Marketing is what you do when you need customers – isn’t it? WRONG! Too many business owners today believe this myth – with devastating results. 2,094 small businesses go out of business each day, and according to the US Small Business Administration, a lack of customers is one of the top reasons that these businesses fail. If this myth was more widely recognized for what it is – a myth without any truth behind it – fewer small businesses would be struggling today. The idea that marketing is what you do when you need customers is just plain wrong. Let’s explode this myth and see what the truth really is.
Everything has a lifecycle. People do, animals do, businesses do, and most important to this discussion – your customers do too. The prospect stage is the first stage in the lifecycle of your customer. There is a lot that happens before the purchase stage. Your prospect has to move from awareness, to interest, to preference, to purchase. Often this means that they must view your marketing message multiple times, and may have multiple interactions with you or your website while they are in the pre-purchase fact finding process. All this takes time. The length of time that it takes varies from business to business. However, for each business, you can, with some effort, determine the average amount of time that elapses between when a prospect first becomes aware of you until they do business with you.
Feast or Famine
Those that buy into the myth that marketing is what you do when you need customers find themselves in a bind because they wait to market until then need customers. This leads to the feast or famine phenomenon that too many business owners are intimately familiar with. This feast or famine situation occurs because marketing is something that is started and stopped based on whether or not more customers are needed at that moment. Marketing is begun when an immediate need for more customers is recognized. By then it is too late to avoid a famine because all of your new customer prospects are starting out at the prospect stage of the customer lifecycle. It will take time for them to move them from awareness to purchase.
By the time enough new prospects have become customers, the famine is officially over and things are really rolling. It is at this point that marketing is paused because, after all – you’ve got enough customers. This creates an oscillation between the two extremes of too few customers and plenty of customers.
The good news is that there is an easier way. You don’t have to stay stuck oscillating between feast and famine.
A better approach to marketing is to think of marketing like farming rather than hunting. Think of marketing as the way you grow and develop customers. In farming, there are crops for every season. There are crops that are harvested in the spring time, summer time, fall, and winter. When the farmer sows enough seed, he knows he’s going to get a harvest. Marketing works the same way. Plan your marketing so that you are always sowing seeds. By making a habit of always sowing seeds (marketing) for your business, you’ll be assured of a continual harvest.
Instead of starting and stopping marketing based on the immediate need for customers, develop an annual marketing plan. This will allow you to break free of the feast or famine in your business and always have enough customers.