Black. Small Business. Cyber.

Waiting for weekend (TGIF) 244/366
Creative Commons License photo credit: Skley

Black Friday is behind us.

Small Business Saturday is behind us.

Cyber Monday is behind us.

So now what?

While these three events are primarily focused on retail, they expose an underlying weakness that most small businesses need to deal with.

Having a PLAN.

Maybe this seems obvious. It should, but the last small business owner survey I saw indicated that 74% of small businesses didn’t have a marketing plan, even though 89% of those same people felt marketing was their first or second most important task (they’re right).

Obvious or not, more businesses need to take it seriously.

Cheese

Oh, I know. You’ve heard it before. And maybe you’ve tried it before.

Maybe you bought some software that regurgitates a fill-in-the-blanks marketing plan. Those things tend to come out like a slice of generic vegetable oil based “pasteurized process cheese food”. Not so appetizing.

That fill-in-the-blanks plan is probably not something you wanted to use, but if you did, maybe it didn’t work so well. Once one doesn’t work, it’s easy to assume that none will.

A recent survey of small business owners indicated that only 14% of business owners got the results they would like from their marketing plan. If you’re not in that 14%, that might be why you’re in the “marketing plans don’t work” mindset.

You’re half right. Bad fill-in-the-blank ones don’t. While sometimes the good ones don’t work, most of them do.

What’s your strategy?

But no plan at all is a recipe for (at the least) dependency on the price-driven chaos of Black Friday and events like Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. If you use Black Friday the wrong way, what impression does this leave about your store? Does it make people want to come back?

There’s nothing wrong with those three days, particularly if you’re smart about how you use them. But they’re only three days.

What’s your strategy for the other 362 days?

Is it low price? If that’s your only strategy and someone else’s prices are lower tomorrow, the stampede moves to their store. “Lowest prices ever” is only a valid marketing plan if you have the capital, clout and systems to profitably sustain it (eg: WalMart).

Waiting

You might have started your business because you love what you do or what you sell, but somewhere in there, most small business owners also wanted more time, more money, more freedom and more control.

So why give it up by not managing your own marketing?

In most communities, November and December see an uptick in retail shopping on Black Friday, but depending on/waiting for that to occur and (per the mythical definition) bring you into the black is below you.

You need a better plan.

Just plan it

I’m not here to sell you a marketing plan. Sure, I could work with you on one, but that isn’t the point. The point is that you need one – a good one, no matter how/where you get it.

Whether you do it yourself or get some help, there are some questions you’ll need to answer.

Questions about your customers, for example. Visualize each type. What are they like? No matter what “store” means to your business, what gets them off the couch and brings them into the store? What results do they want?

For example, you sell animal supplies. Your customers might be large animal owners (ie: horses), ranchers, and people who like feeding migratory birds. Each group requires a different message.

Another question is “How do the needs of those groups change over time?” Are their needs different in October than in March? How should that change your message? That animal supply store knows that winter feed needs are different from summer feed needs and that mature animals eat differently than newborns. Different messages are necessary.

Simple, obvious stuff, but these questions need to be the basis of the plan you put together. There’s a lot of mechanical work to the how and what of delivering your message to just the right people, but you need to have the message and customer parts figured out first or the mechanics mean nothing.

Having a plan isn’t enough

Executing your plan and adjusting it based on your results is just as critical.

It’s a constant effort for those other 362 days, but your freedom is worth it.