The biggest marketing challenges for business today.

6 key findings from The Really Helpful Marketing Survey
The biggest marketing challenges for business today.

The Really Helpful Marketing Company has just completed a survey of UK businesses to better understand their approach to marketing and what’s important to them. The results are in, and the findings are revealing.

6 key findings from The Really Helpful Marketing Survey

  1. In our survey, the biggest single “marketing” challenge facing businesses is a lack of time
  2. In 51% of all businesses surveyed, the responsibility for marketing lies with a director or member of staff who also has other responsibilities
  3. More than 31% of businesses surveyed do not have a recognised internal marketing function
  4. 30% of businesses do not use any external suppliers to help deliver marketing activity
  5. Over 56% of businesses surveyed do not have an up-to-date, documented marketing plan
  6. Over 85% of businesses surveyed include social media marketing as part of their marketing mix

There’s a clear link between responses here.

A significant number of businesses (particularly smaller ones) do not have a recognised marketing function, or the responsibility for marketing lies with a director or team member who also has other roles to fulfil. And when you consider that nearly a third of businesses don’t use external suppliers to help deliver marketing activity, it’s no wonder that a lack of time is a real challenge.

The pressures on small businesses are huge. A 2015 US Survey* by Constant Contact in conjunction with National Small Business Week shows that the top 3 business concerns of small business owners are:

  1. Finding new customers 66%
  2. Having enough time to do everything I need to do 55%
  3. Retaining existing customers 40%

Clearly marketing (both finding and retaining customers) is the top concern for small businesses, and a lack of time is second.

And what happens when these two top concerns clash? The answer is simple – corners get cut. Often the first thing to go is the marketing plan. Business owners and entrepreneurs tend to favour action over “navel-gazing”. See an opportunity, have an idea – and act on it. Do it quickly and move on to the next thing. It’s what entrepreneurs do. But without a clear marketing plan, actions can become unfocused, and often somewhat random. And with random activities, come even more random results – and it’s sometimes impossible to know whether activities are having the desired outcomes.

So it’s no wonder that businesses are often reluctant to invest in marketing, whether that’s in people, or in paid-for media. Perhaps that’s one of the key reasons why so many businesses have turned to social media as the cornerstone of their marketing activity. In theory, it offers a quick fix – easy access to a vast audience at virtually no cost. But according to MarketingProfs**, 2 million blog posts are written every day. That’s a lot of content. So how much of it actually reaches and influences the behaviour of the target audience it’s intended for? Not much, that’s how much. There’s’ simply too much out there and naturally, prospective customers are “screening” most of it out. The answer is clearly not to create or curate more and more content. Most of it is a waste of time. And as we know, time is in short supply.

The solution lies in a clearly focused, and disciplined marketing strategy. That means taking a bit of time to tightly define your audience and really understand their needs. It means understanding what media they consume and what influences them. It means understanding their current behaviour. It requires you to identify clear messages that cater to their interests. And it means planning activity carefully so that it’s manageable within the resources you have available. It might require a bit more time up front, but developing a tight marketing plan is a big time saver in the long run. You’ll know who you’re talking to and have a better understanding of what they’re interested in, so you’ll be able to develop messaging that really resonates.

It’s quality that counts, not quantity. The more effective your marketing activity is at getting noticed, the less of it you have to deliver to attract the sales you need.

It’s an easy equation to work through really. Less planning = less effective marketing = fewer sales = more time required on marketing. Or put more simply: Better Marketing Plan = Time Saved.

Top tips for developing your marketing communications plan

  1. Your core target market is not “everyone”. The tighter you define your primary target market, the easier it is to identify a focused strategy.
  2. If you have multiple audiences, consider multiple strategies – a “one size fits all” approach rarely works.
  3. Develop a positioning statement that identifies the core reason your audience should buy from you, and not someone else – this will form the basis for all your messaging and give your brand a clear raison d’etre
  4. Establish a clear and consistent brand identity and tone of voice – ask yourself whether your brand stands out from your competitors
  5. Ensure your activity plan is manageable – time is limited, so either create a plan that can be reasonably delivered by the people you have available to do the work, or consider outsourcing parts of the plan to external expertise

If that sounds like hard work, it doesn’t have to be – with the right guidance, a simple marketing plan can be pulled together in a matter of hours rather than days. If you don’t know where to start, or you just need a bit of advice – give us a call, and we’d be glad to help.