If you want to get marketing fit, do NOT make it your New Year’s Resolution

And, in a business context, I imagine a fair few of you are promising to focus on a few areas that may have taken a back seat last year. Like, marketing, for example.

But, before you make marketing a New Year’s resolution for your small business… let me make some comparisons.

The problem with resolutions of this kind is that much like reducing alcohol, giving up smoking, or gym memberships – more often than not they just don’t last.

Just like looking after your health, looking after the sales pipeline for your business takes sustained effort, rather than quick fixes. In fact, I’d argue that, like yo-yo dieting, boom and bust marketing is actually bad for your business health. And, I’m afraid making marketing a New Year’s resolution usually leads to an early burst of activity, before slipping back into normal patterns.

When talking to small business owners and managing directors about marketing, I often hear:
 They start a new marketing activity with real vigour, but then lose interest.
 The results of their marketing are never quite as good or as fast as they’d hoped.
 Marketing is an area of the business that they get time for sporadically, in between all their other commitments.
 They live in hope, albeit vain hope, that one day someone will show them ‘the answer’ to sustainable sales results.

To my ears, this sounds an awful lot like talking to many a fitness-based new Year’s resolution. Perhaps some of this rings a bell?
 Starting many a year with the determination to go for a run every day, but slipping back into sloth-like habits within weeks.
 Abject disappointment that it’s not actually possible to drop a dress size in the week before a beach holiday.
 Exercise always slipping down the list after work and family commitments.
 Thinking that getting fit is just a matter of finding the right diet, or the right exercise class.
 Wishing it was possible to feel and look great without having to try.

It’s stepping it up, and crucially, keeping at it that that separates the best companies from the rest. The thing about dipping in and out of a fitness regime is that it doesn’t work. To get fit, the ‘little and often’ approach is far more effective than big bursts followed by extended periods of inactivity.

The same is true in marketing – I’d often actually prefer businesses to spend less overall on marketing if they did so in a sustained way, than see huge peaks and troughs in activity. I’m sure a GP would prefer it if every patient did a little exercise every day, rather than the boom and bust of un-sustained good resolutions.

Here are ten ways in which achieving Watertight Marketing is like getting, and staying, fit:
1. It is hard to change the habits of a lifetime.
2. If things have gone to seed, you’ll need to put in some groundwork.
3. A regular, structured, approach is best.
4. It’s even better if you integrate a little into everything you do.
5. Some people are absolute fanatics, but most do fine with smaller changes.
6. There are lots of people out there promising quick fixes (that don’t really work!).
7. It takes a little while to see the results.
8. To get the best all-over results you need to vary the techniques you use.
9. There are people who can help.
10. Your company will look great, feel great and, it’s fun (some might even say, addictive).

So, if you’re serious about getting your business in robust shape and you want a steady and predictable sales pipeline, then marketing should definitely be on your list. Not for a month or two – but forever.

It’s a lifestyle change, not a short-lived burst of good intentions.

This article is an adapted from Bryony’s book Watertight Marketing (Panoma Press £14.99) – an entrepreneur’s step-by-step guide to putting a marketing operation in place that delivers long-term sales results. www.watertightmarketing.com