You’ve probably noticed thousands of blog posts that promise to teach you the magic formula to successfully build a business. In fact, you’ve probably even taken the time to read through some, and after the 50th “Top 10 things-you-should-know-because-you’ve-read-them-all-49-times-already” list you’re ready to give up on the whole thing.
This is not one of those blogs.
One of the greatest strengths of Big Presence is that we are not really vertical-specific (although we’re well known for working with high-technology clients), and our willingness to work across so many different industries has allowed us to acutely understand the wide range of challenges business owners face today. We regularly help startup clients develop their technology and marketing roadmaps in an effort to stay fiscally and resource lean from day one, knowing that the success of the company depends on getting to market, and generating a profit quickly.
We also work with larger enterprise businesses that are hitting the reset button in the marketing department, and need to completely revamp their marketing softwares and processes to make the shift to being a more dynamic lead generator for their sales department.
Whether start-up or enterprise, each of our clients has unique needs, but almost all of our clients’ challenges stem from a few core business killers that can easily be avoided or remedied if you’re willing to be honest about them, and have the right teams in place to solve each issue.
Branding is a concept that many people assume they understand, but can be detrimental to your success if executed poorly. A weak brand can cause dissent within the company, impact the market perception of your brand’s ability to perform, and position you immediately below competitors who have taken the time to consider the impact branding has on their business.
“In a Pitchbook survey about sourcing private equity deal flow, 82% of respondents see brand strength as becoming increasingly important for key stakeholders, including investors, CEOs of target companies, lenders, the media, and potential employees.” – Reuters 2014
As consumers, we make conscious and unconscious decisions every day as a direct result of branding, good or bad. Most business owners are at least somewhat aware of this integral role of brands and branding on our lives, so why wouldn’t an investment in our own company’s branding be seen as absolutely crucial? So many times, we meet business owners who believe that branding only pertains to what their logo looks like, or the color choices for their business cards, but there is so much more to building your brand, and it could be that your organization is sagging because you’ve failed to do the work it takes to solidify your brand.
Many business owners are aware of a brand’s image, but they are often unaware of:
- The importance of brand messaging
- The need for developing the brand’s tone
- How your employees are describing your company to people they meet outside of work
- How professional your website or marketing collateral appear, and the impact they have on how customers value your brand.
If you feel like you have a superior product – and a great team in place, but continue to lose out to competitors even when you’re priced right, you may be in a situation where your brand is holding you back. That’s something that can be fixed, and it should certainly not go ignored.
“If you’re willing to drop your prices to compete, you should be willing to invest in your brand.”
There is no excuse for running a business in 2016, but not being able to do accurate reporting or tracking of your marketing efforts and sales funnel. Between marketing automation platforms, integrated CRMs and lead management softwares that track your customers from the day they visit your site for the first time, to the 50th order they place with your company, you should always know where you actually generate the most revenue, and why you’re generating it in the first place.
Gone are the days of guessing which campaign increased your sales by 20% last quarter, and gone are the days when sales executives can claim they are magical unicorns that bend the will of any sales lead that manifests itself within their inbox. Today, smart businesses are implementing cloud-hosted SaaS solutions that arm sales reps with more usable data on potential customers than ever, and it’s on you as a business owner or leader to ensure that the data is being capitalized on in a way that it helps everyone in the company do their job more effectively.
It’s hard to keep up with all of the software options out there, but if your marketing team is invested in helping your organization, it’s on them to float those needs up the company food chain, and keep your business ahead of the competition technologically. The right combination of software solutions can make a team of 5 as productive as a team of 25, which means more bang for your buck across the board.
Technologies Every Business Needs
Cloud-hosted email and storage (Google Apps for Work and Microsoft Office 365 are the best options.)
Marketing Automation Software – (HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot lead the way.)
CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) – (Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Act!, Zoho and HubSpot CRM are among the best.)
Project Management Software – (Teamwork, Basecamp, Wrike, Trello, and Asana are among our favorites.)
(Contact us for more recommendations. We’re software nerds.)
3 Marketing Budget
It seems silly to have to list this as a key to not running a business into the ground, but there are still baby boomer business owners who remember the good old days of opening up shop, and only needing buckets of elbow grease to keep the business running, and even find some success along the way. I’m not going to say you can’t succeed without marketing, as that would not be true for some industries and specific business models. However, I can say, with all the confidence in the world, that spending budget on a well-planned marketing strategy is always a sound investment.
If you’re not spending at least 10% of sales revenue on marketing, then you’re not giving your marketing and sales teams a fair shot at success. The average marketing budget for businesses in America, in 2015, was around 5% of sales revenue. For highly successful companies in competitive markets, that number moves closer to 20%, and for good reason. With the emergence of new digital marketing technologies, and an increase in data-driven analytics for marketers, it makes more sense than ever to put your money towards marketing that can reach millions of people at a time, rather than hoping the lost arts of cold calling and door-to-door sales makes a comeback.
But where should I spend my budget?
Most marketers are familiar with the “80/20 Rule” which recommends identifying the top 20% of your online traffic sources that generates 80% of good results for your business, and then applying your budget to those sources. It’s a sound recommendation, as long as you know:
- Where the top 20% of your sales opportunities are coming from.
- You have the ability to track the results of a change in marketing strategy accurately.
- That guessing does not count as good marketing.
If you’re starting a business for the first time, do not start planning your budget without your key marketing executive’s input, unless you believe you’re qualified to make that decision. Would you create you IT budget without your IT executive around? No …. that would be silly, right? Like any other segment of the business, proper planning and budgeting is the difference between success and failure.
Why would you skip that in the department that’s responsible for bringing in revenue opportunities?
4 Lack of Processes
Now, I may be a little fanatical about process development and contingency plans for when things go wrong, but that’s because I was forced to start my first few businesses with limited financial investments, which leaves virtually no margin for error. I’ve also learned – over the years – that although I may be capable of managing long-term projects and procedures fairly effectively in my own ways, it’s a very different challenge transferring those capabilities to other team members once it’s time to scale up.
Investing in proper process development at the outset can be the difference between stagnant and exponential growth, and it is much much harder to develop processes while the business is already running. That’s also not to say that process development is a one-time exercise, or that you should not be developing new processes whenever there’s a need. Every time your team grows, your services expand, or your products require more support than they did in the past, you should be re-evaluating your processes and looking for ways to streamline or improve them over time.
Are You Struggling with One or More of These Areas?
You’re not alone.
Most business owners go into business because of a passion for whatever their company does. The problem is, building a business is obviously much more than just doing the thing you love. In fact, the more your company grows, the less likely you are to actually be doing the work your company does, as you’re now too busy just running the entire business.
This is where specialized consultants like agencies, consultancies, sub-contractors, and partners can step in to help you right the ship when needed, and help your company improve in that area over time. If you’re really struggling, it could also be that you’re making the wrong hires in that department, most likely as a result of no one else at your company being qualified to even hire for the position.