Marketing: Getting started
Do you know a skilled craftsman who can build almost anything you ask him to but his own business only seems to be limping along. Are you that guy?! Are you in the early years of getting a business off the ground? Working a ton of hours? Struggling to keep on top of all the moving parts? Do you find that there is a constant downward pressure on your pricing not to mention the nagging uncertainty of where that next job is coming from? If that sounds like you, I’m going to guess that you don’t spend a lot of time or money on marketing. And if you have spent money on marketing you’re probably unsure whether it was worth it or not.
I want to help you. My team and I have helped hundreds of business owners like yourself over the last couple of years who were right where you are. In fact, I’ve been there myself. It can be an adventure. It can be fun. But it can also be quite stressful. And it’s not sustainable in the long run. So I want to share a few things we’ve learned.
As it turns out, building a successful business and brand is even more complicated than I had imagined. I wish someone had been straight with me on that. When I started my business I spent a great deal of time worrying about where I would find work. I tried many different things, none of which seemed to work. I worried. I worked too much. And I struggled with my pricing. I also spent far too much time in wishful thinking mode (i.e. “If only I could just get one big break... Don’t companies go from rags to riches all the time?... One day it will be my turn…”).
“While it’s safe to say that there is probably a ton of stuff you need to learn yet, let us clear some air around marketing and get you moving in the right direction.”
So let me be straight with you. Growing a successful business is an immensely complicated affair. That complexity can be overwhelming and confusing. And there’s probably no more confusion than on the topic of marketing. This confusion often leads to inactivity. Inactivity = death.
So while it’s safe to say that there is probably a ton of stuff you need to learn yet, let us clear some air around marketing and get you moving in the right direction with three simple, proven things you can do immediately to improve your business.
1. Ask for testimonials and referrals
Assuming you are doing good work and you’re not a complete pain to work with, referrals are a proven way to improve your leads (and at no cost!). Word of mouth has always been and will continue to be the best marketing. Simply doing great work and treating people right is the bedrock of building a solid brand.
If you’ve done the work of delivering value to your customer and making it a pleasant experience for them, encourage them to promote your brand. If your customer says something nice about you and or your crew, casually ask if they wouldn’t mind writing you a short note that you could share with other prospects or ask them to share their experience with their friends online.
A lack of referrals or an unwillingness to provide a testimonial might be a red flag that you have deeper issues with your product and/or the way you treat your customers. But you may never know until you ask!
2. Take professional photos of your work
Nothing sells your work like great photos! Inspire people with professional imagery. Reassure interested prospects with images that prove you’re right for the job. From brochures to websites to trailer graphics, door hangers and more, almost every piece of marketing collateral that you will eventually create to promote your business will include images of your work. The better these images are, the more compelling those things will be. We have seen far too many promotions fail because of poor photo assets.
Whether you only ever show your images on your iPad or you’re creating a more comprehensive marketing program, you will need great photos! Invest every year in capturing your work in its best light, especially the kind of projects that you want to be doing more of.
Oh and by the way, your neighbour’s cousin’s daughter doesn’t take great photos. Spend the money. Hire a pro. This is the only tip of the three that will cost you some money, but it’s money well spent.
3. Track your leads and conversions
A lead is simply any incoming inquiry about your business. Leads can come in the form of a phone call, email, Facebook message, conversation at a weekend BBQ, etc. Not every lead will turn into a sale so you’ll want to measure two things: 1. The number of leads you get in total, and 2. The number of leads which turn into sales (conversions). These two basic numbers will be extremely important in assessing your overall performance and in developing meaningful objectives for marketing. Remember that marketing is all the combined effort and activity designed to generate calls or “clicks.” You want to know how many calls and clicks you’re generating to know if (and where) you’re being effective. You can then make more informed decisions about the marketing that will best reach your business goals.
There’s so much more to learn and do but don’t let that stop you from getting started. Don’t waste time in indecision or wishful thinking. Implement these three ideas, make them a habit and you’ll begin to see the positive impact they have. They’ll help drive demand for what makes you unique, move you out of the feast-or-famine cycle of your sales and the constant battles on pricing and will equip you with the information you need to make smart, informed decisions about your marketing dollars.
If you’re looking to improve your marketing, build your brand and grow your business, these three first steps will be critical to your success.
Decide. Then do it.
PS. If you’re already getting great referrals, have a stellar portfolio and know your marketing numbers, let’s take it up a notch. See how we've helped some of our clients get noticed, get heard and drive demand for their business.
Written by Jason Bouwman, RGD
May 18, 2016