For small businesses that are just beginning to look at marketing it can be scary to add something a bit unpredictable into the mix. As a result, it is tempting to run a ‘trial’ marketing campaign to test its impact or success. After all, it’s a logical next step, right? Look at what you have achieved without marketing! Why add marketing into the mix now when the budget is tight and you still aren’t sure how it will help you? Well, there are a few ways to answer this (oft heard) question.

  1. Marketing is a long-term and on-going investment (not necessarily an expensive one). It takes time to learn about your customers and prospects well enough to predict and capitalize on their behavior. By doing this, marketing takes some of the guess work out of your sales and makes the sales process more efficient and more effective.
  2. You got to where you are now without marketing, but if you want to grow you need what marketing brings to the table: awareness building and lead generation (among other things).

What is a “campaign”?

A campaign will help achieve short term goals e.g. attend an event. This campaign along with other campaigns is what helps you achieve your annual goals. A marketing plan is what guides the creation and measurement of your annual goals. It’s the plan that allows you to craft campaigns with specific tactics that will achieve specific objectives and contribute to your annual goals. And though this may not be news to most readers, it’s worth repeating. Starting with an unplanned campaign happens more often than you may think. This can come about several ways:

Budget Blindness

You give a good outline of what marketing you’d like to see, but withhold the budget. A plan goes forward but is completely out of line with the number you had expected. Most marketing plans are intricately balanced that you can’t really pick and choose the pieces once it’s been created. You wonder how it all got so out of control. Budgets are mandatory.

The Pile on

The difficult part of most small companies is the desire to pile on objectives that are not complementary. For example, you want to generate leads for product A and build awareness of product C , but you only have the budget to run one ad so you promote both products on the same ad and wonder why the impact is so poor.

Trust the Tactic

Sometimes a tactic is confused for a plan. For example, you want to host a webinar. No real objective exists here. And not all webinars are the same. Each tactic is only as good as the plan it supports. A webinar without a plan, objectives, promotion, etc. – just doesn’t work.

So how should you start marketing?

There isn’t one defined way, but one option is to tackle a specific piece of the business. Yes, you may have an inspiring vision and concrete goals, but if you’re just starting your marketing machine you may find greater success and more cost effective methods if you focus on one area to start. Marketing can be a completely different animal than what a small business expects. Once you have a good understanding of the what budget and resources are required to see success you’ll be better able to manage it across all of the business.

Another option is to choose a marketing channel to invest in. For example, perhaps there is a larger goal to improve SEO and lead generation and you are choosing content creation and content marketing to tackle pieces of both over a longer span of time.

Either way, the initial task should be a plan with goals. Set a goal and outline some objectives. And don’t be discouraged by the seemingly tiny plan. Plans can be deceptive in the scope. Campaign creation comes after that. The great part about this is that sometimes marketing campaigns can often work towards multiple objectives or have additional benefits than achieving an objective. For example, a social media ad can add followers, increase event registrations and build awareness. This crossover is what allows marketers to achieve multiple goals for one target audience. Things get more complex (and more expensive) if you want to achieve more than one goal to more than one audience simultaneously.

The above examples are very simplified, but there’s truth in there. And if you need some help or want to bounce around some ideas, get in touch.

Carolyn Bergshoeff is the founder of WindWater Marketing, a small business marketing firm based in Toronto, Canada. Carolyn helps her clients plan out their marketing and build campaigns based on business goals and budget. For more information email