Friday January 15, 2016
Small business owners: Do you want to grow your business?
Most small business owners I ask that question to say, “Yes!” But most don’t have a clear sense of what growth looks like, or what it will take to get there.
Next, I ask them to imagine what their business might look like at its peak. How many employees would you have? How many locations? What would your business’s headquarters look like?
Do you have clear answers to those questions in mind?
Finally, I ask, “What would it take to turn a business like yours is currently into the kind of business you’re dreaming about?”
This is where the picture gets vague for a lot of people. They know they need to “advertise” and “get the word out there” and “fix the website,” but they’re unfamiliar with the details of how to grow and manage long-term marketing campaigns.
If this describes you, you’re far from being alone. But if you want to grow, you’ll have to learn a crucial lesson about growing a business: you have to spend money to make money. And, to keep on making more and more money, you’ll have to keep on spending more and more.
The Coca-Cola Paradox
Coca-Cola is the most widely recognized brand in the world. They have a product that nearly everyone has tried, available in grocery stores, gas stations, movie theaters, restaurants, and vending machines all over the world.
With that much brand-recognition and exposure, you wouldn’t think advertising would be a high priority. But, as you may know, nothing could be further from the truth. Coca-Cola has a truly staggering yearly advertising spend. In 2014, they spent nearly $3.5 billion on branding activities.
To put that in perspective, that’s more than $9.5 million each and every day. Their $290 million monthly spend would be enough to buy a whole neighborhood full of big, new houses each month.
Coca-Cola’s marketing budget continues to grow because they want their brand and business to continue to grow. It’s that important — their executives wouldn’t spend a single dollar more than they had to!
So I have one more question for small business owners: Do you think you’ll be able to grow into your dream company with your current marketing budget?
"Do you think you’ll be able to grow into your dream company w your current #marketing budget?"
The Reality of Marketing
For businesses of any size, including very small business, growth happens when you gradually reinvest more and more money in the business by upping your marketing budget month over month and year over year. It takes time, and you have to maintain a careful balance of growth so you don’t get overwhelmed.
The hardest part is getting the wheels in motion because there are some big questions you have to answer:
- How much growth can I handle? It’s actually very common for small businesses to drown themselves in growth they aren’t ready for. Carefully consider your staffing, inventory, infrastructure, customer support capacity, and other potential weak links.
- How much should I spend? This depends a lot on how much you want to accomplish and how quickly. A good guideline is to decide how much you’d like to make next month in revenue, then spend 20% of that amount on marketing.
- DIY or hired out? If you want to do your marketing yourself, you’ll need tools to help you save time and spend your money where it makes a difference. If you hire out your marketing, it’s still important to consider the tools they will use to make their marketing decisions and report their results back to you. Most importantly, you need to find someone you trust and with whom you can build a long-term relationship.
- How will you measure success? Unfortunately, stumbling upon marketing success on the first try is pretty rare. It’s much more common to try a number of strategies on a small scale, some of which will work better than others. You get better at marketing by getting better at trimming the strategies that aren’t working and growing the ones that bring in the dollars.
These questions are the foundation of your scalable, growth-focused marketing strategy. If you’re hiring out your marketing to AllProWebTools or another marketing company, make sure you’re on the same page with all of these.
When Will You Increase Your Marketing Budget?
How much are you currently spending each month on advertising? I meet a lot of small business owners who are only spending $100 per month. If we assume that your marketing budget should be 20% of your target revenue, that means you’re only targeting $500 in monthly sales.
If you want to make more like $10,000 in monthly sales, your monthly marketing budget should be around $2000.
Obviously, if you’re currently spending $100, you can’t just suddenly start spending $2000 per month. But if that’s the size business you’d eventually like to be, you need a plan to start ramping up your marketing spend to reach that goal.
It’ll take time spent in small-scale experiments, figuring out which marketing channels, which strategies, and which types of campaigns get you the best ROI. It’ll take a slow, gradual ramp up, where you reinvest the additional revenue you rake in back into marketing, rather than taking it home.
But the reward, as you can see in the following case study, is the kind of growth you’ve only dreamed of.
What Happens When You Do Marketing Right?
In early 2011, Steve Frailey of Hawaiian Organic Noni had hit a growth plateau after 12 years in business. He had developed a popular product that was genuinely improving the lives of his customers, but he was struggling to find new customers online and had a lot of systemic inefficiencies holding him back.
I met Steve at a conference around that time. Steve decided to give AllProWebTools a try and see if a new approach to marketing could bring the growth he wanted.
You can see what happened in this graph. There were a few months of small-scale experimentation, where my team and I were trying new things based on an analysis of their competitors’ strategies. The whole time, we used the AllProWebTools software solution to track the results, so we were able to see which strategies were worth scaling up.
Then the growth started in earnest. By the end of the first year, Hawaiian Organic Noni’s month-over-month sales had nearly doubled. Their relatively small initial marketing investment was more than covered, so they invested more money the following year.
In the past four years, their monthly revenues have grown by 11 times, and their marketing budget has increased steadily as well.
It took some time to build the trust that now exists between my team and Hawaiian Organic Noni. But they consistently saw that if they budgeted just 10% of what they wanted to target in revenue, they achieved those goals month after month, year after year.
What Worked With Hawaiian Organic Noni
You can read about the specific strategies we used with Hawaiian Organic Noni in this blog post, but I maintain that the general marketing process we used could work with any kind of business, in any industry.
You cannot grow a business without continuing to increase your marketing budget. And you can’t make intelligent decisions about where to put those marketing dollars without lots of testing and measuring. That’s the philosophy behind AllProWebTools.
Numbers don’t lie, and that’s why we graph and chart everything. We try things on a small scale at first, and if it works, that justifies increasing the budget.
"Numbers don’t lie, and that’s why we graph and chart everything." [Tweet this]
The marketing tools built into the AllProWebTools console allow us to make those decisions quickly and accurately, so you can trim what isn’t working and build up what is.
How Does AllProWebTools Work?
AllProWebTools is an all-in-one toolkit for small businesses, which combines marketing analysis tools with tools for email marketing, customer relationship management, sales planning, and maintaining your online presence.
It’s totally possible to do your own marketing with AllProWebTools. Lots of our users do it! They manage their own campaigns from the console and make their own decisions about where to put their marketing dollars based on the reports the console generates.
Or, you can hire a marketer who uses AllProWebTools to help you manage your campaign. We’re happy to refer you to someone that can help you out, or you can hire me and my team directly. We built the console, so we’re experts in using it to its full advantage to grow your business.
Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to start prioritizing your marketing budget in earnest. There’s nothing else that can grow your business as quickly as money that you reinvest in advertising, improving your website, and other marketing and branding activities.
Planning to grow your business this year? What’s your plan for managing your budget to bring in maximum growth?