It’s good to remember that the spark of most businesses is intuition. It’s also good to remember that what drives the creation and growth of businesses – ambition, passion, diligence – are intangibles. The non-solid nature of business is why it’s important to control, plan, and quantify all the aspects we can.
Planning for Everything
Business plans are indispensable and a must. Marketing plans – entirely separate from business plans – are also a must. The ways in which marketing plans can be expressed and applied are numerous. The plan itself can be reduced to three things:
1. Generating leads
2. Following up with leads
3. Being consistent with #1 and #2
Vision Takes Shape
If you’ve done your work in order, you began with a vision of who and what you want to be. You developed that vision to the point that you know where your products should appear and how they should look. Now it’s time to get those products into your customers’ hands.
Part of any business is nurturing sales. If you’re selling your soap at a crafts fair or farmers market, you’ll find that some people buy from you right away and some people take their time. Some will come back the next day. Some will wait even longer and look you up online (which is why it’s necessary to be online). Leads are people who express
interest in your products and represent potential sales. Not all leads are immediate sales.
For those who aren’t, you need a way to follow up. You need contact information. For small businesses, lead generation without lead capture is the same as no lead generation at all. Without incentive, though, most people are cautious about giving out contact information. Incentives help. Offering potential customers the chance for an online coupon to be used on their next purchase is one example.
Understanding lead generation means you don’t have just one chance with a customer. Not making an immediate sale isn’t so bad if you have the ability to follow up.
Here’s some sobering news. No matter how much you love your product and your business, no matter how hard and long you work, it’s frighteningly easy for people to forget you. Even if you’ve made a good first impression, once people get back to their lives and businesses – both of which have never included you – without follow up you’ll become an ever more distant memory.
You’ve already determined how you want to appear in your marketing. This knowledge will guide how you follow up, whether it’s through email or a hand-written thank-you postcard. Don’t underestimate the power of the personal touch. Personally written emails can make a big difference. If your email list is long and you rely on an email service (MailChimp, Constant Contact, Infusionsoft), make sure your emails don’t sound automated. Make sure they sound like you. Capturing and following up on leads is at the core of your marketing. You need to do it, but you also need to do it well. Like any aspect of your marketing, individual follow ups are an opportunity to convince them you’re the one.
This is the key to the whole process. Keep at it. Don’t Stop. The often-cited Rule of Seven says that customers need to see your message seven times before they buy. Whether or not seven is the magic number, transforming prospects into customers takes time. And, in truth, it’s more doggedness than magic. Knowing this gives you an edge. Being aware that marketing takes time means you won’t question yourself unnecessarily when it does. You won’t pull the plug on your marketing, convinced it’s not working. You’ll be prepared, and won’t be distracted from the most important thing – keeping at it. (Read Part 3 here.)