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What an MD really needs to know about marketing

When you run a small business you’re expected to know, and make great decisions, about everything, from finance and HR to IT, sales and marketing.That’s a lot of pressure. So, when it comes to marketing, what is it wise for you to get to grips with, and what are you better off giving to someone else? 

In many ways the answer to this question is contained within it. You need to know when you don’t know, and have enough grasp of the fundamentals to have an effective relationship with the person or people you hand it on to.

Without exception, businesses I work with where the MD takes the time to understand the following six things outperform those that don’t:

1. Understand how people really buy things

Effective marketing is about taking someone on a journey from hearing about you to buying from you. And from there, to buying more and telling the world about you. As the MD, taking the time to understand how your buyers do this will always be a good investment. 

Look at the buying decision from their perspective. Ask what they want and need to know, how much time they devote to finding out, and whom they ask along the way. If you’re able to picture this, you’re much better equipped to assess whether the marketing tools and techniques on your plan will help these people make the decision to buy from you. 

2. Forget the image of a sales funnel

The sales funnel image is meant to show the decreasing number of people at each stage in the buying decision. This makes it funnel shaped. It does not actually behave like a funnel – pouring more into the top is rarely the best approach for your business. 

It can be helpful to replace this picture of the buying decision as made up of a bucket (your products, services and how they are delivered), your funnels (those things that support turning interest into sales), and taps (things that grab people’s attention and get them interested in what you do). When you have this picture in mind, you have a much better handle on what a marketing operation really looks like… yes, it’s a bit messy. And, it leaks!

3. Start at the bottom and work up

With this new mental image, you can quickly see why it makes more sense to start at the bottom and work up. This is because each element builds on the last. So many businesses, particularly start-ups, find themselves running expensive marketing taps into a leaky bucket. You don’t have money to waste. So, don’t.

4. Map tools and techniques to each stage of the buying decision

If you can then think about each marketing tool or technique in broad terms as related to each stage you’ll be able to quickly assess whether you need it, and what function it serves. So, when that ad or SEO sales guy calls you with an unbeatable deal on awareness-driving activity, you can ask yourself if you need another tap, and if there are funnels and a bucket for each tap you switch on.

5. Visualise cause and effect of marketing to sales, and the timeframe to results

With all this in mind, the next piece of mental gymnastics is to flip the image horizontally… over time. Over what time frame does the buyer move from hearing about you to becoming a loyal customer. This becomes the shortest possible timeframe in which to see profitable payback on marketing investment, and if you’re measuring things sooner you might end up stopping an activity that would have paid off in the long term.

6. Knowing when you don’t know, and when expert skills are needed

With these fundamentals firmly in mind, you can map your market and your business against it in broad terms. You’ll be much be much better placed to get the experts you need with knowledge to put an end-to-end marketing operation in place for your business. But, you’ll have enough knowledge to follow and be an integral part of what they are doing.

Ill-advised marketing is probably one of the easiest areas to burn money, quickly. So, taking some time to get this broad understanding of how marketing supports long-term sales results nailed, means that you will be much better placed to make sound decisions for your business. It’s a one-off investment in knowledge that will payback forever.

About the author 

Bryony Thomas is the creator of the Watertight Marketing methodology and consultant network. She runs marketing mentoring programmes for small business MDs to get the clarity and structure they need to take control on their business growth. She is also a popular business speaker. 

Download a free sample chapter of Bryony’s best-selling book Watertight Marketing

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