How many small companies don’t grow as fast as they should because they don’t take marketing seriously?

I was again surprised this past week at how many great businesses are out there. They have great products; offer excellent service and yet experience mediocre growth. Then there are those that have only started but have significant opportunities ahead in new and fast growing markets.

When I speak to owners of such companies, those with great products and significant opportunities, I get excited because I realise the power that a well executed marketing plan could have in growing their businesses. But I also feel anxious because I know many of these owners will chronically underinvest in marketing.

Here is how I see the role of marketing in a small business:

  • Great marketing grows your business.
  • Bad marketing drowns your business.
  • No marketing stifles your business.

So it’s either great, or nothing.

You see, I believe one should treat marketing as a crowbar that unlocks business growth. You open doors with it. A crowbar works because the effort applied on one end gets amplified on the other end. You gain leverage; it’s a force multiplier. This is exactly what good marketing does. For every R1 you spend on good marketing the effect is disproportionately positive on business growth. That’s why big companies do marketing and that’s why small companies should do it too.

Good marketing is tremendously powerful in helping a small business unlock growth.

What is holding you back?

So what is keeping business owners from enthusiastically and proactively engaging in marketing? Why do so many see it as a second rate, non-strategic function? I believe there are three key issues:

  1. There is a shortage of good marketing advice for small business owners, meaning they are often poorly informed as to the power it holds.
  2. There is a lack of trust in the industry with suppliers of marketing services often engaging in “hard selling” of their offerings at the expense of getting to know the client.
  3. Owners feel intimidated by the marketing landscape which is evolving at a rapid rate and becoming ever more complex. Gone are the days when a simple brochure will do the trick.

Make 2016 your marketing year

So where to from here? What should the business owner do, given the dual reality of marketing power and marketing reluctance?

I suggest you make a conscious decision that 2016 will be your marketing year.

Make it the year in which you proactively face up to your business’s marketing challenges. Decide to wrestle with the marketing dragon. Stop treating it as un-important and decide that you are going to use it as a strategic tool to unlock significant (yes, significant) growth.

Here are some suggestions to start with:

  • Review all your existing marketing critically. Is it of a high quality? Will it move the customer?
  • Set a marketing budget aside for 2016.
  • Get professional advice to help you to execute brilliantly. Often you don’t need a full time agency on retainer but rather some training or a part time project.
  • Make marketing a key performance area for your staff – they should all get involved.
  • Actively track the success of your marketing efforts and be ruthless when something is not working.

Remember, the effort you put into great marketing should have a disproportionate positive effect on your business. It should give you that same aha! feeling that you get when opening something impossible with a crowbar.