If you are, you are definitely not alone. This is a very natural reaction when the order books are empty and your pipeline is dryer than the Kalahari desert during a dry spell… you panic!
And a natural place to run to in panic is to marketing - they must be able to do some kind of magic trick that makes new customers appear - almost like out of the blue - right? And you are also willing to turn up that discount lever to make those customers sign sooner rather than later.
We've all been there - using marketing as a kind of fire extinguisher to that burning pain of a hurting business, making everybody from marketing to sales frantically busy with getting that urgent direct mail out - and the entire company getting involved in that "all hands on deck" calling day, where no stone is left unturned.
The fact is - that all the while this hectic activity is taking place – chances are, the business is slowly recuperating - not as a result of the instant activity - but more likely because seeds were planted months ago, that is then coming to realization. So while everybody goes “phew – we kept the business a float with our quick thinking” – all people think to themselves “how on earth did that happen?”. Because that's what marketing is all about: that long term haul, intelligently considering the right time and audience for the right messages, that will make customers come to realize their needs and pains - and slowly but surely turn to you for advice. The best approach is rarely to just bulldozer the market.
"Well - but this way we get to pick the low hanging fruits" the counter argument normally goes….
And I know the term "low hanging fruits" is a much loved term by all business owners - because who doesn't just want to stroll around, picking those low hanging fruits? But who says you can't pick those fruits while at the same time preparing the soil for the long term growth and crop?
Most of us agree to the fact that customers are on a buying journey (see former QBS article on buying journey here) - so how come we insist on a selling "moment"?
Marketing takes time and effort - and it begins with you knowing your own business. Answering these 3 big questions:
Can bring you the insight needed in order to come to the right decisions around marketing for your business that supports your strategic goals - not just the one-off hit'n'run activity of a panicking organisation. Invite the important stakeholders in your company and do a thorough strategy workshop on marketing for your business - this way all the people that need to get behind the marketing strategy gets heard - and you get a concrete plan to work from. See example of workshop agenda here for inspiration.
Having a thoroughly worked through marketing plan in place that supports your long term strategy will also make it possible for you to avoid those situations where you get all hyped up about the next big trend within marketing - that one thing that everybody tells you that you must adopt or die… Because if this new hot trend doesn't support your strategic goals, then it's probably not suitable for you to pick up - hot trend or not. (read more in this article about why hot trends should not be followed blindly). Investing the time to do this will pay off in so many ways – you will not be spending marketing budget blindly, and you will be able to adjust, if you don’t see the results that you’ve identified in plan coming in – because you know what you are doing – and why.
Then - if you have done the hard work of considering your strategy for marketing - and set in place the appropriate activities to support your business in the long run - then there's always room for that occasional panic action, that we all know can't be avoided every once in a while….
If you need help to kickstart this process or to facilitate it - get in touch with QBS group - we have long term expertise in helping our partners reflect on their business and their marketing strategy - resulting in concrete executable marketing plans. Send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org - and we will get back to you right away.
PS. This applies also in part for businesses that targets customers with commodity items, though here you might argue that short term marketing activities at times have their purpose, as you have shorter sales cycles and shorter life cycles of products. But in the discipline of selling business process solutions, short term marketing is never best path.