At the end of the day, all marketing comes down to getting an enthusiastic ‘yes!’ to your proposition – whether that’s a sale, a booking for a workshop or lecture, or negotiating a better rate with a supplier.
An ex bank manager I used to work with once said to me, ‘It’s the people in a business that are important – just as important, in fact, as the business idea. And whenever people approach us for advice or funding, we look carefully at those people and their strengths and weaknesses to see whether they’ve really got what it takes to be in charge of a small business.’
This holds true, I think, irrespective of the size of the company. If you’re a one or two person company then the leadership issue comes down entirely to you and that’s both a thrilling and challenging thing and a mighty burden of responsibility.
So what can you do to make sure that you’re living up to that responsibility and carrying out the tasks that you need to do really well, and presenting the company to the outside world really well, and making sure that the company finances are hanging together, and that the marketing is working and that there is a flow of sales coming through?
Balancing all those things together is really incredibly tricky. And it’s even more incredibly tricky when you individually are totally responsible both for the creative energy and imagination that leads to the things you make and do being designed and produced and put into production and for them subsequently being marketed and sold.
There’s a critical balance to be struck in the way you take the lead, between the internal workings of your business and the way you present it to others.
There’s a technique I use when working with small businesses, which helps put a focus on what’s important – I call it ‘Dashboard Data’. The analogy here is that running a business is a bit like flying a plane – there are loads of dials on the dashboard and they all tell you important things. Critically, there are maybe two or three that you absolutely need to pay attention to on a minute by minute or hour by hour basis. It’s obvious things like, have you got enough fuel to complete the journey, are you flying straight and level or are you about to stall, and have you enough altitude to clear the mountain that you are flying towards?
I won’t labour the metaphor, as I’m sure you’ll be thinking already of the things that you might need to monitor within your business.
For a micro-enterprise it might be things like cashflow – what’s coming in and going out this week, month or year? It might be to do with your marketing funnel – are you getting the right enquiries and are those enquiries converting into sales? It might be about getting repeat sales – are people coming back to buy more? That’s really critical especially if you rely on third parties to do your selling for you.
So the challenge to you is to sit down with a pad and pen and work out what your dashboard data might be. What do you need to keep a close eye on most regularly?
This data is empowering stuff.
I’d like to return to the idea of charismatic leadership – in addition to understanding the building blocks of your finances and marketing, being successful also hinges on how you present yourself to the outside world.
People are buying from you – they’re not buying from a leaflet or a brochure. Yes, they’ll look at those things when they’re finding out about your products or to help them make a decision. But it’s you and the reputation of your company that they are really putting their faith in when they get their credit card out or hand you a wedge of cash at a trade show. And if they are dissatisfied for any reason, it won’t be your brochure they complain to – it’ll be you.
So you need to pay close to attention to the way that you come across personally, and the way that you do business and interact with people.
Personal branding isn’t all about the clothes you wear and the quality of your watch. In a smaller company, you are the personification of your brand. If you are a potter or a cake maker and live most of your life in an apron the chances are that folk will understand that. OK, someone may ask you to do a talk and you may or may not wish to put on a suit or smart casuals at that point. That’s both context driven and a matter of personal choice.
It really boils down to this: the way that you talk to people and conduct yourself with others is in effect the main transmitter of your personal brand consistency.
If you have the reputation for being a cheery soul that is also exceptionally good at what you do, and who listens really carefully, and takes into account what it is that the customer really wants, then you are well on the way to creating the sort of personal brand that a creative person really needs.
However, if you’re a grumpy so-and-so on Monday mornings, the suit is neither here nor there. Stay away from the phone or get someone cheery to answer it for you. I wish I were joking, but so many businesses are spoiled by a lack of awareness of the details that really count. If you’re grumpy, or awkward, or you don’t listen, people will simply stop calling – and you’ll soon see the results in your cashflow.
Your business is dependent on getting enough warm human beings to say ‘yes’. Not just the once, but over and over again. And how you conduct yourself is absolutely critical in getting them to a ‘yes’ decision.
Best wishes – Pete