In a previous life, I had a boss who had a number of great sayings. One of my favourites was, "sales causes marketing". I tried to argue with him on many occasions, mainly when I was trying to increase my marketing budget, but, I have to admit, he had a point.
From a theoretical point of view, marketing should be seen as an investment in the growth of a business. Your marketing plan starts with agreeing the objectives (such as increasing sales by 20%) for the year ahead, and a strategy for delivering them - normally one of the four boxes in the Ansoff matrix:
From there you can plan your marketing mix and define the tactics that you are going to use along the way. The promotional part of the marketing mix is usually where most of the focus goes.
Plan Your Promotion
So, say you want to enter a new market (bottom left in the Ansoff matrix) where nobody knows about your services. You're going to need a considerable promotional budget.
You'll need to invest heavily in activities such as advertising, PR and social media to make people aware of your existence, as well as plenty of website content to explain who you are and what you do if they are interested in finding out more. You may also want to produce brochures, e-books or webinars to further entice these potential customers and attend exhibitions and events to meet new people.
So far so good, you have a strategy and a comprehensive plan to go with it and high hopes that your marketing activities will cause sales.
Setting Your Marketing Budget
However, in the real world, the available budget is going to have a major influence on the decisions about what you want to do and how much you are able to do.
Inevitably your grand plans for achieving your vision will have to be tailored to the money that's available, but that's where you end up in a catch 22 situation. You need to invest to achieve your goals but you don't yet have the money.
So, do you go out and find the money you need to implement your plan in the way you know you need to, or do you cut back, wait until the sales come in and then invest more when (if) they do?
Build It, But Will They Come?
And here's the problem. By cutting the budget to match the money that's currently available you could be dooming your new venture to failure. Without telling people you exist, they won't find your business, your sales won't meet your objectives and you won't ever get the chance to invest in promoting it. You'll never know if it could have succeeded because it never got off the ground.
The same applies whether it's a new business venture or a new website - getting found is essential. You can't even start a sales process if you don't have that initial audience to speak to.
Waiting For Results
It happens all the time in our business. We put together a proposal based on the current situation - how well a website is performing in search, traffic, conversions, how competitive the market is etc and we recommend a budget to get the potential client to where they want to be. Often the response is, "that sounds great but can we start with a smaller budget and when we get the sales we'll increase it".
So, in that situation, sales would indeed cause marketing. Except that, without the initial investment, the clients are unlikely to see the sales they need to actually more forward with the marketing activity that will make the difference. Starting small usually gives small results and an even smaller budget for the future.
The most successful digital marketing projects are those that start with sufficient investment to build a simple website quickly, getting it online and visible to the market as soon as possible, through search, social media or advertising. The sooner that potential customers begin to visit it, the sooner we can gather the data we need to start enhancing the basic site in the most effective way. An ongoing budget that lets us take an agile approach to improving your online presence is a great way to make sure you invest in the digital marketing work that will have the biggest impact on meeting your objectives. We call it Growth Driven Design. And instead of starting small and hoping for the best, you may even be able to reduce your budget once the initial burst of activity is complete.
Reach For The Stars
The more effort you put into your website and digital marketing at the start, the faster you will build your online presence. From there a steady and consistent stream of activity will keep improving your situation incrementally. By investing in a solid foundation you will be in a great position to start seeing your marketing cause sales!