"It's like throwing cooked spaghetti at the wall," explains my friend. "It doesn't always stick, but slowly winds its way to the floor."
Now she is not talking about her cooking abilities, but the effectiveness of her marketing. When you first start out in business there is that tendency to throw a lot of money into marketing, with the underlying feeling that at least you are doing something; you're moving forward and getting out there. Bottom line, your business is for real.
Trouble is, often it is not money well-spent, especially if you've not devoted much time to really drilling down to pinpoint who your target market is and how best to reach them. The other dilemma facing novice entrepreneurs, is they have yet to discover what will take off and so money may be spent promoting one aspect of their business, when another element is the one to take off.
I remember when we started Company of Women, I bought all sorts of promotional products -- pens, business card holders, post-it notes, bags -- all meant to create brand recognition. While I believe some of it is necessary, we went a bit overboard. We even used to give people a gift for renewing their membership. Common sense and a quick look at my bank statement and we nixed that.
You get to the point in your business when you want people to be part of your client base because they respect the quality of service you offer, not the give-aways they receive. Although some would argue that getting the occasional gift doesn't hurt.
With the rapid growth and recognition of the value of social media, new business owners have the opportunity to promote their businesses that way... and let's face it, the price is right -- it's free.
However, with all the online networking it is important not to forget the face-to-face meetings where you can make a positive impression on the people you meet. I usually recommend that women join three groups, if they can afford it. A women-only group, preferably Company of Women of course, the local chamber and perhaps an industry-related association.
But it all takes time. When I served on the board of our local shelter, I was horrified to learn that it often took 35 instances of domestic violence for a woman to take action and leave. Likewise, people have to see your message numerous times and in different ways for the penny to drop.
That means that you have to take a multi-faceted approach to your marketing. One size does not fit all, so no one strategy is likely to do it for you. You almost want it to be that everywhere they turn, there you are, with a consistent message thereby creating brand recognition.
It's like when you decide to renovate your kitchen, suddenly when you visit friends you have to take a tour of their kitchen. Yet prior to that, you hadn't taken any notice at all.
You want your business or product to be memorable, so that when your prospective customer is looking for your particular service, you are front of mind and most important, easy to find.
You don't want to be like the spaghetti, slinking off the wall, never to be sampled.