At the beginning of each year, I prepare a list of the top ten marketing goals I would like to achieve in the year ahead. I do this to help me plan out my marketing strategy, aid in budget preparation, but largely to set marketing expectations for myself a little higher than the previous year.
Most of the items required new research, learning new skills, or careful incorporation into my existing marketing strategy. But some goals I desired to have in place by this time, but for a variety of reasons was not able to complete.
My Top Ten Marketing Goals for 2011
Continue to Develop Solid Brand Position - SUCCESS
-Speak and write passionately about product to attract ideal customer
Start Small Business Blog - SUCCESS
-You are reading it
Create Social Media Policy - SUCCESS
-Develop and document strategies and tactics for connecting and
networking with ideal customer
Build and Combine Customer Lists - SUCCESS
-Take current customer list, clean, and combine with new lead list
Increase Unique Web visits to 15k/month - FAILURE
-Fine Tune SEO and analytics – finesse content and design
Do a Professional Product Video - SUCCESS
-Utilize Angelvision for product video
Mobile Marketing - SUCCESS
-Develop mobile site and begin opt-in mobile program for updates
Referral System - FAILURE
-Focus on centers of influence and trusted advisers to promote brand and product. Develop referral promotion for loyal, enthusiastic existing customers.
Focus on ideal Customers - SUCCESS
-Identify ideal customer and focus 90% of assets and energy on closing
opportunities to them.
Define and clarify Sales Cycle - SUCCESS
-Clearly define conversion parameters and lead scoring to qualify and track each lead through cycle and increase opportunity close percentage.
*Failed - Increase Unique Web Visits to 15+/month
Big Bang and the UIU have been averaging between 11 and 12k unique visitors per month for about six months and I really wanted increase that by a few thousand. The primary reason that this goal was not completed is that I really stopped focusing on clicks and completely revamped my entire adwords and landing page strategy to really focus on interaction. Another factor was the complete rebuild of our websites including new developer and CMS, for which we have been re-establishing our organic search ranking slowly. The goal of increased traffic will definitely be making it to the 2012 list in an upcoming post, but I think I might up the ante just a bit to 17k+/month now that the foundation is set.
*Failed - Referral System
This goal has been on the last two year’s goals in a row, and I think that it will not be making it to the 2012 list for a few very good reasons. But since I’m already getting long-typed on this post, I will save the topic of Referral System and why I think it will never work for us for a dedicated post in two weeks.
What goals did you miss this year and why?
My Sales Director, Kelley, recently nicknamed me "Captain Morgan" because I've been spending money like a drunken sailor. Big Bang is doing what we can to help stimulate the economy, I guess!
Since August, we have had the outside of two of our buildings stripped and repainted, replaced fourteen windows on one building, built out a new conference room and three new offices, added two thousand square feet of concrete, replaced ten thousand square feet of asphalt in our parking lot, bought two new servers to replace three aging servers, added new network switches and massive storage, replaced laptops and bought huge monitors for employees, and.... The list goes on.
Some of this we have done because it was necessary. The windows leaked and the parking lot was not likely to survive another Wisconsin winter. Of course, we have had no snow as of December 27th, which is highly unusual, but I can only imagine what January will bring. Other purchases, like the servers, were not absolutely necessary, but we are able to take advantage of some of this year's tax laws regarding expensing equipment. You have probably read articles or received emails from your CPA or local car dealership about saving on taxes in 2011. We had the cash available, and so we made some purchases perhaps a bit earlier than we might have, but will help tremendously for 2012.
But our purchases this year because of 2011 tax savings reinforce my issue with the tax laws regarding businesses. Big Bang is an LLC, which means that in addition to my salary, the profits of the business flow directly through to my wife and I on our IRS 1040 forms. With this year's option of expensing equipment (up to certain dollar amounts), it means that the $30,000.00 we spent for servers and network equipment can be directly expensed, rather than depreciated over several years. That's awesome for a small business as it allows Big Bang to grow more quickly and serve our customers better.
However, many of the improvements we've made, can not be immediately expensed. Arguably, some will qualify as expensable repairs, but many are capital improvements, which must be depreciated over time. For example, we spent approximately $20,000.00 to replace the windows. My accountant could tell you the specific depreciation schedule, but I believe it's somewhere around twenty years. (I may be off on that, but it makes the math easier, and the outcome doesn't change much.)
Consequently, at a twenty year depreciation, I expense $1,000.00 of the windows. The other $19,000.00 come AFTER taxes. Next year I will be able to expense another $1,000.00, and so on. The math works out such that my depreciation from several projects will start to accumulate over the years, and sort of balance out, but that doesn't help me or the economy in the immediate future. Between state and federal taxes, we pay approximately 42%, so that $19,000.00 this year actually requires we make nearly $33,000.00 in profit this year in order to cover the project and the taxes.
Considering that Big Bang did approximately $100,000.00 in renovations, we will pay over $70,000.00 in taxes in order to accommodate that construction! Of course, we will get it back over time through depreciation, but there are two problems with that. First, imagine how much more Big Bang could do with the extra $70,000.00. Second, the depreciation schedule also assumes that Big Bang will be around in twenty or thirty years, and while I certainly expect we will, there are no guarantees.
So, we were in a fortunate cash position this year to be able to make some of these infrastructure investments, which should mean good things for us in 2012, but I would like to see the tax laws changed to make depreciation an option, rather than a requirement. As a business owner, I could do so much more with my money.
I have made mention often, particularly in this post, that as a small business marketer, my marketing options are really only constrained by a small business budget. The choices I have, unfettered by big corporate policy are exciting, and I am constantly bombarded with possibilities.
One facet of marketing that is often presented, and which I typically ignore, is the “Big Bad Site/Publication Advertising Pitch.” Due to my small business budget, I can’t afford to shell out 10k a month in ad spend for a PPM display ad, or a full page print ad for a broad-target publication. But primarily, anytime a big company comes after a small one, I can’t help but wonder why they want my money so badly. Consequently I usually don’t even bother even reading the proposals from said offers.
But there was this one time…
I should have known better, but I was courted, promised some pretty sweet results, and most importantly, assured that I would have long-lasting web visibility for my target audience. This company, which shall remain nameless, is a World-wide Business targeted news and information website with representation in something like 16 countries, and local writers in 13 of them.
So even though I approached this opportunity with the usual level of skepticism, the Account Rep provided some pretty convincing data, and a feasible first-time price point, to convince me to try and advertising campaign for three months. The assets included a crafted campaign focused on our Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) software and its unique ability to create a single hardware independent image that can be easily deployed to any PC regardless of manufacturer. Case Studies we provided were to support this campaign, which would correspond to targeted display ads linking to a custom designed micro-site packed with great links and content.
Fully admitting that I chose poorly, but without expounding on the details, the main problem with this ad campaign was that the assets were randomly hosted on their site with no continuity, and the display ads only appeared on our content. Needless to say, the return versus spend was abysmal.
The part that really escalated feelings of regret over having made a poor decision, was that when I contacted my rep to try and get some metrics from the campaign, she totally blew me off. Even after everything was finished, and I wrote a respectful, but data-packed email clearly expressing my tremendous disappointment with the outcome of the campaign given what she told me I could expect, she completely ignored me.
I take full responsibility for going against my better judgment of dealing with big companies offering advertising to small companies, and if I possessed a lesser degree of business tact I would be smearing this company’s name everywhere I could. But I simply must lament yet another case where a Big Bad Company duped a small business, didn’t deliver on any of the promised results, and then completely ignored them because they knew there was nothing the small business could do about it.
Needless to say, making this poor decision once is all I need to never make it again.
What's in a title?
As we meet new people in our lives, one of the first questions asked of us is, "So, what do you do?" I think that for a small business owner, establishing a title to effectively answer that question can be very difficult, and the choice must be made with some serious thought.
Going back to my post about "Defining Small Business," there are two small business types we're looking at - the independent consultant versus the small business employer - and they have differing requirements for titles. Let's start with the Independent Consultant.
If the business is a one person shop, I think a business title is not only unnecessary, but out and out deceptive. If you're a consultant, your business card title should reflect that. If you're a painter, a baker, a candlestick maker, it doesn't matter, put that on your card. Maybe even get creative with your title if it's appropriate for the business. What you are not though, is the President, CEO, or even Owner, and I think using any of those titles is disingenuous, and being disengenious is a dangerous practice to get in to.
Small business owners want their companies to be perceived as larger than they are. I understand that, and have undoubtedly been guilty of it over the years. The concern, legitimate or not, is that if we appear small, we may not get the job. Will a potential customer put their faith in us if they know how small we are? Consequently, the title of CEO or President is thrown out there. However, would I want or expect the CEO of Chrysler to build a car? Of course not! It's not their expertise. So, if that's not what I want as a consumer, why would I think my customers are any different?
If my title is President, my customers should rightly believe that I have a team, albeit potentially a small team, that I can bring in. It's going to become fairly obvious fairly quickly that I am really just a consultant if I am the only one answering the phone, doing the work, and sending the invoices.
What it comes down to is this: don't lie to a customer by offering a title that doesn't fit.
And if the independent consultant grows to the point where an employee or two is needed, and an LLC or INC is created, then what? It's likely that when still small, the President or Owner is still going to be doing work. I actively and regularly interacted with customers and did product development and testing for a few years after Big Bang started. It wasn't until we had probably eight to ten employees that I slowly slid out of the "doing" role and into my "management" role. So, is a title appropriate once employees are added? Absolutely. Start with "Owner" because that covers the fact that you both manage the business and work for the business. Once a few employees are added though, the title starts to actually matter more and define what your role is. Here's what I did.
I had two sets of business cards created - one read "President" and the other read "Instructor." Why? Well when I taught courses around the country I felt that the students in the courses reacted differently to "President," and their perception was my reality. So, I went back to using "Instructor" when teaching, which generally made people more comfortable with me in class. On the other hand, when my banker was going to make a presentation to his board of directors regarding our line of credit, being the "President" was necessary. Or is a title necessary for my Marketing Director, or Sales Director? Beyond a doubt, because of who they interact with on a daily basis. It makes their business life easier because that's actually what they do and they need that level of respect and understanding of all the things they are responsible for.
For the small business owner though, my suggestion is to take your ego out of the decision. If I look at a résumé or CV that is filled with multiple self-proclaimed titles of President or CEO, I can almost guarantee that that person is a serial independent contractor, and likely more interested in their title than my needs. My title doesn't matter to me at all, even now as Big Bang grows. Often times when people ask what I do, I tell them, "I'm a geek," or "I work at a small software company." The thrill and ego boost of being President is not what I'm about. The excitement of Big Bang's success is enough for me, and that has nothing to do with my title.
About Big Bang Blog
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|About Adam Murphy -
Adam is the President and Owner of Big Bang LLC and espouses a pretty progressive small business philosophy based primarily around hiring the right people and getting the hell out of their way.
|About Nate Bauer -
Nate is the Marketing Director for Big Bang LLC and pretty much spends his days tip-toeing on the pinnacle of how to most effectively implement strategy given the wide open cookie jar of small business marketing possibilities.
|About Kelley Burian - @kelleyburian
Kelley is the Sales Director for Big Bang LLC. Responsible for everything from GSA contracts, resellers and international customers, she has her hands full doing whatever she can to make sure our valued clients are thrilled with our fantastic products.