If you have been running your business for a while, from time to time you may get fed up with it. You may find yourself disengaging and even wishing that you were doing something else. Perhaps the answer is to act like a startup.
Do you remember when you first started your business? Scary, wasn’t it? Sheer adrenaline propelled you forward. You put in long hours and kept hammering away until you had a successful enterprise on your hands.
Business and indeed human nature does not work in straight lines. Success comes and goes. Sometimes everything is ‘up’ and sometimes everything is ‘down’. If you find yourself in the doldrums, what would happen if you worked like a startup does, for the month ahead?
For a start, you have to find your passion for your enterprise once again. You would put in longer working hours. You may find yourself wanting to talk to everyone about your business. You would generate new ideas and ways of looking at challenges.
The trouble with having a successful business is that you can stop taking risks. The business owner can find themselves buried in bureaucracy and paperwork. The fun of it all can drain away. Perhaps this is why so many entrepreneurs sell their businesses once they have reached a certain size, only to start all over again.
One idea is to schedule a creative thinking session for your team or hire a business creative thinking speaker in order to help you and your colleagues to think outside of the box.
Setting sales and marketing targets works and this will make a big difference to your results.
I have used them for years and when I work with a client we always go through a target setting process.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” ~ Tony Robbins
A. Financial targets (start here):
1. Turnover for the year ahead
This is an important target. If you don’t have a turnover target to aim for, anything could happen and it probably won’t be good.
2. Turnover per month
Start with your break-even figure, then add a buffer. In general, I have found that people tend to set targets which are too low.
3. Profitability for the year ahead
If you don’t have an objective in mind, profitability could be anything, couldn’t it?
4. Profitability for per month
The idea is to make money every month.
B. Customer targets
The number and type of customers that you will require to achieve the above targets.
If you segment your market, this process will be much easier.
C. Website targets
How many Unique Visitors, page views etc you will need for your website per month and annually.
In addition, set a target for the number of sales enquiries / sales that will come from your website.
If e-commerce is part (or all) of your business, then you will require a more in depth set of website targets.
D. Promotional mix targets
Begin with outputs, for example the number of blogs that you are going to write per month as well as the target word count per blog.
Go through each promotional technique that you use and set targets. There are hundreds of promotional techniques to choose from, by the way.
If you are using a lot of them, then you may need to catalogue the techniques and set output, sales leads and sales targets per technique and also for each marketing mix category (i.e. advertising, events).
Having clear sales and marketing targets will help to keep you focused on the important tasks, not just the urgent ones.
E. Sales targets
Set targets for the number of customer contacts and key objectives such as sales meetings, proposals and closing ratio per month. See: Selling professional services
Get your team involved
If you work with other people, get them involved with target setting and measurement. Unrealistic targets can be demoralising however, it is a good idea to set exciting growth targets which the whole team understands and is committed to.
Have you ever wondered whether your team understands your marketing strategy? By ‘team’ I mean everyone in your enterprise.
Does it matter if they are kept informed? Surely marketing should be left to the professionals?
1. If you do a lot of marketing, your colleagues are going to get asked about it, aren’t they? Can they articulate your key messages and why your enterprise, products and services stand out from the crowd? Who knows who they are talking to and who they are connected with, via social media?
2. Some great ideas come from people who don’t do marketing. If you work within an established company, the list could include engineers, IT people, sales professionals and back office staff who have served the company for many years. If you work alone or in a small enterprise, ask your mentor, a family member or a supplier. Let them know what you are doing and ask for ideas and feedback. Not everyone will participate, but some of the ideas may well surprise you.
3. If you work in a larger enterprise, at least once a quarter provide a marketing update session. Within startups and SMEs this should be at least monthly, as marketing, brand recognition and new sales enquiries need to be top of the agenda.
Keep people up to speed with your marketing campaigns, social media posts, advertisements, direct mail shots, email campaigns and PR coverage. An easy way to do this is within a monthly e-newsletter, in that you can link to relevant pages and posts within your website. Within MailChimp for example, it is easy to include a PDF within a campaign.
When you need your colleagues’ help, i.e for case studies, company videos, ideas for blog posts or some written content, they will be much more likely to help you.
If your team understands what your objectives are, if they can see that you have a structured approach to marketing, if you let them know about media coverage, website visits, email open and click through rates, advertising coverage and the number of sales leads that you are generating, they are more likely to be supportive and on your side, during the ups and downs of the marketing journey.
William Bernbach, one of the three founders of the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), once said: “It may well be that creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors.”
During the 20 years that I have taught creative thinking, there have been fundamental shifts within our civilisation. For example, the rise of low cost distributed computing is perhaps best epitomised by the launch in 2007, by Apple Inc of the iPhone, one of the first smartphones to include a multi-touch interface. Apple is a hot bed of creative thinking and in May 2017 became the first US company to hit US$800 billion in value.
Globalisation, intense competition and the disruption of entire industries are now part of daily life. Underneath these dramatic changes, human beings are the same. The desire to be creative resides in all of us.
Creativity in its many forms outside of the work place is a good thing. Whether it belongs in the office environment is another question entirely. Some would say that creativity in business is OK for computer game producers, architects, advertising agencies and the like. I believe that it gives every organisation, regardless of size the edge within a fast changing environment. Making creativity a part of company culture will give you a competitive advantage, motivate staff and help to increase turnover and profitability.
A client asked me recently: “How can we make creativity part of everyday office life?”
Here is my response:
* Nominate a company (0r department) Creative Thinker each month.
* Buy some creative thinking books and leave them lying around the office.
* Use a creative thinking technique, such as Mind Mapping, the next time you encounter a problem.
* Take a walk with the people who are tackling the problem and discuss it as you move.
* Share creative thinking stories with each other.
* Talk about creative thinking during business meetings.
* Put up some creative thinking posters in the office.
* Mention creative thinking within internal newsletters.
* Blog about creative thinking.
* Let your customers know that you enjoy using creative thinking techniques.
* Share interesting creative thinking articles, stories, cuttings and books with your colleagues.
* Count the number of new ideas that your company / department generates each month and display the number where everyone can see it.
* Get senior management involved.
* Share creative thinking quotes around the office.
* Once a year, have a creative thinking away day.
* Ask non competitors to share their approach to creativity with you (and return the favour).
* Try using creativity software.
* Use creativity ice breakers to get meetings started.
* Invite artists, engineers, architects, authors and professors to talk about creativity.
* Announce an annual award for the best creative thinker within your organisation.
I realise that this may strike you as an odd question. Surely most commercial enterprises are trying to grow, aren’t they?
For various reasons, this may not be the case.
For example: “We are running as fast as we can just to stay still.”
“We don’t really do any marketing. Customers find us via word of mouth.”
“We spent a lot of money on advertising and it didn’t work. We are not doing that again.”
“I don’t have time to do all that marketing stuff. All of my time is spent solving problems, trying to keep customers and staff happy, dealing with suppliers and doing the accounts.”
If you wish to grow your business, what are your marketing numbers? These include:
1. Target turnover figures for the next three years.
2. The number of customers that you will have in each of these years.
3. Marketing spend as expressed as a percentage of gross sales, per year.
Do you meet with your team (or a mentor) at least once a month and talk about company growth and the issues that surround it?
Do you keep track of your website stats, email open and click through rates, in-bound calls and other relevant marketing metrics? Do you know how many sales enquiries you receive per day / per week / per month?
If you have clear objectives and measure your progress towards your goal, you are much more likely to get there.
You must feel motivated to grow your business. It must be something that excites you – otherwise you won’t do all of the thousands of actions that are required over the long term to make it happen.
Remember that: “Whatever gets measured, gets done.” ~ Peter Drucker
A member of The Marketing Compass asked me for some feedback and ideas for their new consultancy business. Here is my answer:
“I recommend that you position yourself as an expert in your field and continually educate your marketplace by sharing what you know.
This can be done in many ways. However, the key will be in your actions and how you demonstrate your expertise.
For example, you could write a concise e-book that displays your knowledge. It only has to be a few thousand words in length. You can then publish this as an Amazon Kindle e-book, as I have done here: Webcopy Writing
An e-book can be expanded and turned into a print book. There are now several ‘print-your-book-on-demand’ services for low volume runs.
By the way, a blog can feed an e-book; therefore, why not plan the book in terms of chapters and sections and then blog the whole thing, one post at a time?
Another brand building idea is to give talks, i.e. at networking events or wherever members of your target market gather together.
In addition, relentlessly gather together testimonial statements and case studies, as your business grows – and upload these to your website. This is called social proof. It is better to have the customer saying how great you are, rather than you saying this yourself.”
Within an increasingly digital economy, enterprises need to have an integrated digital marketing strategy in order to manage the flow of information and the customer journey (prospect, ‘tell me more’, customer, client, brand advocate).
Your digital marketing strategy should include:
* A strategy that brings sufficient visitors to your website in order to generate the required number of sales leads / sales
* A content marketing programme including regular, in-depth, interesting and relevant blogs
* A social media strategy that generates brand awareness and reach via follows, likes, comments, messages and shares
* List building; this can be done in a number of ways, i.e. via list rental and email sign up forms
* List management – which is best done within a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system – there are many to choose from)
* Email marketing; my preferred platform being MailChimp, see www.mailchimptraining.co.uk
* Fast enquiry response times: instantaneous is good, within the hour is acceptable
* A sales process that works
You need to use integrated software. In other words, software platforms / databases / systems / communities that ‘talk to’ each other, i.e. via an API (Applications Programming Interface). For example, the data within your email marketing system should be mirrored within your CRM.
Information regarding your business contacts is probably in many places. For example, your email system (Outlook, Gmail etc), spreadsheets, a database / CRM, business cards, smartphones, filing cabinets, email marketing software, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Where should all of your business contacts be? The answer is your CRM system. I have previously written about this subject here…
If you are a startup, or established organisation looking to launch a new enterprise, the big question is: “What should we call our new business?”
Is this driving you around the bend?
You can either use a logical approach and beat the problem to death using research, analysis and comparison. Or you can let your creative mind loose on the challenge.
Here are some different approaches to choosing a brand name:
* The founders’ name. For example, Abercrombie & Fitch (David T. Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch); Adidas (founded by Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler); Bacardi (Don Facundo Bacardí Massó ); Dell Technologies (Michael Dell;) Disney (Walt Disney); Ford (Henry Ford); and John Lewis (department store).
* Invent a new word which sounds interesting. For example, Google, Kleenex, Oreo. A unique word is easier to trademark.
* Use Greek and / or Latin words i.e. Agilent Technologies.
* The ‘What it says on the tin‘ approach. British Gas; BP (British Petroleum); General Motors.
* Use initials (acronym), i.e. IBM (International Business Machines), ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries); FSB (The Federation of Small Businesses).
* Use a town, county or place name. However, bear in mind that countries and locations can get somewhat sniffy about this, even years afterwards. An example being the country Iceland and the company Iceland Frozen Foods.
* Use a fruit, animal, colour or astronomical name – the challenge of course being that most of them have already been taken. An example being one of my favourite hotels: The Pig.
* Combine two elements taken from the above into something original. This is where the magic comes in.
Here are some brand name considerations:
Brand name originality
Does the brand name stand out from the crowd? Are people likely to talk about it?
Brand name sound
How does the name sound? Ask family, friends and colleagues to pronounce your shortlist of brand names. Ask for their feedback.
Is the brand name easy to spell?
Some brand names are notoriously difficult to spell. This is a particular challenge when a customer is searching for their website.
Is the brand name memorable?
Some names are really catchy and memorable, aren’t they? Sadly, others are dull and boring. Always get some feedback – as other people will react differently to your brand name ideas.
Will the brand name work on the world stage?
There are many famous stories of brand names which, unfortunately, translate into something rude or offensive in another language. It doesn’t matter if you think that you will never trade abroad. In five years’ time, you may wish to. When you come to sell your business, the buyer may have global ambitions: why create a problem in this area? Don’t take a risk – always check.
Check domain names against your brand name ideas
The next step is to check website domain names. Ideally, you will want to be able to buy the best know TLDs (Top Level Domain, i.e. the last section of an internet domain name ) including .com and .biz in order to protect your brand. Many more TLDs are now available than used to be the case, including .global and .pro …which means that you have more choice. Therefore, if .com is taken by a non competitor in a different country, you could consider using a different TLD.
Can you trademark your brand name?
If you are creative and have invented and entirely new word or phrase: the answer is probably. (If you are in doubt, I work with an IP specialist who can find out for you).
It helps if you are a creative by nature
I have helped to name many enterprises, including The Marketing Compass. I had been thinking about this for months. One Christmas, I pulled a Christmas cracker with our eldest son, Ben and out popped a compass. How about joining ‘marketing’ and ‘compass’ together, I thought, as the brand is all about marketing strategy and direction. Here is the result: www.marketingcompass.co.uk …which you’re welcome to join, if you want to ask some questions about branding.
If you need some help – ask me.
See other blog entries by Nigel Temple on branding:
During my career, I have launched many businesses and I have advised thousands of startups. Many people have a desire to begin their own business. In addition, established businesses launch new companies all the time. There is something Darwinian about the whole process: a veritable horde of enterprises are launched each year. Few of them survive to see their 3rd birthday. Clearly, the daunting statistics don’t put people off. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. You will learn a great deal.
2. You will sharpen your creative thinking skills.
3. You will learn about marketing (a transferable skill), no matter how much you already know about this subject.
4. As the Hindu proverb says: “Patience is the only strength you will ever need.” Successful entrepreneurs know a great deal about patience.
5. You will improve your delegation skills. (You can’t do it all, can you?)
6. You will discover that money flows out of a startup like water from a fireman’s hose.
7. If you’re looking for excitement, believe me, launching a startup is an exciting experience.
Oh yes, I nearly forgot:
8. If it all works out you can become fabulously rich, beyond the dreams of avarice.
Written by marketing consultant, trainer, speaker and author Nigel Temple.
Join the marketing conversation within The Marketing Compass community. (A great place for startups).
Talk to Nigel 1-2-1 about your startup / your marketing for £97 +VAT: www.navigatorplus.co.uk