Every small business owner knows that the key to continued success is their ability to change and adapt to the needs of their market. Business failures can serve as great learning opportunities, and past victories can set the stage for new ones. But sometimes, you get stuck in a rut. You push and pull, but nothing moves. When this happens, many business owners instinctively keep doing what they’ve done in the past, in hopes that what used to work will continue to work. However, this practice can often lead to a plateau—or worse—a decline in revenue. Here are some tips for what to do when your company gets stuck in a rut:
Don’t be afraid of change. It’s easy for business owners to become complacent. After all, the familiar can be comfortable – even if it’s largely ineffective. For example, suppose your business sends an email to prospective clients every month. You’ve been doing it for years despite a relatively low return on your investment, but you keep on with it because the email is quick to update and inexpensive to deploy. But have you thought of trying something new? After all, there are many ways to communicate with your prospective customer base. Regardless of your situation, don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing if the results aren’t there. Try testing a variety of prospecting methods and track your results. Your bottom line will thank you for the extra effort.
Have a marketing plan (and stick to it). One of the single most important things a business can have is a well-defined marketing plan. Yet surprisingly enough, many companies either do not have a plan, have an ineffective one, or just plain ignore the one they’ve spent time, effort, and money creating. Think of a marketing plan as a road map for your business: it identifies where you want to go, how you want to get there, what you expect to find when you arrive, and what to do if you get lost. Without a map, even an intrepid explorer can quickly find themselves stranded with no hope of return. Don’t let that happen to you. Take the time to outline your goals for your business, the marketing efforts you’d like to undertake, and a timeline for completion – and stick to it. Evaluate your “map” frequently. If some tactics are no longer relevant, replace them with new ones that address the needs of the market.
Track your progress. Every marketing dollar you spend (and internal staff hours count, too) needs to result in a greater amount of business for your company. After all, the point of marketing is to increase sales – not to drive your business further into the hole. Suppose you place a weekly ad in the paper. If you never bother to determine how many new customers result from it, how do you even know it’s working? Maybe it isn’t. Too often, businesses spend large sums on advertising, promotional materials, and email campaigns—and don’t even know if they’re getting a return on their investment. Also, don’t do something just because your competitor is doing it – they may not have a clue why they’re doing it in the first place! Pay close attention to your analytics, and if a marketing campaign isn’t producing results, pull the plug and try something new.
The bottom line? Your bottom line. At the end of the day, ROI is at the center of every business activity. Your company can have an excellent brand image, a quality product, and satisfied customers, but if you aren’t making enough money to sustain (and grow) your operation, your business will eventually fail. Pay close attention to your marketing efforts, and never lose sight of where the money is coming from (and going).
Think of your marketing plan as a sapling: If the branches aren’t growing in the direction you want them to, try to shape and guide them while they are still young and supple. If they refuse to cooperate, cut them off. There’s no sense wasting time and money on a marketing activity that isn’t producing a return.
If you need assistance with your marketing strategy, give as a call! We have developed strategic marketing plans for organizations in Maine, New England, and abroad. Our first consultation is free of charge, and we would be honored to work with you.