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Business owners must not lose control of the marketing strategy

Marketing and SEO strategy for Hampshire businesses

We’ve had the PMs road map and we’ve also had the budget. UK businesses can see a way out of COVID. Business owners know they need to get their marketing right to engage again with customers and prospects.

Before the pandemic, business confidence was pretty high. Making money as a business owner wasn’t too hard; trading conditions were benign. Marketing agencies did very well off the back of business confidence. Their clients were content to get them involved early on in campaign planning, and to lead discussions that perhaps the executive team should have been having first. Some business owners became a little complacent and let their marketing agency/department take responsibility for thinking about customer needs rather than leading on it themselves. The tail was wagging the dog?

In business, like in society perhaps, people became overly-reliant on advisers providing the answers to what were their own problems or challenges. In a less favourable future trading climate, I expect SME business owners to take back more control and be responsible for decisions that affect customers. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that thought is being given to marketing, alongside other ‘return to work’ issues that are in an executive’s in-tray.

Businesses are set for a re-set

As well as firing-up the marketing again, leadership teams will be working on the challenges of:

  • using or re-purposing existing office space
  • how technology and communications will support hybrid teams
  • managing and leading teams that are physically dispersed

Business owners by their entrepreneurial nature will have busier than most working out what 2020/21 means for their enterprises.

Marketing. Is it time to get back to basics?

There is always a reason why someone starts a business.

The founder wants to do something new or something different. At the point of starting out, the business owner will be in-tune with what the customer wants. Identifying a gap in the market is often the spur for a new venture. As a business grows and becomes more successful, the gap between the founder and the customer can widen. Filling the gap was traditionally done with the appointment of a marketing team and/or a marketing agency. This may remain the case, but business owners may delegate less and take a more active role in how a company engages its prospects and customers. This is because how a customer sources, purchases and uses a product may have changed since lockdown.

Marketing delegation but not abdication

I envisage a subtle change where good leaders will still delegate marketing to the team/agency, but will stay closer to the strategy than may have been the case pre-pandemic. By staying close to the strategy, you stay closer to the customer.

Customer and marketing analysis

Staying close to the strategy means being on top of all customer data and analysis. If you accept that no one knows a business better than its owner, then the owner is best placed to lead data and analysis discussions.

Reminder – The 5 stages of a marketing plan

  1. Define the problem your customer has and express it in their terms, not yours.
  2. How does your product or service help solve their problem? Does the customer get an outcome that can be measured in terms of experience, cost saving or time/efficiency gains?
  3. Analyse existing customer buying behaviour
    1. How many purchases, how often and how loyal?
    2. Customer clusters – areas of customer commonality
  4. Competitor analysis
  5. SWOT and ambitions for the future

The results of this analysis and discussion, plus ‘thinking like the customer’ may lead to some changes in the sales and marketing activities of the business. You may conclude specialist online marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) expertise may need bringing in. If that’s the case, its now being done are doing it from a position of insight. You are:

  • Well placed to devise a sensible brief
  • Able to show to marketing/SEO agencies that you have given proper thought to your need for help. In turn they will want to work with you on this basis alone
  • Better able to compare competing pitches and make the best choice from any shortlist.

Whatever appointment you make (agency or in-house appointment) spec-up a proper description of what you want doing. Agree between you that the work is stretching, but fair, and that there are clear objectives that are measurable to indicate success or otherwise.

Nick Shrimpton
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