How to succeed in marketing your business: learn the patience game

My husband recently shared a Masters in Business podcast with me in which the Winklevoss Twins (of The Social Network/Facebook fame) were interviewed. You can listen for yourself, here. The point that hit me the strongest was that their investment strategy relies on a little-appreciated trait: patience.

In fact, studies have shown that most professional investors are quite good at buying great investments. Where many of them fall down is in selling them; the majority make great selection decisions, then get cold feet, start to question their choices, and sell too early.

The Winklevoss twins didn’t become some of the first Bitcoin billionaires by selling too soon, trust me.

You’re probably wondering about now what in all that’s precious this has to do with marketing. Frankly, quite a lot.

One of the worst marketing mistakes we see small business owners make is putting together a solid marketing plan, taking the time (and sometimes money) to set it up, setting it running…  And then, before it has a chance to work, they start questioning their decisions and end up shutting it all down. We see it again and again, and it breaks our hearts.

Of course, I totally get how scary it is to spend your hard-earned money on marketing, especially if you click the “on” switch and… nothing happens right away. But the reality is that—for many, many, many businesses—you don’t get an immediate fire hose of demand when you turn on your marketing programs for the first time. Sure, if you sell reasonably-priced items through an e-commerce site, you’ll find a direct flip-the-switch connection between your marketing programs and your sales, but for business with high price points, or businesses that provide services that people don’t need all the time (think realtors or house painters), or B2B businesses, or businesses that have a long sales process, you should expect it to take some time before your marketing starts to “kick in”.

This delay is particularly amplified with small businesses, which usually have smaller marketing budgets and therefore less marketing reach. And it is even more amplified if your primary marketing approach is content marketing.

Like any investment, your marketing needs time to mature.

Now, we’re in no way saying you should keep throwing good money after bad on a marketing strategy that doesn’t work. But we are suggesting you should give it some time before you call the time-of-death. How much time you should wait will depend on your business and how long your sales cycle is. In the meantime, here are some clues that things may be starting to happen, whether you’re seeing closed deals or not:

  • Your web traffic is up—and, even more exciting—your time on site and number of pages viewed has gone up (you’ll need Google Analytics to figure this out) 
  • Your ads and/or posts on social media are getting good engagement (likes, shares, comments), or your search ads are performing well. 
  • You’re feeling the “buzz”. If you’re paying attention, you’ll often start to feel a pick up in interest through various channels. Keep your feelers out.

Of course, if, after the appropriate amount of time (equal to approximately how long, on average, it takes people to buy your product or service), you’re still only getting buzz, web traffic, and engagement, it may be time to take a good hard look at what’s going on. Check out how to troubleshoot your marketing strategy here.

A Metahelm brochureIn closing, I want to share the story of a client of ours, who has a very long sales cycle. Literally about a week after I had given him my patented, “sometimes marketing needs time” speech, he emailed me to tell me that he’d just gotten a new client from an event he’d done a couple of years before; the person had actually held on to a flyer (the very one on the right) in case he’d one day need our client’s service. Point made, and some. I could have saved my breath.

Stay strong, my friends. Good things come to those with the guts to wait.

Happy small business marketing,

Katie & Theron

At Urban Sherpa Marketing Co. we offer marketing advisory, strategic planning, and services for small businesses and startups. Our goal is to make high-quality marketing possible for every business, no matter the size. Think of us as your outsourced marketing department, strategic marketing adviser, or even your phone-a-friend marketing lifeline. We specialize in building efficient marketing programs to grow your business without blowing the bank.

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