08 Oct Scaling up your marketing
So, you’re planning to scale up. Really go for it. I asked one of our clients, a very experienced manager whose business has been through the rapid growth stage, what the biggest marketing challenge is. “The most difficult thing,” she said, “is truly realising you have to invest in marketing in order to scale – and to accept that there are risks, and that you can’t expect to do it without risk. It sounds obvious, but believe me, it isn’t.” That got me thinking – once you know you’ve got to invest, how do you minimise the risk?
1. First segment, then position
Rapid growth almost certainly means different customers. You may be going from B2B into B2C, be moving from a niche market to a mass one, or into a new territory. Penetrating a new customer base outside Cornwall can be like exporting to an overseas market and your new customers may not have the same aspirations or expectations as your existing ones. For them you will need to be relevant and interesting. Remember the first two words in the marketing book of rules are segment, and position.
2. Write a proper action plan
A strategy is nothing without an action plan. Make one and stick to it! It makes it easier to delegate effectively, and gives you a basis for quick decision-making. At the same time remember that all good farmers carry a gun – in other words be ready to grab good opportunities that come up. Expect to be dealing with more channels and more creative executions, more campaigns, more day to day social media. More data, more pictures, more web traffic. Make sure the plan covers the lot, but keep it succinct and clearly prioritised.
3. Appoint the best internal management
Assuming you are a micro-business, with a turnover under £1m, and fewer than ten staff, you are probably used to making everything happen, including the marketing. You’ll have to hand over day-to-day responsibility successfully. For most, finding a great marketing manager is the first step. It’s important to appreciate that good marketers have a specific knowledge base, insights and expertise. Go through a rigorous recruitment process – and if you feel you don’t know what skills you are looking for get someone to help you recruit, even find a trusted mentor to sit on your interview panel.
You’ll need external help either to action some or all of your marketing. It’s an essential relationship and you’ll soon think of them as a virtual part of your core team. That means trust, and sharing your plans. Get the right sort of external support. A piecemeal approach, or full service approach have different benefits. Piecemeal allows you to pick and choose exactly who you want to do what. It can save money and spread risk, but it takes more management. A full service agency is more likely to deliver a joined up approach, but can cost a bit more. Think about which will suit you better.
5. Invest for scaling, not business as usual
Scaling up a business is different to organic growth; it’s a step change, so the way you think about budget setting has to be different. Basing marketing spend on last year’s budget, or looking to sector norms, is likely to lead to “same-again” performance. So, think of investment in marketing as distinct from maintenance in marketing. Work back from tomorrow’s income, not forward from todays. Look to your growth plan, and set the budgets that will give you the tools and resources you’ll need to create the revenue.
Keys to success
– ‘Informal’ doesn’t work, so make sure you have a written marketing plan
– Clarify your vision and values and communicate them relentlessly
– Delegate, but maintain a keen interest in the plan and the detail
– Adopt an adaptive mind-set that thrives on change and learning
Phil Gendall is the Creative Director of Wolf Rock Marketing. He had been a business advisor for the Design Council and a senior lecturer.