Prepping Your Business for Marketing Success
(As originally written for and published on NBCChicago.com's Inc. Well)
So your business is going to be featured on TV or in a print article. It's very exciting, but are you, and is your business, really prepped and ready for the increased sales and attention?
As is true before starting any type of marketing campaign, you really must have a plan in place for the potential instant growth your company may experience thanks to the push. Too many small businesses simply fail to put in place critical procedures to streamline the transition. They think short-term but not long-term, or they simply have doubts that their product will actually drive that much demand.
You only get one chance to make an impression on customers so you really need to be prepared.
Some years ago I had a client that had a few months notice before some major magazine gift guides came out, and we spoke at great length about their preparation. While they were prepared, they weren't prepared enough. They doubted the amount of instant interest the product would create and were thrown into a four-month whirlwind that left them juggling demand and staffing, a move into a warehouse and negotiating with vendors to get more product....yesterday. I couldn't even get them on the phone for three months!
Here are some tips to consider before your implementing your PR/marketing push:
1. Get a plan in place - The key is to stay organized through it all because it's very easy to find your head below water, and when that happens balls get dropped, customers become irritated and may even cancel their orders. You want to be sure to make the most of the interest you're driving and leave the best possible impression on your customers so that they will not only return, but provide valuable word-of-mouth through social media and to friends and family.
2. Talk to your vendors - It's important that you alert your business vendors or partners to the fact that you are implementing a PR or marketing campaign so they can have time to prepare for an influx of demand. More importantly, how long will it take to get more inventory to fill orders?
3. Check your inventory - Do you have enough inventory on hand to meet the demand while waiting for more product to come in? How will you respond to customers who may have to wait longer than usual to receive their order? Offer free shipping? If you don't have a fulfillment house or warehouse, where are you going to put all the product you need? How are you going to organize it and track sales? What will be your shipping procedure?
4. Staffing - How will you staff your business to help meet the demand? Who will handle customer service, shipping, ordering, managing inventory, etc? Friends and family are a great resource to help manage last minute demand, but ultimately you will need to consider hiring people. That means getting job descriptions written so you can post them quickly, or set up a temp agency. Then you will need to figure out how to handle the interview, hiring and on-boarding process. You can also hire interns to handle simple inquiries, especially those that come through social media.
5. An overwhelmed website - This is something everyone would love to happen, but it's also the most frustrating for interested customers, and the fastest way to lose sales. Talk with your web company about how to handle the demand hitting your website (and shopping cart) and putting procedures in place to ensure it doesn't happen. When a customer wants to buy they want to buy right then. If your website crashes the odds are fair that they might return, but a large number may not once it's no longer top of mind.
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