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It’s not uncommon that the cadence in the news and our social media feeds include reports of the latest viral “challenge”. These challenges cover the gamut, from noble (the Ice Bucket challenge) to “what were they thinking?” (swallowing pods of laundry detergent).

One of the most recent viral crazes was the “Birdbox challenge”, honoring the Netflix horror film from late last year. If you missed out on it, this challenge involved people doing everyday things while blindfolded. When the challenge moved online, Netflix felt compelled to issue a warning that bad things happen when blindfolded.

Really?

I don’t know what continues to cause me to shake my head – whether it was people thinking doing things blindfolded was smart, or the fact that Netflix had to give a warning that bad things can happen when sight is restricted. We’ve reached a point in time where the risk of lawsuits requires companies to take on a guardian role to remind us how to prevent injury.

Regardless, it’s clear that trying to navigate even a familiar path or activity can be very difficult when there isn’t a clear picture of where you are going. Limiting sight, either by blindfold or not making the effort to take in all visual clues, greatly impacts the success of reaching your destination.

Unfortunately, this is how many business owners approach marketing. They understand the need to market their product or service but don’t have a big-picture strategy. Instead, they listen to what others are doing. They are numb to the fact that their competitor or business down the street may not be following a plan either.

Why is this happening?

How many companies go straight to execution and don’t take the time for this planning?  According to Infusionsoft’s small business marketing trends report many of today’s 30 million small business owners don’t have time to think about marketing and have no one on staff dedicated to it. Instead, they juggle many tasks and do their best with the limited time they have. Sometimes they end up doing what they’ve done before, or worse, they chase every shiny thing that sounds like marketing and throw up their hands when it doesn’t provide immediate results.

Where to begin?

Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. However, to be effective and maximize the marketing spend, a strategy should be developed and designed specifically for the individual business.

Marketing dollars will go further when goals are first defined. It’s then critical to assess what’s been working, and what’s not bringing in a viable return. It’s wise to take these steps on an annual basis and then follow through with a process of continual monitoring, measuring and adjusting.

Central to planning is knowing the customer, the audience to marketing. The potential customer needs a compelling message that pulls them into the story being told. It must acknowledge the problem they need to solve and guide them to follow a plan that will resolve the pain they experience with a clear call to action.

Finally, a strategy is created to determine how to reach the lead, qualify them, and then convert into a customer. Only after the plan is created is when implementation should begin.

Without a marketing strategy, a business can waste enormous amounts of money on marketing.

It’s time to remove the blindfold. Make a plan, and if you aren’t sure what to do, ask a marketing professional for some help. According to the Business Talent Group’s 2019 High-End Independent Talent Report, companies find the challenge of low unemployment in today’s job market leads them to hire independent subject matter experts rather than full-time staff to get projects done.

What was at the top of the list in 2018 for the most in-demand projects that used independent on-demand talent?  Marketing and sales strategy!

Think you don’t have money for marketing? Start small and then grow your budget as results improve. More than anything in your business, creating a marketing strategy to align with your goals is one of the wisest investments that can be made to advance business.

Lisa McGuire is a brand strategist and a StoryBrand Certified Guide. She is an expert at creating a marketing strategy by leveraging the power of “story” and helps business owners get closer to the vision for their business by engaging and reaching their ideal customers. It starts with a Marketing Strategy session. Contact Lisa to learn about how you can receive a 12-month marketing plan, designed specifically for your business, and spend your time focusing on doing the work you want to do.

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