Think Big, But Execute Small (and Fast!) in Marketing

One of the things I teach is how to think big and then come back down to earth and quickly prioritize and execute the small marketing steps that will put a business on the fast track to success. After you brainstorm and determine some possible marketing activities, you then need to make some quick decisions as to what to focus on, based on what you think will give you the greatest chance of meeting your goals. Usually, there is no perfect or right answer. Most often, you will take a trial-and-error approach. You just need to implement your marketing goals as quickly and inexpensively as possible. You also need to define your financial boundaries, which is how much you can afford to risk financially on this marketing project should it not generate revenue.

For example, I was speaking with a student who had just created a new product. She had leapt in immediately and begun manufacturing. As it turned out (as I often hear about), she did no research upfront. This research would have determined what information is required on the product box such as a bar code, if she decided to sell through a store. She could have also factored in other costs into the retail price, such as shipping and handling (if she sold direct) or a resellers’ markup.

Very understandably, her goal was to take action and not procrastinate. However, her challenge might be that this first go-round with this product could be a somewhat costly lesson, if she needed to go back and make changes to the design of the box, so that she could include a bar code or a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).  In this case, she managed to come up with a backupplan which, if needed, is to shrinkwrap the boxes and attach a label containing the bar code.

Of course, the reason that we want to take action is that it feels more like real work than planning does. Also, for a task we have never done before, it sometimes seems easier to summon ourconfidence just enough to leap in and take action, rather than take a chance on getting discouraged by looking at what might go wrong.

Ideally, what I recommend is that you try to find a balance between both—getting yourself to take action and trying to minimize costs during your learning process.

How do you do that? Use these five basic steps:

  1. Quickly draft an action plan. Consider your long-term goal, your planned short-term steps, and the aspects of your decision process.
  2. Set up a support system as soon as possible. This should be no more than a couple of other entrepreneurs whose opinions you respect and, if asked, will give you their honest input, not just what you want to hear. 
    You could do this as a one-time meeting with more experienced entrepreneurs who are willing to act as mentors. This could even include free counseling from the volunteer counselors at the Small Business Administration (SBA) and/or its partner organizations. (See the SBA website for more information.) Alternately, you could look for a couple of other startup entrepreneurs with whom you could set up frequent meetings (perhaps biweekly), who will each hold the others’ feet to the fire if they do not take action. You might even want to do both.
  3. Review the plan with your support system as soon as possible. Get input on possible short-term and long-term issues you might not have initially considered. (Obviously, the short-term issues have greater priority.)
  4. Quickly make a final decision on your short-term activities, but do so with the knowledge of where the pitfalls might be and what your contingency plan is.
  5. Execute your plan. Do not be afraid to make revisions if you encounter any serious issues. Remember that it is usually less costly to change things now, rather than later. For example, for an additional fee, my student might have been able to add a bar code during the course of the manufacturing process. That option would have probably cost less now than needing to reorder a few thousand product boxes with a bar code later.

When you have discovered the right support system, you will no longer feel like you are stepping off a cliff without a net and that is what will keep you moving forward quickly (and within your budget) with your marketing plans.

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