As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, I thought it would be useful to share this blog post from 2017 that more important today than ever…
I’m fairly sure I work hard to develop and safeguard my business, my children tell me this regularly – my wife has given up telling me. But this blog isn’t about how I work because I really don’t see it as ‘work’ as I get paid to do something I really enjoy, helping other business owners to see their businesses in a different way (cliché I know, but true). What I wanted to do in this blog was to show how others can benefit the same way. You see it’s not just about having a different mindset as that’s a rather simplistic view of a complex situation. So, I thought I’d focus on those directors who work even harder than me, tending to the daily demands of the business, but who find it almost impossible to see beyond the here and now. This position is usually reflected in the calls I get asking how I can help. It’s usually a call from a Director who has identified that things appear to have ‘recently’ gone wrong. Calls that include comments such as, “the business has just lost its biggest customer”, “our top salesman has left and has taken all our contacts”, “we can’t afford to replace our ageing machinery”, “only a few of our staff seem to have any focus”…the list is broad but I’m sure you get the idea?
Amongst the ‘quotes’ above, most people would easily identify half the comments as being related to marketing but the latter two less so. Yet all are comments that can and should be affected and alleviated by marketing, and at my level they are. Take the third of these three points. If your machinery is old and you can’t afford to replace it, you may still produce a good product, but if you’re having to re-make 1 in every 10 orders and it continually requires more downtime for maintenance, then these often ‘hidden costs’ can’t be ignored. Yet the root of problem is usually caused by one of two issues; the company’s costs are too high and escalating out of control, or it has focused on winning work on price alone.
In an environment where wages, energy and raw materials continue to escalate, and your customer’s desire is for ‘cheap as chips’ products, you simply can’t sustain this as you’re being squeezed from both sides. It’s like having children, as they get older they desire the latest fashion items, sports equipment, tech gadgets etc. and you stand at home handing out the cash. In a business sense your issues could be down to soft skills such as training, leadership and motivation or it could also be that it’s time to review who your customers actually are, and who they should be. There are many things we can do and do in fact do to transform people’s understanding of what’s going on around them, issues we can see as outsiders but that aren’t so obvious when you become overly familiar with them or challenged to break the problems down.
Marketing on a shoestring shouldn’t be what many have allowed it to become – a magic act! Sprinkle a little bit of marketing stardust over this and that and everything will be alright just because you’ve spent budget. There’s no such thing as a marketing magician.
Real marketing is about developing a far wider appreciation of the entire position you find yourself in and analysing every aspect of it. You may find it quite straight-forward to list many (if not all) of the problem areas, but much harder to apply a new set of objectives in the right sequence. If that’s the situation you’re in, then here’s a few suggestions.
- Start with the end in sight so you can prepare the journey to undertake and review this monthly. Do it religiously. This will help provide the vision that you need and remember to communicate it to your staff. Togetherness is paramount.
- Formalise a process to introduce regular team meetings. Start by seeking opinions and listen carefully to what’s being put forward and by who. You’ll be in for some surprises I’m sure.
- Set time aside to look at each of these suggestions. Consider ways to segment or combine ideas and apply what you’ve learnt to the markets that you work with or hope to work with. Document the whole process and share the appropriate level of results without scaring the teams you hope to build (remember point 1 above).
- Undertake some secondary research and add to this with some primary research that you can afford to do directly with your markets. This alone will show your progressive nature and will help to build a positive attitude about you amongst the recipients.
- Consider your products, services and the prices you charge. This is a little more complex and will require a reasonable amount of time, depending on what you offer but it’s essential in order to be confident about your offer. Don’t be afraid to walk away from business that falls short of your expectations and business needs. You have to be brave, but such decisions can help to reinforce your confidence and that of your team during challenging times.
You’ll still need to consider accurate forecasting, the monitoring and reaction to new trends, your product mix and the redevelopment of new products and services against emerging new markets or market splinters and the strategies you need to adopt, but there are scores of businesses who due to their day-to-day pressure fail to formally plan their direction and in so doing fail to motivate their staff.
If you would like to speak to me about any of the issues raised in this post, please email me, Nigel Davis.
Nigel Davis was voted ‘One of Britain’s Top 50 Small Business Consultants’, is an MCIM Chartered Marketer and an ambassador for a Private Equity and exit business.