There is an old saying that “a camel is a horse designed by a committee”. Lots of features which individually make good sense, offering additional benefits, but when you put it all together, it just doesn’t look great!
When I meet a new small or medium sized business, and start to examine their marketing I often find myself thinking about this saying. Typically, what I find is a collection of marketing activities all or most of which made perfect sense as individual decisions when they were made, but don’t work together to deliver the number of high quality, warm leads that the sales team need to hit their revenue and profit targets. A good marketing programme consists of activities which work together and deliver big results and a positive bottom-line return on the time and money invested in them.
The reason the camel-style marketing doesn’t work is that customers spot the inconsistencies, consciously or sub-consciously and instinctively react. When the individual pieces don’t really fit together well it causes doubts in our mind. We might not be able to explain our reaction, but deep down it just doesn’t feel right and we’re inclined to look for a better option, whether that’s visiting a different stand at the trade show or hitting the ‘back’ button on the browser. In a crowded and competitive market, our ‘camel’ is losing us good prospects all the time.
What’s the solution? Almost always it’s about creating a robust marketing strategy, specific to your business. This will be built on a clear understanding of who your target customers are, who your competitors are and what your products and services offer. The strategy will define the direction marketing needs to take to deliver the results (marketing objectives) that will help the business achieve its growth targets. You can read more about this in my recent blogs “What’s your ‘more’?” and “Getting to your ‘more’”
For many business managers, if you mention the words ‘marketing agency’ they’ll run a mile. We have a fearsome reputation akin to estate agents, investment bankers and salespeople. We’re expensive. We don’t generate leads. We beat unsuspecting business people into submission by using unfamiliar jargon about social media, google analytics, blogs, landing pages, automation, SEO etc. Sounds familiar?
At the same time, most busy business owners recognise that they don’t have the resources to run consistently good marketing activity. We may be well intentioned and start the new year with a plan and a resolution to turn over a new leaf but then reality takes over. We get bogged down with the daily challenges of delivering products or services to our customers. Occasionally we deal with an urgent and important sales lead and have a proposal or a tender to write, which always seems to take up far more of our time then we had bargained for. Then there are staff to deal with, IT issues, telephone calls and emails to answer, the VAT return to submit and before we know it the marketing activity has been moved back. Yet again.
Typically, it’s at this point, when the MD is at the end of his/her tether and cannot cope with time pressure any longer that an agency gets appointed to ‘take care of all that marketing stuff for me’. Initially it’s such a relief that they don’t have to deal with this that the monthly bill isn’t an issue. After all, we’ve done what our business mentor or coach has been urging us to do for ages – we’ve delegated it, saved ourselves a whole load of time and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved.
The agency come in with some attractive images for new websites, a re-branding, a beautiful sales presenter or a spreadsheet showing how many tweets they’ve sent out or how much they’ve spent on pay per click advertising and away they go. A few months later, when we’re sat in the management meeting looking at the sales pipeline figures or reviewing the year with our accountant, there can be a shock. We’ve not delegated our marketing activity so much as abdicated responsibility for it.
By not controlling the agenda for review meetings (or even having them regularly) with agencies we allow them to set their agenda in its place. Some marketing companies are quite happy to continue producing creative work without a proper brief or without rigorous measuring of results in place.
Sometimes when we start work with a new customer they express satisfaction with their agency. But not always. We’ve heard stories of agencies that have generated no new sales leads in 18 months. Website companies that quote £15,000 for an e-commerce website when a realistic price was under £5,000. ‘Lovely’ ladies who will manage your Twitter account for you for a few hundred pounds a month but who haven’t produced a single prospect after 12 months. How about an agency that charge you £60 per hour for a junior team member to produce a timesheet to justify their invoice?
Or the opposite can happen, when the activity appears to be very effective. For example, a new telemarketing company who have generated plenty of ‘leads’ but, after a very time-consuming process of writing a detailed proposal or going to a meeting with the prospect, they turn out to be prospects who haven’t a sufficient large budget to engage your services. A website company that tells you how much more traffic has gone to your website but neglect to inform you that the bounce rate for these visitors is over 90% because they are searching for the wrong keywords?
That’s where a part-time marketing director can help. Someone who is wholly ‘on your side’ when it comes to managing your agency. Someone who can set out the right strategy, prevent you wasting time and money on the wrong activities, negotiate a great deal from newspapers and magazines for PR and advertorial without resorting to expensive advertising. Someone who understands that your precious marketing budget needs to be invested properly to generate quality and well as quantity from your sales leads. Someone who can manage that creative agency to get the best from their talents.
If you’d like to have a confidential chat about how to get better results from managing your agency then call us on 0121 222 5743, or email us here.
For those, like me who are suffering EU Referendum fatigue, please don’t panic, while the theme of this week’s blog is about taking control, I’m talking about your business and specifically your marketing, nothing to do with the 23rd June!
In a desire to follow one of the most quoted pieces of advice from the e-myth book “Work on your business, not in your business”, we generally try to delegate some of our “in the business” workload. Sometimes this will be to employees, other work may be outsourced. I regularly see both in the way small and medium-sized businesses go about their marketing and I’m very happy with either approach.
In my experience, few business owners have a marketing background and whilst accepting the potential that good marketing could deliver, most don’t want to spend much of their time on it. Again, I don’t have a problem with this, much of the marketing workload can be effectively dealt with by other people in the business or external marketing experts.
Where I do have concerns is when delegation and/or outsourcing becomes abdication. It’s OK to delegate the work, but defining what we want marketing to deliver, agreeing the direction, investment strategy and tracking implementation and results is critical to the success of the business and that can’t be delegated.
Too often I meet businesses who have “someone looking after our marketing for us”, but when I dig beneath the surface, this is less about finding the best way to run an effective marketing programme and more about getting rid of a problem. A member of staff who has displayed a bit of enthusiasm for marketing or an agency with a slick sales patter promising transformational results can be a convenient opportunity for the business owner to convince him or herself that “we’ve got marketing sorted now” and turn their focus elsewhere.
Very often this ‘abdication’ ends in disappointment for all parties; the agencies get frustrated with the lack of direction and interest from the top of the business, the in-house marketer feels unsupported, lacks mentoring and development and the business owner doesn’t get the return (i.e. enough quality sales leads) on their marketing spend that they need. The focus of marketing activity generally spirals downward to switching tactics, trying to find a magic formula with an inconsistent level of investment.
For most SMEs, with the right choice of in-house and external resources, as little as 2 structured hours a month of the business owner’s time can make the difference between ineffective marketing that wastes your money and a programme that delivers a high return on investment and the long term business goals.
If taking back control of your marketing to get better results sounds interesting, give us a call today.
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