Marketing is to your small business what exercise is to your body. It helps keep it healthy, energised and growing in strength.
In the same way certain people can’t find the time or inclination to exercise and then wonder why their fitness, body shape and health aren’t the best, many small business owners treat marketing as something to do occasionally – if at all.
But just like exercising your body, marketing is the key to long-term business health and resilience. Here are my five top tips for adopting an exercise-based approach to your marketing.
1. Push through the pain
If it’s been a while since you’ve exercised, the very idea of it may freak you out, conjuring up visions of pain and exhaustion. Equally scary is the thought that you might humiliate yourself in front of all those super-fit people at the gym.
The only way to move through this stage of being a beginner marketer is to act like you’re beginning a new exercise habit: take things slow and steady, and don’t attempt to bite off more than you can chew.
Over time, you’ll feel more and more competent and less and less worried that you’re going to fall off the treadmill and land flat on your face.
Eventually you’ll find the whole process relatively easy, and although it might be hard to believe right now, at some point you may even come to find marketing your business fun.
In the words of a nameless but oft-quoted sports marketer, ‘Just do it’.
2. Consistency and commitment are key
You know that going for a single run won’t make you fit, and that suddenly doing 100 push-ups won’t give you a six-pack. So don’t kid yourself that occasional bursts of marketing will have a lasting effect on your business either.
In fact, sudden binges of marketing are kind of like going hell for leather on your bike after a long break: you may feel so excited and virtuous while it’s happening that you push yourself to go hard, only to realise afterwards that you’ve overextended yourself, and can barely cope with basic functions like walking.
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It’s during these intense bursts of extreme marketing activity that you’re most likely to come a cropper, for example by overspending your budget or neglecting other fundamental business activities, like servicing your clients.
In the same way that exercise should be an ongoing component of a balanced lifestyle, marketing your business should be something you do regularly and at a pace that’s easily sustainable for you – albeit with the objective of continually challenging yourself to get better and better at it.
It’s vital to remember that the outcomes you’re looking for here will be achieved over the long term, and that no matter what the ads on the internet tell you, effective short cuts to both rock hard abs and business success are scarce as hen’s teeth.
3. More momentum = more opportunities
When you’re fighting fit the world is your oyster. You can accept every invitation and adventure that comes your way, whether it’s a six-kilometre fun run or a six-week trek through the Himalayas.
On the other hand, when you’re in poor shape, your opportunities are restricted by your capacity to participate, and you’re more likely to find yourself doing things that are low key and low risk, and that consequently have a low pay off.
Getting into an active marketing habit has a similar effect on your business: it builds your agility, resilience and capacity to respond to what’s going on around you, and positions you to make the most of some exciting opportunities.
Importantly, compared to the more passive approach of waiting for customers to come to you,effective marketing puts you in the driver’s seat of your business and allows you to shape it into one of your own choosing.
4. Designing your exercise marketing plan
Just like a training routine, the best marketing starts with a strong plan that takes your starting position and your objectives into account, and uses both to identify the best way to use your energy.
On the other hand, if you throw yourself into things without a plan, you may end upfloundering aimlessly with little result, or even discover down the track that you’ve been moving in the wrong direction.
Do you think of running your small business as an endurance event or an extreme sport? For many soloists, the right approach lies somewhere in the middle. You want the stamina to stick with it for the long haul, but you also need to be fit enough to sprint your heart out when the occasion demands.
You can’t use the same training regime to prepare for both a marathon and the 100-metre dash because they require different physical strengths. Your training needs to take that into account, building in the right types and quantity of activity to meet your goals.
You need to be equally strategic about planning your marketing activity to make sure that it gets you to where you want to be. For some small business owners that will mean focussing all marketing on a particular activity and totally nailing it. Otherswill be better off engaging in a broad base of activities that allow them to connect with their target market via different media and with a variety of messages.
5. Expert guidance changes everything
Almost all professional athletes recognise the value in having a coach to help them stay focused and push themselves to do better. If you’ve ever invested in personal training to help you stick to or ramp up your exercise routine, you’ll understand why they consider coaching such a valuable tool – it helps professional and amateur athletes alike to gain strength, fitness and courage, and you’ll often see your results soar.
Getting expert advice on your marketing can have a similar impact on your business, helping you to be more strategic, effective and confident in your decisions.
When it comes to marketing your business, are you an athlete or a couch potato? Share your thoughts in the comments.