One thing that I’ve been thinking about since Lend & Gather 2017 is what separates sustainably successful boutique event rental businesses from those that come and go. I see a lot of specialty rental companies popping up hither and yon. Some last a year or two. Others are still killing it 7 years in. What’s the difference?
I’ve been particularly interested in this question in regards to generating new inquiries. I often ask my clients (or other event rental business owners) what they do to generate new business. Sometimes I hear about marketing strategies, promotional plans, and concrete goals. Other times, I hear vague ideas like “instagram,” “email newsletters,” or “networking.”
I’m fascinated by the responses I get. Sometimes they’re shared sheepishly with question mark inflections. Other times they are stated with undeniable confidence that makes me want to find out more of what their doing so I can do it myself.
But when I dig deeper, that confidence is not always based on evidence. Those sheepish responses are sometimes spot on. When it comes to marketing, there’s lots of guessing going on. Most small business owners try many different channels until they find what works for their particular brand, their collection, their ideal clients. But then I see them give up if something doesn’t give the results they want. This can be exhausting.
You may not have been first to market in your region. Maybe you don’t have quite as much capital as the guys down the street. You might not be the coolest kid on the block. That’s okay— most of us aren’t. When you don’t have people naturally flocking to you in droves, you’ve got to be strategic. And just because a marketing channel doesn’t bring people to you like you’re the ice cream man in Arizona, doesn’t mean you should ditch it and try something else.
This is where my Friday question comes in. Developing an effective marketing strategy isn’t just about what you’re doing...
Sometimes my clients aren’t using the right channel for their business. But I don’t think you can know which channels are right from one half-hearted try. You’ve got to be thoughtful and systematic.
For each marketing channel you try (and by marketing channel, I mean email newsletters, direct mail, Instagram posts, Facebook ads, networking events, etc…. whatever you do to introduce yourself to new customers or remind people who know you that you’re still around), I suggest that you ask yourself these questions:
- Is this a channel that my ideal customers use? Or do they hang out somewhere else?
- Is the aesthetic I’m using attractive and engaging to my target market?
- Is the content relevant, interesting, and compelling to my ideal client?
- Am I engaging at the right time of day/day of the week/part of the month?
- Am I using this channel consistently?
- Am I calling people to action (in an authentic way that isn’t contrary to the ethos of the channel)?
- How am I quantifying results? Am I showing actual qualified leads rather than just followers, traffic, etc.?
- If it isn’t working, have I made changes to see if small tweaks impact the efficacy?
I see people give up on a particular marketing effort or resign themselves to ho-hum results before they’ve tried these tweaks. Before you jump on the next bandwagon, I hope you’ll be encouraged to iterate on the channels you’ve already started.
Likewise, if something works for you, take the time to think about why it was effective. You can use the same questions above. If you can repeat something that works and get similar results again, you’ll be winning.
There is definitely some “luck” involved in entrepreneurship. But I don’t want you to discount the power you have to observe, notice, adjust, and get the results you want.