Whether you own a B2B or a B2C company, every small business goes through times when they can barely keep up with their work—followed, all too often, by an extended downtime when business is super slow.
Why does this happen? Of course, some up and down cycles are inevitable—for example, retail sales will always be slower in January than in December. But in many cases, a sales slump can be avoided if you take the time to market consistently.
It is easy to neglect your marketing efforts when you are so busy dealing with customers that you can barely breathe. However, if you want to maintain steady business and eliminate the worry that comes with roller-coaster sales, you must make time.
Follow these steps to get a grip.
First, update or create a marketing plan for your business. Your marketing plan lays out your marketing goals and how you plan to achieve them, including quantifiable targets (such as making X number of sales or attracting X new clients in the first quarter), the marketing and advertising methods you will use and your marketing budget.
If you have never done a marketing plan before, MPlans is a good resource for sample plans and marketing plan software.
Once you have your plan in place, it is time to create some action items to ensure follow-through. The best way to do this is create a marketing calendar. Your marketing calendar details the marketing activities you’ll undertake each quarter, each month, each week or even on a daily basis.
You will probably want to be more detailed during your biggest sales seasons—but do not neglect your traditionally slow seasons, either; after all, the whole point of the marketing calendar is to consistently market the whole year long.
When creating your calendar, make sure you build enough time for each activity. For example, if you want to run a cable TV commercial in November, you will need to allow enough advance time to plan the commercial’s content, tape it and purchase the airtime.
When your marketing calendar is complete, figure out who on your team will take ownership of each activity. Perhaps you handle most of the marketing, but put an employee in charge of social media. Make sure everyone knows his or her responsibilities and due dates and has access to the marketing calendar.
What if you do not have enough staff to handle all the marketing activities you have planned? Marketing freelancers are easy to find, whether you are looking for someone to design a print ad or perform SEO for your website. You can ask other business owners for referrals or search online at the many websites that provide marketplaces for freelancers and employers to connect, such Guru or Elance.
You can also get more marketing done in less time by automating whenever possible. Social media management tools such as Hootsuite that enable planning and scheduling blog posts and other social content will free up time and help you keep to your calendar. You can also implement contact management or customer relationship management (CRM) software to send out automatic emails to customers based on trigger events and set reminders for you and your team.
Just as you set a marketing budget for how much money you will spend, it is equally important to budget how much time you will spend on marketing. You may need to devote more time to marketing at certain seasons of the year. But no matter how busy you get, make sure it never falls completely by the wayside.
Your marketing calendar will help you achieve this goal and ensure that you finally get off the roller-coaster ride that is making you so stressed.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She has been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades.