When is the best time to begin marketing my small business?

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My husband and I have some landscaping projects that we’re dreaming about. Nothing major. Adding some shrubs here. Maybe some pavers over there. And a couple of those really cool concrete stones to travel up the steep hills in our yard. The problem with the landscaping project is we tell ourselves we’ll do it when we have some extra money.

To be honest, we end up prioritizing many other projects ahead of this one. These projects are inside of the house and we feel like maybe it makes a bigger impact on our daily life. We always pick other projects instead of this landscaping project year after year.

It’s time to face facts: we are probably never going to do those landscaping projects because, thus far, we haven’t prioritized them.

Many people view marketing like my husband and I do landscaping: we'll get to it when we have spare time or money.

A wise business will not approach their marketing like we do our landscaping!

Marketing is like your street address.

Let me explain.

Numbers on your house give valuable information to passersby. My address is “1920”. When I call the pizza guy, you’d better believe I’m giving him my street address. Otherwise, how would he find the house?

Imagine him driving around trying to guess, looking at the houses before mine and after mine lined up on the street.

Imagine him driving around trying to guess is this house is the right one?

Imagine me at the kitchen table wondering, “Where is this pizza guy? He’s 20 minutes late.”

Imagine my kids. They’re starving. And angry. And upset.

Finally, I decide I’d better go outside and stand at the end of the driveway. I'm looking for a car marked with a pizza delivery sign, waving a white flag in desperation. “Please, this is our house! Come here!”

You’d better believe the pizza guy, the UPS guy, the FedEx guy and the postal service -- I want them all to know what my house address is.

A life without address numbers

If I didn’t clearly display the numbers on our house, nobody would find us. Every time we’d be expecting a package or a pizza we’d feel desperate.

Now, imagine you’ve got out of town relatives that you’ve been looking forward to seeing all summer long. They know you’ve just moved into this house and they’re coming to see you.

The day is approaching. They’re stopping by tomorrow afternoon. But there is one problem: you still don’t have numbers on your house.

The night before their visit, you’re lying awake in bed trying to figure out, “How do I solve this problem? My family is coming. How do I show them where I live?”

Tactics don’t help

You decide you can install a flashy “open” sign. Something that lights up. Something that’s got LEDs. Something that people can see from a long-distance away.

Or maybe, you could decide to put up a billboard telling us exactly how long you’ve lived in the house.

Or, you can spend time frustrated by the other houses in town that look like yours. “My relatives might think that house over there is mine! But, really, I’m over here!”

None of these tactics will *actually* solve your problem. Right? We can all see that.

By simply adding some numbers to your house, this will do the trick. “Yes, this is 1920. Come on in.”

Consistent marketing is a map

Here’s my take.

Marketing is like the signage and street numbers that direct people to your house.

Marketing leads customers *to your door* by telling people who you are, what you’re selling and where they can find you.

Much like the pizza guy, the UPS man, and your long-distance relatives are directed to your house. Your marketing directs people to your business.

There’s a famous quote I’ve read many times but wasn’t sure who came up with it. So, today, I Googled it.

“What is important is seldom urgent. What is urgent is seldom important.”

I’ve read that quote a million times and learned today that Dwight D. Eisenhower said it.

How often do we neglect to heed this wisdom time and again in our lives?

Instead, we can are putting out tiny little fires but never spending time on the things that we value or that are important to us.

Marketing emergencies do not exist

Like my landscaping project, there is no emergency, so I just keep putting it off. You know, it’s not like my basement is flooding or my roof is leaking. It’s just a landscaping project that I’d like to do maybe someday.

Guess what? We’ll probably never do it.

The landscaping project is a lot like putting numbers on your house. There is no emergency. If you buy a house that is missing address numbers on it you can still enjoy living there. You'll enjoy it the same way you would if there were numbers on it. Right? A lack of address numbers does not infringe on your enjoyment. It’s still a very nice house.

Maybe the lack of numbers is not a problem after all!

Until. Until you order something from your favorite online retailer and the UPS guy can’t find you. Or you order a pizza to feed your hungry crew and the pizza guy can’t find you. Or Aunt Judy has arrived from out-of-town and can’t wait to see your new place, and can’t find you.

In that case, you find yourself scrambling for quick fixes and tactics. You realize there’s an issue--PEOPLE CANNOT FIND YOU!

You lay awake at night trying to think of the next thing you can try to alert people to where you live. Then, you’re not even executing on the ideas you come up with. Or maybe you’ve tried a couple of them and then gave up.

This is like putting a temporary sign on your house with numbers displaying weekends only.

Marketing is like having clear numbers on your house and a sign in your yard with your last name, “The Raiche’s live here!”

Marketing is the map that points the way.

Consistent, clear marketing will tell customers :

  • what you do

  • where you’re at

  • and when they should call you,

because you’re the expert at __________________.

What? Tell us? We’re dying to know.

Marketing will never become urgent.

If you want more customers and phone calls, marketing will lead the way.

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Jen Raiche creates marketing road maps for brick-and-mortar businesses in the Iron Mountain, MI area. Her company is Sidekicks Marketing.