Is it feast or famine at your business? This is an all-too-common scenario for entrepreneurs. When you’re slammed, you’re too busy to find new leads. Then, when your projects reach the end of their life cycle, you suddenly find yourself without billable work. Just how do you avoid this boom-bust cycle? The answer is simple: consistent marketing.
Here are four ways to help you keep the flow of business nice and steady—so you can keep your bank account full.
You started your business for a reason. Perhaps you were seeking flexibility and more time for your family. Or maybe you wanted to create something you would own from top to bottom. Whatever inspired you, it’s important to take the time to create both short- and long-term goals for yourself.
Would you like steady part-time work with a few clients, or do you want to grow your business by leaps and bounds? Take the time to figure it out—and write it down. Be sure to include a way to measure your success. For instance, would you like to add one new client each month, or grow sales by 15 percent over the prior year? This document will become the benchmark for all your marketing activities so you can stay on track and achieve what you set out to accomplish.
Now that you know where you want to go, you need to create a roadmap to get you there: the marketing plan. If you’ve never done this, the idea of creating one from scratch may seem overwhelming. First, how do you research your market? Second, how do you draft a situation analysis, analyze threats and opportunities to your business and establish measurable objectives and goals? Lastly, if you’re not even sure what each piece of the marketing plan puzzle is – how do you write your to-do list of tactics and create a budget?
Fortunately for small businesses, help is out there. This how-to guide from Entrepreneur magazine walks you through the process, step by step, with examples along the way to illustrate how you take the intangible concept of marketing and make it real for your business. The U.S. Small Business Administration also offers marketing resources to help small business owners like you thrive in their marketing efforts.
Now that you know what you need to do, it’s time to get busy. Some of your marketing activities will be deadline-driven, such as advertising, but others will be up to you. These softer marketing efforts, such as networking coffee dates and blog posts on your website, require self-discipline.
To help you stay on track, add these to-dos to your calendar and make a promise to yourself to complete them, even if you’re in the throes of another big project or customer deliverable. If you feel tempted to put them off, remind yourself that they are the foundation of your future success. Without them, you could find yourself in a dreaded valley in the coming months rather than at the top of the peak.
You already know this, but it bears repeating: Marketing is not a one-and-done endeavor. From time to time, step back and assess how you are doing. Are you reaching your goals? If you are, then keep up the good work. If not, take an honest look at your plan to see what’s working and what isn’t. Then adapt. After all, a marketing plan is a living, breathing document. Keep it tuned up so it can take you where you need to go.
With a little effort—along with some self-motivation and strong organization—you can use these pointers to boost the stability of your business year-round.