If you can forgive the feathered hair, leather outfits and shoulder pads, then “The Final Countdown” by Europe is one of those classic songs to play on New Year’s Eve. After the clock strikes 12 at midnight (and because I am Irish), I recommend U2’s “New Years Day”. What song will you be playing at the end of December, and more importantly, what will you be thinking about?
It’s the time of year when we all start looking at what next year will be like, and hopefully, what we can do to maximise our businesses for 2022. For many of us, the last few orders of 2021 are coming in and we are trying to see what we can ship before the holiday season commences. Hopefully you have had a good 2021 and, even more, I hope you will start 2022 with a full order book.
So looking a little further into the coming year, what can we all do to maximise sales - especially sales for scientific research products? It’s a big question - and for any of us who have an answer already, we know what our business New Year’s resolution will be. So today I am going to make a guess at what part of your New Year's resolution will be, and (spoiler alert!) I will share with you where it may all go horribly wrong.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. It’s marketing, isn’t it? Am I right? I think so. My guess is that we all decided that, yet again, in 2022 trade shows cannot be relied upon to generate the new leads we want. This is because many of the shows still aren’t happening and many people are staying away from the few shows that are going ahead. If you have tried some of the virtual booths at virtual conferences, then you may be feeling battered and bruised by the experience. Or to be more precise, by the lack of experience. By and large, virtual shows have been an awful waste of money and valuable time. They can be made better both by the organisers and by exhibitors, but that is probably the topic for another post!
So if one of the main sources of active lead generation is no longer viable, where will we put our efforts next? This is where marketing comes into its own. Indeed, after two years of COVID travel restrictions and show cancellations, marketing is already centre stage for many of us. Exactly what your marketing plan should look like is also not the topic I am digging into today. It will and should look different depending on your product mix, channels to market, budget, sales cycle, customer locations, etc., etc. Probably, you will have a mix of improving your website’s SEO, online advertising, direct email campaigns to existing and potential customers, webinars and more. All very exciting! It’s clear that this is the year marketing will really make a difference for our businesses…. or will it?!
For many of us it won’t, and here is why: the age-old conflict between urgent and important. So we have a great marketing plan and we know it takes many months (4, 6, 10, 12 or more) to start seeing results. we know we have to do it, so we have sensibly broken down our plan into steps and elements that we will implement week by week (or month by month) throughout the year. Most of us are in small companies and our marketing people are the same people who are responsible for our sales and customer support. In early January as we return from the year-end break, an important customer will contact us for an urgent and complex quotation. Another two customers will have unexpected technical problems and a couple of other spanners will drop into our finely tuned sales and marketing machine. The net result is that someone will decide that the planned email campaign can wait a few weeks and so can the meeting to start our SEO improvement. So we will start the year by sliding down the slippery slope of de-prioritising important marketing actions versus the immediate sales and support pressures. Fast forward a year and again we will be singing Danny Boy and Auld Lang Syne and mourning wistfully how we let the whole marketing strategy slip.
So what can be done? Well it is simple - but like many things, simple does not always mean easy! In this case we have to make it important and urgent. This is where New Year's resolutions come in. If we don't hit the ground running with our marketing plan while ensuring that our team members know that implementing it on time is vital to our success then we will lose. Our first test will come early in the New Year, when we see some push back against a deadline for one of the early marketing steps. We need to hold strong and remind everyone why this is important and why doing it on time is important. As managers and leaders, we need to take responsibility for maintaining the momentum of our marketing plan implementation.
So my plea to you is to make a business New Years resolution this December that, come January, we will commit to making “The implementation of all elements of our marketing plan on time”, the most urgent thing in our business. Then, later in 2022, we will reap the rewards. So let's swing into January with the The Zombies classic “This will be our year” and by next December we will be able to celebrate with our teams to the tune of Pink’s fantastic number, “Raise your glass”.
From all of us here at Red Box Direct, Happy New Year!
December 15th, 2021
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