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Small Business Strategy Pitfalls and Solutions

Justin Interviewing Adam: Nerd Juice All the Way!

Welcome to today’s review of our weekly strategy session! Over the years, we’ve talked to a lot of small business owners about growing their business using marketing strategy. There has been a lot of confusion about what it is and why we do it, so today we’re going to keep it simple and break it down to the three main ways to approach your digital strategy by answering some key questions.

For all the military examples, listen to Adam and Justin on our recorded live stream!

Why should a small business owner do a marketing strategy?  Why is having a strategy even important?

So, first thing, a lot of businesses when they start out will just do periodic marketing to bring in new leads and customers.  But when their business grows, they stop and deal with their new customers and then start again when they feel they want to grow some more. That sort of “newbie” method is very inefficient.

The second thing is, it must be measurable.  Rather than being so swamped you feel you need to hire someone,  and then the business dying and the stress that inevitably comes from that, using a consistent strategy will allow for a steady stream of income.  That predictability will give you the means to make good business decisions for where your business actually is and where it’s headed. 

And, finally, it will  keep you aligned better with your future goals. Business owners are intelligent and have a lot of ideas, so often they have a new objective and idea every day.  Using a consistent strategy all year long will keep you on course with consistent growth and trajectory that will help you gauge your business accurately over time.

What are common errors you hear and see when people want to do strategy but have no guidance? 

The first problem I see is people not knowing what a strategy is.  They think a goal is a strategy or confuse tactics with strategy.  Each of those is very different things.  Related, but different. 

Tactics and strategy are analogous (or comparable) terms to military.  So, tactics are micro-moments that guide your actions and strategy is the over-arching objective.

Goal = a desired result

“Our goal is to reach $2,000,000 in sales this year.”

Tactic = action carefully planned to achieve a specific end

“I’m going to implement a Facebook tactic to create some lead generating ads.”

Strategy = a plan of action designed to achieve a major or overall aim

“Our strategy for the year will be investing in commercials for Facebook and Twitter that showcase our company in a way that our customers feel an affinity towards our products.”

With these frequent errors and misunderstanding these definitions, business owners get confused and, as a result, have less efficiency and poor marketing performance and frustration.

Do you find people make things more complex than it needs to be?

Marketing strategy should have a level of complexity, but some people overthink their strategies and some people don’t go complex enough.  But someone is too perfectionist, they never get around to implementing any of their plans.

When you design a strategy, what importance is there in taking role call in who I have to implement this strategy?  Some people are employee-light, so it’s only up to our families and friends on how our plans are executed.

A big part of strategy is taking stock of your resources and allocating them wisely.   Just like military strategy, you’re not going to win the war if you don’t know what you have and what your opponent has.  Marketing is very similar.  You won’t have an effective marketing strategy if you don’t know how much time you have to devote to it, how much money you’re willing to invest, as well as your resources in terms of vendors and skills involved in making the strategy work. So, before you begin, you need to know your objectives, but also know what resources you have available.

Practical Side of Strategy

We’ve got people in all stages of their business:  They’re brand new or they’ve been around a year but their not seeing the movement they want to see in terms of growth. What role does tactics play in marketing and also short-term and long-term strategy?You’re never going to meet a goal you don’t set

You’re never going to meet a goal you don’t set.

wise person from Justin’s past

Usually, before a business forms, the owners will create a business strategy, but won’t have a marketing strategy in place. So, with no strategy, you need to, at the very least, get out on social media and create a direct outreach campaign so you are reaching out to potential partners or people that will refer you until you get a cohesive marketing plan in place.  Doing nothing is the worst thing you can do, so at least get started with a little something and implement some tactics to get you started.  Having a couple of tactics at play will at least get some momentum to get started.

A cohesive marketing strategy would determine what you do with ads and leads as they come in, what you do with your organic budget, and your content.  Our blog post referring to Facebook ads will help you determine more tactics for your business.

How does a campaign fit into tactics vs. “cohesive strategy”?

In the military, you have an overall strategy with how you’re going to win the war, but you have various campaigns that address specific areas.  Marketing is similar.  If you don’t have the ability or time to do a cohesive marketing strategy, rather than throwing random tactics out there like a dartboard, you can formulate a strategic marketing campaign.  

For instance, you’ll develop a specific plan of going after a specific group of people (a narrower audience based on your industry).  You would start by crafting an advertising plan.  You would need to spend money to get their attention, plan out some written content, and film a series of videos addressing issues they’re dealing with.  Meanwhile, you could make some landing pages you know will speak to their needs with some lead magnets that will entice and win them over and end it all with a strong follow-up strategy.  

Those are the core elements of an effective campaign:

  1. Key objective
  2. How you’ll measure that objective
  3. Hit each section of the funnel
  4. Bringing people in
  5. How you’ll convert them

Now, while this isn’t an overarching strategy for the entire year, it is still a very effective campaign you could run that would bring in leads.

What tools do you see businesses using for following up with campaign leads?

Depending on your resources, you may choose to personally write an email to the people that have come across your campaign or you can build something on WordPress.  They come with something in their kit (just like our Launch Kit) and if you have the technical ability to build it, you can use something like Gravity Forms.

If you’re short on time and have the money, you could invest in a CRM like Hubspot or Salesforce. MailChimp even has some functionality where you pay a little bit of money every month for a CRM with an automation system and pre-write your emails to send out at specific times. And lasts, but definitely not least, If you have lots of people to help you, direct outreach is a great move because it’s a more personal kind of contact.  When you’re just starting out, it is common to start with the personal outreach and as the business grows, you invest in a CRM to keep track of your leads and help you manage that side of the business (to learn more about CRMs, read our blog post).

How do we figure out a long-term cohesive strategy for a brand?  Is it solely related to leads or revenue?

Everything should speak to revenue, not just leads but it really depends on the kind of business you have.  In some businesses, your marketing strategy only brings you to the point of a lead and then you have some kind of sales mechanism to close the leads.  As far as crafting an overarching strategy, the healthiest businesses have a comprehensive marketing strategy in place.  You have to have really key objectives (it might be leads or revenue): you know how many people you need to get your business in front of, what those people need to do once they engage with your brand, and you know how many of those people actually become a qualified lead or become a customer. 

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

wise words quoted by adam

You need to have those three objectives set:

  1. Know how many people do you need to reach
  2. The mechanism to measure them (a CRM) 
  3. Series of campaigns designed to reach specific groups (with Facebook ads or content marketing and lead magnets)

It should feel like a TV show that grabs your attention the most.  It’s telling a story over ten episodes, not scatter-shooting by having ten different plots to try and reach as many audiences as possible. For your strategy over the course of the year, you need to determine how much money you’re going to spend, this is how I’m going to spend my money, these are the campaigns I’m going to run, these are the specific targets I’m going to run after… and your plan all flows together (with the obvious tracking and tweaking, as needed) in order to reach your business goals.

What coffee-break task can our entrepreneurs work on this week that they can use?

Coffee #1: Look at your industry and find your business opportunities in your area by using some tools, like Ahrefs or Answer the Public.  Research out your competition and find out who your competitors are, what are they winning at, what are their weaknesses, knowing where your audience is, where your opportunities are (click here for more tools).

Coffee #2: Take notes and record them on paper/digital notes – Ex: this is my objective, these are the numbers I need to hit, these are the elements I’m going to try, here’s how I’ll evaluate their success.  

And periodically, take another coffee break and revisit your notes and take stock of where you’re at.  See how things are progressing, make sure you’re still in line with your over-arching goals and headed in the right direction, or even whether or not your strategy is still serving you so that you can adjust your plans if they’re taking you off course.

If you want a smart solution for a 12-month strategy for your company, and a simple roadmap and accountability to get there, Bootstrap Local’s $50/mo plan (intro pricing) is a solution WE use at Sparrow!

Our goal at Sparrow isn’t to overwhelm you with all the advice and keep pushing you to work, work, WORK.  We already understand how much you’re doing and we want you to be able to sit back for a minute and get excited about the opportunities you have and think through your big picture. As always, please reach out to us and share your progress.

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