
Also, before we go any further, let's acknowledge some realities. Most small businesses and startups put marketing on the back burner because they have other "more important" things to do. To some extent, this attitude is understandable, because putting out daily fires can seem more important. Unfortunately, this leads to weeks, months, and often years of marketing neglect.
Lastly, marketing is not a faucet that you can quickly turn on and off. For example, you can't ignore social media for months and then come back and vigorously post - expecting great results. And your newsletter, website, SEO, and any other digital marketing channel are no different.
Stop your marketing for only a few weeks and you will lose momentum, and when you lose momentum, you have to work a lot harder to get back to the same place, let alone gain more ground. In other words, by stopping or pausing your marketing efforts you lose more than a few weeks, you lose momentum.
You have to keep your marketing wheel turning because if you stop, it will require a lot more effort just to get it turning again.
To keep the wheel moving we recommend all businesses set a marketing budget. Irrespective if you are a solopreneur, small business, startup, or a large company. Having a marketing budget is critical.
For example, if you set aside $600 per month for advertising you are far more likely to keep the momentum going then if your marketing budget (and resources) fluctuate every month.
Momentum is critical in life, business, and marketing.
Marketing Benefits Are Never Linear
Establishing a name (i.e., brand) takes time. More specifically, it takes about 3 years, hence why most businesses show real growth in year 4.
Yes - there are growth strategies you can implement to speed up this process, but establishing yourself in the marketplace and building trust takes time.
Related: Growth Strategy (PDF Document)
This is particularly evident in content marketing, social media, and organic search. Your content may be original, interesting, and extremely helpful, but reputation and trust cannot be built overnight.
The good news is momentum has a wonderful way of doubling your results without additional effort; hence why marketing benefits are never linear. For example, it may take you 12 months to get 1,000 followers, but only 6 months to reach 2,000.
Website traffic is no different. Below is the weekly website traffic from one of our clients. They took our content marketing and SEO strategy to heart and consistently posted quality (and targeted) content once a week.
As you can see there was modest growth in 2018, but explosive growth in 2019. Marketing strategy, effort, and the budget did not change, so what caused this impressive growth in 2019? Consistency, momentum, and long-term commitment.
To transform your business with marketing, you have to think of it as a long-term investment, and not a short-term fix.
We can debate that advertising is a short-term fix or that it can be easily turned on and off (not requiring momentum), but it's never as simple as that. Yes, you can easily turn your advertising on and off (e.g., Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, or LinkedIn Ads), but with prolonged absence, your ads will become less and less effective.
If you have any experience with advertising, you will know that continuous optimization is imperative to a successful campaign. Furthermore, your competitors are never sitting still, so the cost and effectiveness of your advertising will change over time, hence why stopping advertising for an extended period typically creates problems. For example, you may find that your last year's ad campaign is a lot less effective.
Today, online advertising is extremely sophisticated, so to reap the benefits you have to utilize all available tools (targeting, a/b testing, etc.).
Marketing Evolves And Changes Over Time
Marketing doesn't stay still, and while year-to-year changes may seem incremental they add up to a seismic shift. For example, email marketing is very different today then it was 5 or 10 years ago.
The number of emails we receive every day exploded as email marketing tools became easier and cheaper to use. Naturally, it became much harder to stand out from the crowd.
Sending the same email to all your contacts may have worked 10 years ago, but it doesn't anymore. To get above average open rate, clickthrough rate, and conversion rate you must segment your audience and send laser targeted emails.
The same applies to search engine optimization, content marketing, social media, and your website. To get the most out of these digital channels, you have to keep up with the latest tools and trends. For example, a vanilla website doesn't cut it anymore. To convert website visitors into leads (and customers) you have to use analytics, optimization tools, A/B testing and personalization. And you certainly have to keep up with the latest usability trends.
The same applies to paid advertising. For example, 10 years ago, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising was extremely affordable because many big brands didn't recognize how effective PPC ads are.
Today, most PPC ads are at least ten times more expensive to buy. In summary, ten years ago, you didn't have to create a great ad to have a profitable PPC campaign, because competitors and costs were low. Today, with lower margins and high competition you have to spend time optimizing and perfecting your ads.
Embrace Change (And New Digital Channels)
It's never too late to get on a digital channel. However, early adopters will always benefit the most. By jumping in early, you will build your following quicker and pay less to get your message across. For example, five years ago, your organic (non-paid) social media posts probably reached a lot more people. Today, to get similar impressions and reach, you probably have to boost your posts (pay).
We are not suggesting that you try all digital channels, but experimenting with a few new channels is always a good idea. Especially, if your customer demographic is using it.
Today, Tik Tok is a household name with teenagers, but it wasn't a few years ago. If you jumped on Tik Tok early you would have built a substantial following by now.
Keep your eyes open, because marketing trends are always changing.
Marketing is a great tool to grow your business, but like any tool, you need to spend time perfecting it. Educate yourself, make small improvements every week, and watch how marketing transforms your business. Finally, if you don't have the time, then hire someone to help you, because you cannot grow a business without marketing.
"Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two-and only two-functions: Marketing and Innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs." - Peter Drucker
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