Summary: small businesses rarely adopt strategic marketing practices, mainly due to 3 reasons: 1. lack of expertise; 2. high cost of professional services; and 3. uncertainty of outcomes. Conclusion: removing these obstacles will help small business succeed.
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Recently, I stumbled onto an excellent article by Greg Head, CMO of InFusionSoft, an internet platform for small business marketing management: 5 Keys to a Great Small Business Marketing Strategy. In his article, the author argued elegantly that small businesses must have clearly articulated marketing strategies in order to be successful. Although I totally agree to the author’s point of views, I also found intriguing why small business owners have been going (almost) the opposite direction – few of them are thinking/planning strategically about their marketing. When discussing marketing strategies, most owners seem to focus more on tactical issues such as website designs, Facebook/Instagram pages and search engine optimization.
There must be obstacles between the reality of small business world and the proven benefits, time-tested business doctrine & well-accepted professional advice. Here are my top three:
- Lack of expertise to craft and execute marketing strategies – I conducted a non-scientific survey in central New Jersey in early 2015, and found about 5% of business owners, mostly young and college-educated, are willing and capable of crafting their strategies and pursuing related activities to put strategies in action.
To majority of business owners, such a lack of expertise goes beyond inability of crafting their own strategies. One home remodeler explained that his social network did not have many people who are qualified to do the job, making it difficult to identify/retain a competent consultant for the job. After he was introduced to a business consultant, he frequently found difficulties of communicating with the her. Eventually, he gave up the project due to difficulty of providing accurate customer purchase history as requested by the consultant.
- High cost of professional consulting services — Strategic planning is not cheap. Various estimates put the costs between a few thousand dollars to tens of thousand dollars, depending on the scope of work and business requirements. In addition, most of costs are upfront, i.e. substantial investments by business owners. Business consultants rarely sign retainers which are results-based, such as revenue sharing.
On top of financial investment, businesses must also make substantial time-commitment to the project, from setting goals and requirements of the project; identifying and retaining suitable professionals; retrieving & sanitizing operational data to consultants; to understanding and signing off the final deliverables of the project.
- Uncertainty of outcomes – For those who are willing to invest, satisfying outcomes are still not guaranteed. There is no warranties, no guaranteed ROI, and retainers are rarely result-based. Sometimes, it is even difficult to delineate responsibilities when results are not optimal.
“How do I know this will work?” is often the question in owners mind when they have everything from their retained strategy planners. This uncertainty, lays on top of the upfront investment the business has to make for the strategy work, can easily outweigh any, however significant, perceived benefits from strategic planning.
Removing These Obstacles Will Help Small Businesses Succeed
In one of my earlier postings, I discussed Packaged Marketing Solutions which are designed to address each of these three obstacles. To summarize, this is how Liquibil Packaged Marketing Solutions address these obstacles:
- Lack of expertise: everything needed to implement the marketing strategy is included, e.g. in a lot cases, solutions even include lists of potential customers in the buyers’ service territories: the only thing the buyers need to do is to “turn the key to start”;
- High cost: Liquibil’s business is to replicate marketing solutions to as large geographical areas as possible. This business model will drive down the solution costs significantly;
- Uncertainties: Liquibil only package and market marketing solutions which were deployed successfully in the past for the same industry. This brings testimonial for the solutions’ effectiveness; In addition, buyers can start with a small geographical area, e.g. one zip code, in order to see the outcome before making further investments;
Please check this out to see if you agree.
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