You'd think as a marketing agency we'd have a pretty honed script describing what we do. And we do - kind of. The truth is, marketing means different things to different people, and at times we struggle to combat negative messaging about what marketing actually is - or at least, how we do it.
For many, marketing is equated with spending large sums of money on 'things' - and hoping for some kind of return. Consider the following synonyms listed under the word 'marketing', according to merriam-webster.com:
banner, bill, billboard, placard, poster, sign, pronouncement, publication, release, ad,
advertisement, commercial, message, plug, promotion, spot, word, broadcast, bulletin, dispatch, newscast, report, story, ballyhoo, hype, publicity, puffery, propaganda.
Whoa - propaganda?!? Well, not on our watch, but we get it. This is the perfect example of how the word has the potential to evoke not only evasion, but down right hostility from some. Note that nearly all of the above listed synonyms are nouns - they are static - neither fluid nor action oriented. They are things - banners, ads, promotions - things that cost $$$.
So, this is what we are often up against.
However to us, marketing is a verb, and it is full of doing - it is full of:
researching and assessing
considering and deciding
shifting and re-evaluating
True marketing is not static, it is not fixed, and it cannot be executed by plugging the players into a template.
At least that is not how we do it.
When we create a marketing plan, it is backed by a strategy. A strategy that is informed by researching, assessing, considering, deciding, shifting, re-evaluating....you get the idea. Because a plan without a strategy to guide it is just a plan, like a trip without an itinerary.
People plan to do all kinds of things, all of the time, without researching and considering what measures to put in place to sustain their plan. Like New Year's resolutions that are doomed before they start, because you pick a plan that doesn't actually reflect how you do you in your day to day. Or new business ventures that do not have a business plan - a staggering number do not, and a staggering number fail.
Sure, you might be the one in a million to make it work without one, but few folks have the funds to just wing it and see how it goes.
So, how do we define 'marketing' at Marketing Outpost?
A process in which we create a customized, strategic plan for small business clients based on where and who they are - not based on where and who their biggest competitor is.
And this is how we do it...
Apologies - we had an early 90's flashback and went into dj mode for a moment...
We work with most of our small business clients on a local or regional level first, gaining significant ground within their industry landscape.
Local is where strategies can be tested and controlled, outcomes measured, and changes implemented quickly.
Local isn't little - local is how you compete with larger competition; the public almost always prefers patronizing a local business over a big corporate one. Speak to them and show up with a more reliable product or service and you are now in the game.
When and if it is time for a business to expand further, a proven track record has been established, and a system is in place.
We work with and amplify what our clients already have, not what they don't yet have, nor the popular notion of what they should have - or be - based on their trade.
This includes not only financial resources, but what they offer and who they are as a business entity and persona, what makes them notable and exceptional.
We focus on what niche their specific business satisfies - and especially on what niche they do not.
As Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying "Comparison is the thief of joy".
Yes, you need to keep abreast of what others in your industry are doing, and no, don't bury your head in the sand. But after 15+ years working in marketing, we do know that the most positive business gains are made with a marketing strategy based on the unique assets of that business, not trying to keep up with or outdo those of Joe Competitor.
And for this reason...
We do not do 'template' marketing.
We do not plug and play with our clients.
Large marketing agencies do not typically have the capacity to customize. They work with a large volume of clients, on a tight turn around schedule, in order to sustain that volume.
Customization is what we do.
So what does this mean?
Client Discernment: Low Volume, High Attention
We maintain a smaller hand picked volume of clients so that our focused, detailed attention may be given throughout the process.
We absolutely make time to meet and listen to every potential new client, but we do not ultimately work with every potential client. Being a hands on boutique style marketing firm means we have to know the fit is right.
We don't farm out smaller revenue clients or clients we may not get along with to jr. or entry level marketing staff, as many bigger agencies do. Each member of the Marketing Outpost team has unique talents and capabilities that will likely be required at different stages of the marketing process, so we must be all in as a team before putting together an initial proposal.
We take on clients who have realistic business goals that we believe we can meet. Challenging goals? Sign us up. Goals with little traction in reality? That's not for us.
We are not an industry specific firm, having worked with all manner of different businesses. We see this as an asset, providing us with broad insights rather than polarized ones. However if we don't believe we have the appropriate experience to provide you with what your specific trade requires, we'll let you know.
Large marketing agencies often rely on the 'things' of marketing - the ads, the brochures, the new logos etc., often without doing the legwork to actually learn about the business - the learning that informs real strategy.
Client Process: Listen & Learn, Implement & Revise
Listening leads us to ideas. There is no one size fits all approach to marketing campaigns. The initial phase of our client work is not about rolling out options, idea and collateral materials, it is about learning.
Learning includes a deep dive into who you are as a small business, your market presence, trends in your industry, your social and digital footprint, and what you think your next level goal is.
We don't make recommendations or craft campaigns until we can be provide an analysis based on this learning and research, which yields a thorough snapshot of both measurable data and our insights.
Marketing is not static, nor is it finite. Market conditions change on a dime, as do client needs, and revising the marketing plan is a constant. Often times the goal we started with will change, and so too the implementation.
A true marketing plan factors in the space to test, trial and tweak.
And then do it all over again!
And those 'things' of marketing?....
Well of course we get to those! Only after we do the strategic work.
We love a good re-brand or logo, an overhauled website, a cool rack card, a hip advertisement, some snazzy swag...and we have plenty of opinions about all of it.
If that turns out to be integral to the marketing plan, we are all in and have loads of resources and experience to provide. We just don't start there first.
Would you buy new furniture without knowing the floor plan of your house?
That armoire sure looked stunning, until it didn't fit through the front door.
So that's how we define and do marketing.
Because marketing is a mutable process, not a race to the finish.
Want to learn more and get some marketing mettle into your own hands?
Marketing Outpost is offering Learnshops throughout the year to help small businesses gain insight and determine the definition of marketing that works for them.
These live Zoominars also include the audio recording and relevant marketing resources shared during the class. Appropriate for new and established businesses.
Marketing Outpost is a full-service marketing strategy company working with small to midsize independent businesses in the Asheville, Hendersonville, Weaverville and western North Carolina area. Access the full scope of our experience, resources and knowledge with flexible options. With more than 15+ years of experience in marketing in the Asheville area, we can help you Achieve Your Ambition.