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Why marketing strategy is like baking a cake

Those of you who know me, know that I like to use metaphors in my blog articles. And here’s a doozy…

Marketing strategy is just like baking a cake.

Don’t roll your eyes yet. Stick with me – I promise it will be worthwhile.

A case study

The problem

I recently had a client who appointed me to prepare a marketing strategy and plan for them. They’re a startup and as yet, they were unknown among their target market and had no clients. As money was tight, there was an urgency to generate income as quickly as possible.

The solution

So I took on the project and promptly prepared a simple sales and marketing strategy, utilising as many free and inexpensive channels as possible, that could give us as much “bang for buck” as possible.

In this case, it was a combination of simple website improvements (including a review of the website’s content), regular Facebook and Instagram posts, listings on a few free online directories relevant to this business, and networking at local business chamber events and directly with local businesses.

The result

Three weeks in and I receive a panicked call from the client saying that the strategy was not working, i.e. she’d had no clients, and that she was seriously doubtful as to our ability to generate results for her.

(On a side note, it’s worth noting that our initial discussions and Statement of Work were clear in setting expectations that she could start to see results within 3-6 months of execution of the plan. Not only that but by the end of the third week, our simple improvements to her website had managed to achieve first page ranking on Google Search for her preferred keywords.)

Despite all my efforts to convince her that these things take time and that she needed to trust the process was working, she decided she didn’t want to continue. So, respecting her wishes, I promptly prepared a handover document explaining the work done to date and providing instructions on how to take things forward. I apologised that she felt unhappy with our service and wished her all the best.

So…

I’m sure you know what I’m going to say next.

Another week passes and I receive a phone call from the client. She’s overjoyed to tell me that she’d received three enquiries since we’d last spoken (two originating from Facebook and one she’d met in person at a networking function) and one of them had become a client.

And of course she wanted to continue the work we’d begun a month earlier.

What I learned

Of course, none of this is particularly surprising. I’m sure many of us can quote a situation when we had a client with unrealistic expectations. But what I wanted to highlight in telling this story were the following:

  • Always have some back-up money/funds to tide you over while you’re waiting for a business venture to take off. My client’s impatience came from a place of financial desperation. It’s impossible to make rational business decisions if you don’t know how you’re going to pay for the next bill that comes along.
  • You’ve got to “trust the process”. Now I’m not suggesting that you wait too long if you’re not getting results. However in this case, we had agreed a timeframe (three months) after which we would do a review of the effectiveness of the strategy. Any good consultant/expert should include one of more of these review phases where the results achieved are checked and the strategy tweaked if necessary.
  • Your sales and marketing strategy doesn’t have to be complex. Focus on the key techniques and strategies that will put your business directly under the noses of your target market. And if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to pull the plug (after giving it a reasonable shot) and try something else.

If you’re interested in reading more about common mistakes that startups and small business owners make, read this.

Marketing strategy and baking

So what does baking have to do with all this?

Well, I believe there’s a real misconception out there (especially among startups and small businesses) that marketing is a bit of a magic act. Throw lots of money at it, get expensive “experts” in to wave around their arms about and do lots of things you don’t really understand (e.g. SEO and SEM) and suddenly… Hey Presto! the clients are running to you.

In fact, and I’ve experienced this for myself and time and time again with my clients, the real success in sales and marketing is in sourcing the right ingredients for that perfect cake you want to bake, measuring them out carefully and mixing them up in the right proportions, and then, most importantly, having the patience to wait until the cake is cooked before you open the oven.

It’s the last part that many new business owners struggle with most – the “trusting the process” part. Because the process does work, but you just have to be patient and give it time to work.

* Image sourced from MELT Homestyle Cakes & Desserts.

Peer-Business-Consulting-Angeline-Zaghloul-5What did you think of this article? Post your comments and questions below. And if you found this useful, please share with your networks.

About the Author: Angeline Zaghloul is an expert in business strategy, client management and business processes, and is the Principal of Peer Business Consulting, a Sydney-based consultancy providing strategy and operations support to startups and SMEs. Angeline also publishes a regular blog which provides research, advice and tips on key issues facing businesses.

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