In the hyped up world of content marketing, big data, marketing automation, programmatic buying, social media and conversion rate optimisation, it’s no wonder start up ventures and small to medium businesses struggle to keep pace let alone prioritise what’s important to help exceed their unique business objectives.
Small business challenges
According to the latest ABS Statistics, there are over 2 million actively trading businesses in Australia with less than 200 employees. So what keeps these owners up at night apart from the timeless pursuit of work / life balance? Well based on the Commonwealth Bank SME Confidence Report, the top 5 challenges for achieving business growth are:
- Meeting customer needs
- Cashflow management
- People management
- Marketing and sales activities
- Financial management
The top 5 are not surprising given we operate in a highly competitive and fragmented market, where demand and margins have softened and where connected consumers are in the know. So the power of a purpose driven brand coupled with a highly effective, revenue generating marketing program can simply not be underestimated.
(Lack of) focus on marketing
Most start up ventures and small to medium businesses do not have the luxury of huge marketing teams, sophisticated systems, specialist agency partners and million dollar budgets. In fact, the majority do not have a marketing function at all, tend to operate ‘on the smell of an oily rag’ and are considered too small for the big end of town.
Most start up ventures and small to medium businesses know that their current marketing program is far from ideal. But despite all good intentions, the status quo typically prevails due to a lack of resources and a lack of expertise. Whilst customer-centricity should be king, the distractions of operating a business eat time for breakfast!
Just think about that brand that lacks awareness and doesn't really stand for anything, the inconsistent marketing communications that don’t make much sense, all those abandoned or underused business social media profiles, the website that is still not mobile optimised and doesn’t generate any leads. These marketing dilemmas are all too common.
But sometimes even more challenging is the effort required to first find and then hire an agency partner or marketing consultant who will truly add value in a cost effective (not fall off the chair after seeing the quote) way! Like most decisions, word of mouth and referrals play a big role in selecting the right partner. It's also really important to assess both credentials (i.e. track record) and chemistry (i.e. cultural fit).
Review of current state
In tackling any big challenge, we believe that the best place to start is often with the humble marketing audit. Rather than jumping straight to solution mode, taking time to reflect and truly understand the current state can be extremely illuminating. Believe it or not, most innovation starts with the fundamental question “What is?” which kick starts a process to unearth deep customer insights and unarticulated needs.
The marketing audit typically consists of an independent, in-depth exploration of the current marketing state, typically conducted by industry practitioners who have held senior level marketing roles. Or alternatively, this can be run ‘in house’ so long as egos are left at the door and the approach taken is unbiased and objective (i.e. not defensive). An initial Marketing Value Evaluation focuses on marketing operations and benchmarking expenses across the key areas of creative, media, print and production. To take things a step further, a Marketing Effectiveness Evaluation consists of a highly systematic and analytical review of marketing objectives, target customers, brand positioning and the marketing program.
Ultimately, the purpose of a marketing audit is to generate quick wins (i.e. cost / revenue returns) and create a roadmap to help prioritise, reignite and transform to drive marketing ROI. So it might just be time to dust off and reconsider the humble marketing audit as an integral part of the business planning process!