How many steps to marketing success?

Every marketing consultant worth their salt has, at one time or another, published a “X Steps to Marketing Glory” style post. SME Needs certainly has, with our first one being “Effective Referral Generation – a few simple steps” and the most recent being “How to maximise the ROI from exhibiting at a trade show”.

What we’ve never done is an over-arching “X Steps to Marketing Success” guide. Many others have and it led us to wonder just how many steps it really took to generate marketing success – so we checked.

It’s at least three!

graph showing the number of steps to marketing success

The graph above is the number of steps recommended by the first 100 search results for the term “Steps to marketing success”.

It seems that there marketing industry says there are, on average 7.093 steps needed to deliver marketing success. Seven is the median (middle) number and 5 the mode (most popular).

The good news is that nobody thought it was really, really simple.  Nobody suggested that there is only one, or even two steps needed. However, 8 articles suggested it is as simple as 1,2,3.

Why So Few?

With the average being 7.093 steps, it got me thinking: Why is the number so few? Surely that suggests that getting your marketing right is simple, you’re unlikely to need a marketing consultant to help.

My theory is this:

A few steps makes it sound cheaper!

Let me explain my theory.

Most small business owners and directors know where their skills lie. They also know just how much money there is in the business and what they are prepared to invest. If they see an article that suggests 7.093 steps to get the marketing success they want, they will read it. They will recognise that there are a number of steps they cannot do and so will consider investing some money into getting those steps done.

If they saw an article titled “87 Steps to Marketing Success”, would they still feel the same? I doubt it.

Where do we sit on this?

As mentioned earlier, we’ve never done a “X steps to Marketing Success” blog, so there won’t be a number at the end of this sentence. What we see is that the number will be different for everyone – and it will be many more than 7.093. This is particularly true for small businesses that have done little or new active and consistent marketing for some time.

However, the results of a multi-stage marketing programme that has been thought out carefully and is delivered consistently will be impressive. It will take time, but it will deliver.

12 Time Saving Tips and Apps for Business Leaders

time saving tipsTime Saving Tips designed to give you back the time you need

There are so many hats to be worn when running a small business. To enable you to deliver under each of these hats, you need to maximise use of your time. Ensuring you don’t waste time is one thing. Using technology and techniques to save more is another.

These are 12 time saving tips we’ve picked up over the last few years to help you out…

1. Control your email

Email can eat your day. We all get huge numbers of emails. If you react every time your Inbox beeps, it distracts you, consumes a couple of minutes to read and react to. You then have to get back into whatever you were doing before. It only takes 120 emails, at 5 minutes each, to eat up your whole day.

  • Learn to batch read, keeping Outlook closed except for 3-4 sessions a day.
  • Delete everything that you really don’t need. That “might be interesting” stuff can consume lots of time. If you must keep it, stick it in a folder for reading when you really have some spare time.
  • Unsubscribe as soon as you find emails either annoying or not useful. It will keep the email volumes down.
  • You don’t need to Reply All every time. Simply respond when you need to – and encourage others to do the same.

Of all our time saving tips, it is between this one and No.3 as to which can consume more of your time.

2. Delegate when you can

Creating time to do everything, including growing your business means getting rid of the stuff you don’t need to do. This will, of course, vary dependent upon where you are in your business life.

  • Outsource when you can, using book-keepers, virtual assistants and marketing agencies to get rid of the stuff you don’t like doing or when they can do it more effectively than you can.
  • Recruit staff into those roles when the outsourcing costs will regularly be higher than the costs of a member of staff.

3. Limit your time on social media

LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram can be even greater consumers of your time than email. Checking your feeds, just in case something interesting has come in, will chew through time.

  • You don’t need to spend any more than 10 minutes per day per channel to react to others in your network and post your daily updates.
  • Schedule time to find others you want to connect with once a week. You don’t need to do much more than that.
  • If you want to post throughout the day, use something like Hootsuite to bulk schedule, rather than going into that platform multiple times a day.
  • It’s better to do 1-2 social media channels well, than 4-6 poorly. It also consumes far less time

4. Close your door

The office door delivers a message quickly. It tells others you don’t want to be disturbed. It gives you time to concentrate on what you need to do.

  • Develop a system that ensures people know when they can, and really cannot, knock. Perhaps your door is pushed to, but not closed means they can knock. Maybe a Do Not Disturb sign.
  • Disappear to somewhere else. If they cannot find you, they cannot disturb you.
  • If you work in an open plan space, your headphones are the next best thing. Tell your team, and others around you, that you don’t want to be disturbed if you have your headphones on.

5. Do the stuff you don’t like first

Nobody likes paying the VAT bill or dealing with a disciplinary issue, so get them out of the way first. Worrying, whilst trying to do something else, makes you less efficient and wastes time.

6. Take time to plan

Working on the business on a regular basis, rather than in the business all the time, makes you more efficient. If you’re in the business, you will be reacting to things as they happen. This may, or may not, be in the right order, meaning time is wasted.

  • Write down what you plan. Writing them down helps you remember them and make sure they get done.
  • Use online tools, with built-in reminders and scheduling tools to help you. Basecamp and Zoho Projects are just two of your options.

7. Set yourself deadlines

I’ll do it tomorrow is a great way to never get something done. Refer to point 5.

8. Automate invoice chasing

Making just one or two calls to chase each invoice can eat your time, especially when the invoice is really late and they don’t want to talk to you.

  • Use online tools such as Avrium to chase invoices automatically. Most people pay late because they’ve forgotten. A gentle reminder works wonders.
  • Knowing who hasn’t paid can stop you doing work that you may not get paid for. Your time is precious enough when you are getting paid. It’s a double waste if you then don’t get paid for it. Assuming your clients really need your service/product, they will quickly pay up when you stop delivering.

9. Keep your network up to date

Saving time is the theme throughout here, so why not make use of the tools that can keep everyone in your network up to date – all at the same time? We’re not suggesting you don’t take time to talk to your connections on a one-to-one basis, but you don’t have to do it all of the time.

  • Mailchimp is a great email marketing tool, with more features being added all the time, to help you communicate and educate effectively.
  • LinkedIn is, of course, the master at this. Just remember what we said in 3.

10. Instant Messaging

You also need to keep in touch with people you are working with, both within your team and with external suppliers and clients.  The number of tools available to do this continues to grow. We’ve already mentioned Basecamp, so here are three others to consider:

  • Slack is a good instant messaging tool, but it takes a little getting used to. We’ve struggled with finding things once they slide down the timeline a bit.
  • Microsoft Teams allows you to communicate both internally and externally in a number of ways. It is something we are seriously looking at within SME Needs.

11. Schedule time for yourself

As they say, all work and no play makes {insert name} a dull boy. It also keeps your stress levels constantly high; something that is never good.  Take time to relax and do what you enjoy doing – away from work. Whether that is golf(!), yoga or simply spending time with the family, downtime is a great way of ensuring you don’t burn out.

12. Public transport is your friend

I know some of you are looking at your screen, thinking we’ve gone mad. Seriously, we think public transport can be a good thing.  You cannot really get your laptop out when on the bus or the train, but you can use your phone.

  • Take time to call your network and catch up. Find out what they’re doing and let them know what you are doing. The more you know about each other, the more you can make introductions that can lead to new business.
  • Do the social media posts you want to do.
  • Check out the “potentially interesting” emails we referred to early on in this article.

If public transport really isn’t your thing, or you spend hours in the car, use that time to make the calls. Please make sure you’re using your hands-free and certainly don’t try to catch up with your social media in the car.

So here are 12 time-saving tips to help you make the most of the time you have available. Of all 12 time saving tips, perhaps the most important is No.11.  We all want to grow our businesses and that usually translates into we work every hour available. The problem is that is rarely healthy and taking time out allows us to reset and go again.

I hope this helps.

What your small business gets from a Virtual Marketing Director

11 reasons to use a Virtual Marketing Director

If you are looking to improve your marketing performance, you have a number of options. One you may not have considered is a Virtual Marketing Director. Not an interim, who is with you for a few months before moving on again. Not a full-time marketing manager, who may be an expense that doesn’t make sense at this time.  Here are 11 reasons to use a Virtual Marketing Director…

1. Only pay for what you need

You need to be marketing your business from Day 1 but that doesn’t mean you need a Marketing Manager from Day 1. Until your marketing is complex enough to need a full-time Marketing Manager, hiring a Virtual Marketing Director makes perfect sense. Why spend at least £40k a year on a full-time employee you don’t need?

A Virtual Marketing Director can be used from as little as one day a month, up to (realistically) 4-6 days per month. If you need much more than that, it is time to consider recruiting your own Marketing Manager.

2. Years of experience available for your business

A Virtual Marketing Director will come to you with many years’ experience, usually working within and for companies very similar to yours. They know their stuff.

That experience is always increasing. As you are only using them for part of the time, they are working with other companies. Marketing activities that are tried and tested within their other clients can then be brought into your marketing mix with great success. Of course, they will do the same in the other direction – it’s only fair!

3. Helps you focus on who you want to sell to

You cannot sell to everyone, so there’s is no point trying. By focusing on the people who are most likely to buy your product or services, your marketing budget will be used far more effectively.

4. Helps you develop the right marketing messages to attract prospects

Too many businesses think about their marketing from their side. Your Virtual Marketing Director will help you think about things from your client’s side.

It’s no longer the case that you can expect your target audience to work out how your products/services can help them. You have to help them understand. Show your target audience you understand them and you really can help them with their wants/needs/issues. When you do this, your target audience are far more likely to consider you are a new provider.

5. Works with you to develop your Marketing Strategy

The marketing you’ve been doing has been at least somewhat successful. It’s got to have been for you to grow your business to what it is now. To take your business forward, you need to review your marketing strategy to keep that growth happening. Your Virtual Marketing Director will help to identify the right marketing channels, the right providers and the right consistency to deliver on your business goals.

6. Has a network of specialists to provide marketing support for your business

You may know a number of marketing specialists and use a number of them.  Where there are gaps, it’s virtually guaranteed that your Virtual Marketing Director will know people and companies to fill the gaps. They will have used them in the past, so know exactly what they can deliver for you.

It also saves you a lot of time sourcing new suppliers.

7. They know the language

Every industry has its own language; marketing is no different. If you don’t know the language, it is easy to get befuddled. Your Virtual Marketing Director knows the language and will help you keep suppliers on track and honest.

8. Keeps a consistent level of marketing happening because you don’t have time

Back in the early days of your business, you did your own marketing. You had the time back then. As your business grows, the amount of time you have available becomes less and less. However, your marketing needs more and more time. Your Virtual Marketing Director will ensure that your marketing campaigns go out on time. Without a consistent marketing flow, your target audience can quickly forget about you.

9. Will keep measuring performance so that you maximise the ROI from your marketing budget

You want to maximise the ROI from your marketing budget. Your Virtual Marketing Director will keep an eye on what is going on, reporting to you and the board regularly.

It is, after all, in their own interest. They want to prove that the marketing strategy they helped you develop is the right one. The numbers will show whether this is the case.

10. Will help you find junior marketing support at the right time

As your business grows, there will come a time when it makes sense to employ a junior marketing executive to “do the doing”. When there is sufficient need, perhaps to manage your social media, to produce and publish blogs or develop marketing collateral, it makes sense to employ someone rather than keep outsourcing.

Finding someone with the right skill set isn’t easy. In the same way your Virtual Marketing Director will help you manage suppliers, they will help you to find, and then manage, a junior marketing executive.

11. Will help you recruit a Marketing Manager when your marketing requirements need it

The ultimate job for your Virtual Marketing Director is to help you grow to the point where your marketing is sufficiently complex and of enough volume, that you need to employ a Marketing Manager. Whilst they may be sad that the relationship with your business is ending, they will be tremendously proud that they’ve helped you grow to the point where they need to move on.

An independent voice

One additional benefit of a using someone from outside of the business is their independence. They don’t have a vested interest in the business (except that they want to do a great job for you), so can speak their mind. Having that independent voice within the business can be refreshing and can provide you with someone to talk to who won’t be thinking “what do you want me to say?”.

For a small business that is committed to growing, making use of a Virtual Marketing Director is a no-brainer. You get the experience and support you want, but only in the quantities you need. Make use of them until you need a full-time Marketing Manager. If these reasons to use a Virtual Marketing Director get you thinking one could be useful, let’s have a chat.