Hat Management 101

Dr. Seuss' Bartholomew Cubbins

Bartholomew and His Hats

Perhaps you remember Bartholomew Cubbins, a favorite Dr. Seuss character? Every time Bartholomew tried to doff his hat for the king, another one appeared. It’s a familiar problem for many business owners and managers. Just as soon as one management cap is removed, another appears. There is no shortage of demand for your time – customers, employees, machines, bankers, accountants, salespeople. The the list goes on and there’s also the matter of family time and the need for a couple of hours of sleep.  Most of us wind up wishing for more hours in the day and wondering what happened to the time we thought we had.

In many small businesses, something inevitably slips through the cracks.  Frequently, it’s marketing that is put off for the more urgent needs of the moment. That’s unfortunate, because marketing is important. Why? Because in a broad sense, marketing encompasses all of the communications between a business and their clients and prospects. The lesson is one that we should have learned about the same time we were reading Dr. Seuss – think before you speak. When you lose the focus on marketing, you’re essentially neglecting this very basic lesson.  Without this focus, your company’s message can get diluted and confused.

Yet, marketing tasks are the easiest to ignore.  Why?

  1. Because marketing requires creativity.
  2. Because marketing requires time.
  3. Because results aren’t always easy to measure.
  4. Because marketing costs money.

It would be easy for me to advise you to simply “farm out” your marketing efforts.  Hire someone like me to do it for you and all of your problems will go away.  Sounds good, right? Not so fast . . . While hiring some help might be part of the answer, if you’re a small business owner you don’t want to relinquish control of  your company’s message and identity. You may need assistance, but you may also need a “hat management course” to help with organization. Let’s deal with the difficulties first:

I’m not wired that way . . .

If you’re thinking of marketing in terms of creative work, that’s only part of the equation.  Sure, a good ad campaign puts a creative spin on a product or a company.  The content you present to your customers needs to be well written.  You’d like the art to be appealing. If you don’t have the creative juices to “make it pretty,” hire someone.  But never forget that you are the one who knows the product and the direction for the business.  You have to be able to explain it, both to customers and to the agency or freelancer that you select for creative work.

Ain’t got no time . . .

Right, that’s the problem in the first place. Every aspect of marketing requires time for thought and the small business environment just isn’t conducive.  You’re going to have to slot some time away from the business and the phone, especially if you’re going to do some of the creative work, manage social media, or write content.  Another point, you’ll have to do this consistently and on a schedule.  The biggest error small businesses make doesn’t have to do with marketing budget, rather it’s the consistency and frequency of the message. Finally, in today’s marketing world you must make time to respond and interact with your audience.  Someone needs to keep an ear on the social networks, respond to blog comments, and answer questions.

Does marketing really make any difference?

The easiest way to find out is to stop all of your marketing activities and see what happens.  Nervous? You should be. Most small businesses have always done some marketing and they assume that if they quit, the outcome will be negative.  Accurate, but this is probably the wrong perspective.  A better assumption would be that results will improve if we do a better job.  There’s a good way to test this assumption, too. Measure.

Too much moolah!

RayCharles-DollarThe old Ray Charles song is playing in my head:

Just a little piece of paper, covered with chlorophyll!

Believe it or not, some of the best ways for small businesses to market don’t require much in the way of greenback dollar bills.  There’s no money required for word of mouth.  Social media is cheap.  Sponsorships can have amazing PR impact for very little money.  But wait, we’re back to Bartholomew and his hats.  All of this takes time to manage and measure, and time is money.  And there are very real costs to the conventional advertising campaigns that you may want to consider.

What’s the real question?

If you remember the story, Bartholomew took off 500 hats before he finally was able to show his respect to the king.  It all turned out well in the end, because King Derwin liked the last hat so much that he paid Bartholomew 500 gold coins for it.  But Bartholomew really never got control of the hat problem.  That’s the problem and the real question:  As a small business owner, how do you take control of the marketing effort and manage all of the other hats, too?

Here’s what works:

It’s not only important to slot time to work on the way your company communicates and markets, it also might be good to have a sense of direction to help you organize and implement.  It’s simple. Your company needs a marketing plan.  Your plan doesn’t have to be a formally written document, but it might be.  It could also be an outline or a spreadsheet.  Regardless of form, it needs to contain 6 elements:

  1. Goals
  2. Strategy
  3. Tactics
  4. Budget
  5. Timetable
  6. Measures

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about these elements. If you follow along, you’ll get the basic understanding you need to write a strategic marketing plan for your business and to begin to put it into motion.  We’ll start next week with an overview and a basic math lesson to answer the question, “Is marketing my business a cost or an investment?”

The Last Part

DP Marketing Services is a new business that provides assistance with marketing planning and implementation for small businesses.  We’re available to help you with organization and with specific projects.  We hope you’ll take a look through our website and let us know if you’d like to discuss your business or a project you’re considering.  No risk – the first 2 hours are free.  If you’d like to get in touch, please call Richard Dannenberg at 478-719-4029, email to richard@dpmktg.com, or fill out a contact form here on the website.


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