Marketing success isn’t easy for all service businesses.Convincing prospects of buying the intangible can be a true challenge if you’re new to marketing. Afterall, you’re the expert in your service and not necessarily in promoting your service. Catch the difference there?

It’s too easy to start throwing things up on social media just to have something there. And it’s tempting to nibble a little at this tactic or that angle. However, you’re not doing your business any favours by chasing the shiny object. All it takes is an hour or two of sifting through past successes and failures to come up with some effective guardrails in your services marketing.

Gone are the days of the 5-year marketing plan. Business changes too quickly and you need a roadmap that can move with you (and move you). However, you need to have a handle on a few things before you jump in with both feet (although I admire the enthusiasm):

1. Set a marketing budget

It’s tempting to just see what something costs if you went all out and there’s nothing wrong with asking for that price tag. However, you should know your budget before you start talking to an agency or freelancer.

If you’re a new business (less than a year) you may need to spend more around your marketing just to get things going.

If you’re a young business (1-5 years) look at investing anywhere from 10-20% of your gross revenue into your marketing. This is a bit higher than an established business as you may need to try out a few things to see what works for you.

For longer running businesses (5+ years) you can sit with 5-10% of your gross revenue for marketing. You can use last year numbers or projected.

2. Choose a tactic or two

Depending upon the size of your budget and who you are targeting, you will likely need to limit how you want to market or who to market to. You get more bang for your marketing buck when you double down on a specific target audience instead of spreading it wide across audiences. This is for two reasons:

  1. It takes multiple touches to get attention and build trust. When you broadcast wide it is unlikely you will be able to touch the same audience multiple times.
  2. When you market to a targeted audience you can craft a message and campaign that resonates with them specifically. This shortens the buying cycle and increases the odds of them reaching out.

So, select an audience and select a tactic and make sure to connect it to a goal. And it should be a real goal with numbers and a date attached to it.

3. Measure and adjust

Services marketing is more of an art than a science which can cause frustration if you are new to doing this. It’s important to measure everything when you start something new. As your marketing goals change you will need to have insights into the best tactics to start with.

For example, knowing your average open rate or click-through rates gives you an understanding when something is improving or ‘working’.Other things to track and ask:

  • What call-to-action gets the best response?
  • What forms have the highest completion rate?
  • What’s an average registration/attendance for your webinars?
  • What is your typical follow-up sequence and how effective is it at each stage?
  • And so on

By learning some of these numbers you can narrow your KPI to the ones that more specifically connect to the attainment of your marketing goals – whether that be awareness, education, list building or sales. Marketing campaigns usually require some adjustments to find the ‘sweet spot’ that will get you to your goal faster.

So, for your service business in this new year brimming with fresh possibilities, choose one goal for one target to start on and get planning. Just give it a brief outline and don’t forget to track it!