The absolute minimum marketing you should do in a time of crises

I write this in a time of crises. The Coronavirus is causing havoc globally on an unseen scale. My own consulting business, Firejuice, is losing clients and maybe your business is too? Clearly, if ever there was a time to fight for survival, it is now.

It is no secret that when it comes to survival, marketing is the first thing that gets chopped, and I won't tell you its wrong. In times like this, you should indeed cut everything non-essential, starting with marketing. But there are two parts to marketing, and I suggest you only cut one down to zero.
Marketing is about sales, and also branding. It is the short and the long term effects of successfully investing in marketing. Short term, it should help your business secure more leads that deliver more sales; long-term it should help raise brand awareness and loyalty.
We spend too little time looking at our businesses from the outside in.
My suggestion is that you cut all marketing activity aimed at generating sales down to zero, bu…

What should the Senior Marketer in your business do?

Everyone in your business is busy. They're busy making stuff, selling stuff, sorting out crises, ordering stock, answering email....and more email...sitting in meetings...and more meetings...making deliveries, issuing invoices, following up on payments...running around, and, sometimes, just acting busy.

But who listens, amongst all this busyness?

Who listens to the customer? Who listens to what the competition is doing? Who listens - carefully - for new opportunities? Who listens to what is happening on the website, social media, on-shelf and generally, in the market?

Crucially, and maybe in summary, who listens to "what the outside world thinks of us"?

I believe the role of a professional listener is that of the most senior marketer in the business. The top marketer is nothing other than the Chief Listening Officer in your company. It sounds passive, even fluffy, I know, but it doesn't have to be.

For starters, listening - really listening - is an active exercise. I…

Do we need to do marketing?

I've heard this asked repeatedly over the last weeks. Do we need to do marketing?

We are only a small business with little money - do we need to do marketing?
We don't want to become a huge business - do we need to do marketing?
We are an engineering company that get all our work from government contracts  - do we need to do marketing?
We are only a holdings company - do we need to do marketing?

Notice the question isn't "should we do marketing" or "why should we do marketing" but "do we need to do marketing"? It is almost cynical in its assumption. The question really hides a statement; a conviction that "we don't need to do marketing". We, in our situation, don't need to - we can save that money.

I'll leave it to you to decide whether you need to do marketing, or not. My interest is in how you come to your conclusion. How do you decide whether or not your business needs to do marketing, or not? Here are some thought sta…

What to consider when budgeting for marketing

First, let’s get one thing straight, as a business owner you can’t complain about marketing not delivering results if you haven’t kept to your end of the bargain and allocated a budget. The marketing budget sets the rules of the game – it makes it possible to measure - to some degree of accuracy - that magical number called “return on investment”. Everyone wants ROI on marketing spend, yet few know what they plan to invest, i.e. a marketing budget.

But how do you set a marketing budget? This is another piece of the puzzle that is often neglected by business owners quick to criticize marketing performance: a marketing plan. The marketing plan should describe the desired results expected from marketing activities and how these ties into overall sales targets. Only now can the marketing budget be set. A plan informs the budget and allows you to do what is called “zero-based budgeting”, meaning you to build the budget from the ground up based on what’s needed to achieve the goals. This is…

Marketing your Startup to build confidence, not sales.

A startup business only grows when there’s an investment in the business, but as a founder, how do you invest when cashflow is still unpredictable? This is the catch 22 that many business owners face.
The obvious answer is to grow sales and then use the additional cash to build the business, but interestingly, this is often not the best option. More sales equal more operational challenges, especially on the back of existing capacity constraints in growing businesses. Simply boosting sales can kill the company.
So what’s the answer? How do you invest in the business when money is scarce and additional sales unwanted? The answer lies in betting on market demand, rather than sales.
There is a comfort to be found in knowing that your services are in demand, even if there are no sales. Demand is what makes the phone ring and therein lies the confidence that you can invest in your company. Never mind sales; healthy demand allows you to live in the future.
But how do you raise demand without…

The challenge lies in building a brand

The holy grail of doing business is building a brand. No matter the industry or the type of business you are running, ultimately, every entrepreneur wants a brand. This is a universal desire whatever the personality of the owner. From the most analytical engineering types to the exact number or creative types - all entrepreneurs want a brand.

This desire is especially interesting if you consider the constant debate around sales versus marketing. Strong opinions persist in favour of each, yet everyone seems in agreement about one thing: the power of owning a brand.

But brand-building is not easy. It requires counter-intuitive thinking that does not come easy to the business owner pressed for cash and looking for the shortest route to selling the company. It is this combination of difficultness and desirability that makes building a brand, in my opinion, the top challenge for entrepreneurs in the coming year.

Building a brand requires a disciplined approach to design, messaging, custome…

A clear vision to be the best and compete globally

Aggressive, clean-cut business objectives. That's what the CEO of a successful medium-sized company recently shared with me about the business he leads.

It's impressive when someone makes deliberate bets on the future based on a strong sense of where things are and where it's heading. Statements such as: "This is where we are now. This is where the world is going. This is our customer. This is our competitor. This is our key advantage. This is what needs to happen over the coming months to get from here, to here."

This leader had strong views on these topics and clearly articulated them, not in a boastful way, but in a monotone, calm way. It was impressive. Probably the most exciting thing is just how determined they were to compete internationally, but basing themselves in South Africa because they see it as part of their competitive edge. It was a refreshing change from the typical negativity.

The experience made me realise the opportunity for South African com…