What to Expect When You're Expecting...Results
If you’re just getting started with your marketing, there are many unknowns.
First, there’s the task of assigning marketing project responsibilities: Do you hire a marketing manager? Do you work with a consultant? Do you take on the role of marketing yourself or tack it as an add-on responsibility for one of your employees?
Then, there are questions about priorities, performance, results, reports, trends, consumer behaviors…and the list goes on. Through it all, one thing remains a constant: you’re expecting results from your marketing. Your exact expectations may vary from time to time, project to project, but expecting results from your marketing and advertising is always going to be a part of the big picture.
So, what types of expectations should you have? What’s realistic and what’s pie in the sky?
Here are some very basic expectations that you should consider appropriate, even guaranteed, when it comes to your marketing efforts:
Results won’t happen overnight. Two of the most elementary concepts of marketing and advertising are consistency and repetition. For most businesses, it takes more than one sale to make a substantial impact on revenue. When you’re just starting your marketing campaign, it takes time to reach more and more people, explain your business and persuade consumers to give you at least an ounce of their attention. Even when you’re providing a product or service that is in-demand or solves a significant and obvious problem, it’s wise to remember that your audiences need exposure to your brand, consistently and repetitively, in order to really understand or desire what it is that your business has to offer. While some success can certainly come quickly when you begin a new marketing campaign, long-term, sustaining results will inevitably take time to cultivate. Even though it can be challenging, exercise patience. Think of your marketing like diet and fitness. True, long-lasting, long-term results take commitment, focus, determination, consistency, habit, motivation, and drive – even when the work that’s involved in the process feels daunting and the excitement has worn off from your initial goal-planning sessions.
Successes are evident when you define your goals. Speaking of goals, you need them. Before you consider expectations, of any kind from your marketing, consider the core accomplishments that you hope to achieve. Establish, in writing, the key component that you most hope to achieve from your marketing. Perhaps it’s a specific sales quota. Or, perhaps it’s establishing a footing within your community. Or, perhaps it’s reaching and selling to one, specific, previously untapped audience. Set measurable goals that you can track, remembering that your tracking system doesn’t always have to be about numbers. Success can come in numerous forms. Obviously, financial gain of any kind is a nice success. However, don’t discredit other, potentially less-tangible forms of successes. Building a reputation within your market, receiving even off-the-cuff word of mouth responses to your advertising, seeing an increase in foot traffic, gaining more phone calls or messages, or seeing more visits to your website are all positive indicators that your marketing efforts are growing in traction. Keep at it! Keep tracking and stay motivated! Also, set primary and secondary goals for your marketing. Even if it takes a while to see large scores of results on your primary goals, being able to track multiple successes on your secondary goals will help provide important indicators that your marketing efforts are working and give you the encouragement needed to help you stay focused.
The word “viral” should only be applied to communicable diseases. While we’ve all heard stories of that new business who woke up to find 3,645,478 hits on their brand-new YouTube channel overnight, this is not just the exception to the rule, it’s a downright anomaly. Viral videos, posts, and campaigns are products of our social media, instant-gratification-seeking society. We hear about these amazing viral success stories because they feed into our excitement and longing for instantaneous success. In the real world, however, those kinds of stories are really just fairytales. Marketing is hard work. It takes the patience that we discussed earlier – and it also takes a thick skin. There will be setbacks and unforeseen challenges along the way. Setting yourself up with the belief that posting something clever to social media will take your brand over the top, overnight, is setting yourself up for a lot of unnecessary disappointment. While digital marketing through your website and social media has opened the door to possibilities like never before, it’s not a magic bullet. Digital marketing, like traditional marketing, takes time, planning, goal-setting, repetition, flexibility, and again – patience.
There will be disappointments. Remember, when it comes to your marketing, you’re playing the long game. No sports team, no matter how talented, never experiences a loss or two, or twenty. Not every campaign will be a raving success. Not every goal will be met, every time. Some aspects of your marketing truly are a bit of trial and error – especially when you’re just getting started and just establishing your brand. Don’t look at one less-than-ideal marketing campaign as an indication that all of your marketing, as a whole, is a failure. Stay the course. Know your value and be excited about sharing messages about what you can do, what you provide, and what you have to offer to your audiences. It’s ok that there will be times when some messages go under-appreciated. Keep focused on your overall goals and remember to keep measuring successes in all of the ways that they happen – not just those that you can track on a calculator.
Working with a professional will offer substantial benefits. It’s amazing how marketing is a skill that is sometimes seen as something that “everyone” can do well. Marketing may not be rocket science, but it is a serious profession that requires experience, creativity, flexibility, professional (and often expensive) tools, excellence in all forms of communication, research, instinct, logic, focus, passion, and time! If you’re a business owner who’s planning to do your own marketing, it’s critical to remember that while no one (not even a professional marketing consultant or hired marketing manager) will love and truly understand your business like you, it is most certainly a full-time job. As such, it’s highly unlikely that you, alone, will have the ability to possess all of the qualities that are required in a successful marketer and fulfill your primary role as owner of your business. When you work with someone who’s dedicated to your marketing, you have access to time, talent and experience that will substantially benefit all of your marketing, all of the time. Remember, your marketing budget needs to be optimized. Don’t take unnecessary risks with those dollars. Leave your marketing projects to the professionals while you commit to being a part of the process, often in a very hands-on way, without committing yourself to all of the ongoing responsibilities that come with managing your marketing.
Setting realistic, flexible, reasonable expectations is a smart way to approach your marketing. Every campaign may not live up to your every expectation, every time; but don’t be afraid to dream big. You may just be able to bring a bit of that magic of Madison Avenue to Main Street.