A Tale of Two Bridges
Or Why the Time for Marketing has Always Been Now, but Right Now it's Even More Important
I’ve been working for SME’s for an inordinately long time, I guess you could say that it’s my other area of ‘specialism’ besides marketing. For every SME I’ve worked with from start-up to multi-million-pound turnover, there has always been one overarching thing I’ve learned; And that is, too many SME’s ignore marketing, seeing it as a waste of resources or something they could ‘probably just do themselves’ and usually without the know-how to be able to do it.
And that’s OK, (the not knowing bit) because why would you know? Your special sauce, your magic thing is why you went into business and that’s what you want to share with your target audience, you want them to know how you can help them…Or how you can help them to aspire to something, right? Which leads me back to my first point…
When you need help with your accounting, who do you call upon? If you’re having HR troubles or the IT system is having a meltdown and you know you can’t fix it, who do you call upon? Because I’ll bet it’s not yourself. I’ll bet my favourite pair of shoes (yes, they are that special to me) if you need something fixing in your business, you go to the specialist in that area to help you. Except of course, if it’s marketing, because well you know, we all get marketed to so it can’t be that hard can it? And that’s not so bad, if you’re selling something fairly transactional. Something like a well-known caramel chocolate bar, they can’t have done that much marketing……can they?
The truth is over the years, how marketing is 'done' has changed significantly. I don't really like the word marketing if I'm honest, it's much more communicative than it suggests and it’s become more holistic. Metaphorically speaking it is the bridge you build between your business and your customers, so that they can cross it and buy from you… But only if you don’t have a troll living under your bridge.
We’ll call this troll ‘Customers Don’t Have a Seat at The Table.’ The troll spends its days thinking about sales, about the bottom line, about the deadline for the accountants. It thinks about the health and safety audit coming up, about the tech, about an issue with a staff member. The troll positions everything above marketing and communicating with its customers. In short, this troll is not good for business, he is not the business model you want to be working with. Broadly speaking the bridges this troll sits under are brittle and patchy in areas and the customers aren’t really sure if they want to cross that bridge at all, because the solid one across the road looks a far safer bet.
On the other hand, there are businesses who have a sturdy bridge that are filled with great lines of communication to their customers and prospective audiences, nurturing their experiences and journey along the way. There is no troll beneath the bridge because the business has decided to put their customers at the head of the table, pride of place. ‘You are welcome here my friend, and not only are we going to show you that, we’re also going to let you know why you’re welcome and how we can help. We’ll do this by communicating with you in your language across our marketing channels and we’ll look at ways we can make your customer journey easy. It’s not about us, my friend. It’s about you.’
I’ve seen a big shift in the way companies are communicating with their customers recently. It’s becoming rawer, more vulnerable and people are listening. For the first time ever, as a business owner you’re in a unique situation because you have a wider common ground on which you stand with your customers, something we've all been through together and you’re in a position where you can share your value.
Whilst part of the moral of this story might actually be that being in business is not a fairy tale, I hope it helps every small business, every start-up, every SME to think about how they are communicating and how the needs and aspirations of their customers will be changing coming out of the lock down.
My final question to you is; have you checked your bridge for holes? Is your marketing and communication strategy up to the test or is it patchy at best? And are you asking your audience – ‘How can we help you right now?’ Be sure to look at it through the eyes of your audience and it will help fix the holes.