As a regular attendee of networking events with other SME business marketers I’ve honed my “elevator pitch’ over the years and have several variations available depending on whom I’m speaking to.

But recently I was a little flummoxed whilst driving my family to visit the in-laws when my 11 year old son asked: “what is it you do for a job dad?”

Sure I could have given him any one of my carefully constructed statements about how as an experienced B2B marketer, I help SME business marketers and owners to improve the effectiveness of their marketing activities to help grow their business but the more I thought about it, the more I reckoned that he wouldn’t get it. So thinking fast I came up with this analogy.

I said to him, remember as we watched the film last night, there was a scene where a man stood up in front of the orchestra and directed them to play? Well, he’s a conductor and I do something similar, only for businesses.

Let me explain.

The conductor is an acknowledged musician in his own right, he has lots of experience and probably specializes in a particular area of music but he understands all aspects of music and how to get the various sections of the orchestra working together to produce the best sound.

He works from a musical score (the plan) that determines when each section of the orchestra start to play, how loudly they play when the other sections join in and signal to the soloists when it’s their turn to play.

His role is to get all of the different sections of the orchestra, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings to work in harmony to create the sound that the composer of the music envisioned and to provide enjoyment to the listeners. If he gets it wrong then those mistakes can affect the whole orchestra, produce the wrong sound and make the listeners unhappy.

Well that’s what I do but instead of musicians, I work with groups of people in business and marketing, bringing together different disciplines when they’re needed and making sure they all work really well together to achieve the objectives in the business plan (that is sometimes written by me) and that normally means helping the business to grow or increase profits.

So does that help you understand what I do?

He said, “yeah, whatever”.

But it did make me think about how I position my business and differentiate my offer against my competition.

Over the years I’ve had marketing responsibility for local, regional, national and international businesses and I work hard to keep my skills up-to-date. I’m a CIM qualified marketer and for years I’ve put time aside to keep my Chartered Marketer and Google Partner status. I’ve graduated from the Google Squared Online digital marketing programme and continue to be certified by Hubspot. This keeps me focused on the latest trends and techniques in digital marketing and helps me to provide an integrated solution for my clients.

So although I now specialise in helping SME’s improve their marketing effectiveness, I have a wide range of marketing experience and I understand that almost every successful business has a written marketing plan and a vision of what success looks like. And that’s something too many SME’s lack.

If you want to launch a new product or service and achieve sustainable growth targets then you need to have a deep understanding of your customer base, your competition, your own strengths and weaknesses and know the true value you bring to the market. Then you need to consider the key aspects of the marketing mix appropriate for your audience and implement your plan accordingly.

Yes, there will be times when a business needs to employ the skills and experience of a specialist in a specific marketing discipline but there are many individuals who work in what could be described as a marketing “silo” who may not have a marketing or business background and may have little understanding of how their actions will affect the overall marketing objectives of the company.

To carry on with the music analogy, if you ask a good pub guitar player to play Stairway To Heaven, you might get a great rendition but if you ask him to write the score to include piano, drums and base and then showcase the band in the Albert Hall you might get a very different result.

Indeed, it is worth mentioning that many of the service providers that businesses view as “marketers” are in fact “creatives” and offer a great service in their respective disciplines such as web design and development, graphic design, social media, copywriting, photography and video production. They may be practitioners within an area of marketing but are not usually qualified or trained marketers

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), marketing is:

“The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

And the key word in that description is management.

As I’ve mentioned many times before the basis of all marketing is down to hard work researching your markets, defining how to Segment, Target and Position your offer and understanding your value proposition. Marketing communications, the bit that most people latch onto is a small part of marketing and could be viewed as mainly tactical.

Kevin Golding hit the nail on the head during the launch of the Telegraph Newspaper’s national small business initiative with his article on “The biggest issue facing small businesses”. Check it out, it’s a great read.

He sets the scene very well regarding the value of marketing and how too many businesses see it as a cost or an “add on” rather than an investment. Peter Drucker, the renowned management consultant said

“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation. All the rest are costs. 

Marketing should sit at the heart of your business as a driver for everything you do but most businesses don’t get this. They’ll happily jump straight on board with the latest shiny new object or focus their marketing activities on just one particular channel with no plan for guidance. In that way many SME business marketers go off track and end up on a downward spiral, wasting time and marketing budget.

And that’s understandable as most small businesses don’t have access to experienced marketers. Many small business marketers have grown into the role with little or no training, picking it up along the way or else they have to wear several hats, marketing being just one of them. But it doesn’t have to be like that. There are lots of trained marketers out there; the trick is to sort through the noise and find the one that suits your business and your specific needs.

I know it’s not easy as every marketing and non-marketing service providers tend to lead with tag lines and sound bites around “business growth” but going back to my “Marketing Maestro” analogy, remember, to get the best return for your business you need a plan. That plan, based on market research will determine the messages you send out to your target audience, the content you will create, the channels you will use and the metrics you will measure. And that plan needs to be managed.

Marketing isn’t easy, it’s hard graft and takes time and effort. That’s why too many businesses look for short cuts (and don’t find any).

If your marketing function has limited skills, experience, wears several hats and you’re starved of time perhaps you should consider bringing in a marketing maestro to analyse the effectiveness of your marketing activities and get it on track before throwing more good money after bad.

In summary

When looking to retain a marketer maestro:

  • Carry out your due diligence into their experience, skills and qualifications
  • Make sure they keep their skills up-to-date (what worked a few years ago may no longer be relevant)
  • Check out their website and LinkedIn profile for consistency and depth
  • Take a look at their client base. Do they specialize in one particular market or one particular skill set?
  • Do they have a broad base of clients?
  • Read any case studies, testimonials and endorsements posted on their website and LinkedIn profile
  • Pick up the phone and speak to them
  • Find out if they’re happy for you to speak to past or existing clients
  • Base your decision on value add, not price

If you have a great product or service to offer, make sure you spend your marketing budget wisely and don’t keep your audience in the dark.

If you are an SME business marketer or have responsibility for delivering marketing results and need help to improve your marketing returns take a look at my website and my LinkedIn profile and if you like what you read, get in touch. Call 01803 413481 or email help@andrewleonwalker.co.uk