Clear the Deck: Dealing with marketing challenges beforehand to ensure smooth sailing later

There’s an old naval expression, “Clear the deck!”, which means for everyone to leave the deck of a ship and prepare for action or battle.

In the modern sailing world, the expression is often used, but not to prepare the crew for battle (thank goodness), but instead to instruct the crew to stow loose items, and to make sure that sheets and lines (or “ropes” to non-sailors) are properly coiled so as not to create safety hazards. This ensures that the captain and crew can move about freely and safely as needed. It prevents a potential problem before it even happens, because if you trip and twist your ankle (or worse) while offshore, it’s gonna be awhile before you can get help.

In marketing, while the physical hazards of a navy warship or an ocean-crossing sailboat aren’t present, it’s still a good idea to prevent problems before they happen by “clearing the deck,” or dealing with marketing issues early on.

Here are three marketing challenges you might face, and how you can “clear the deck” to stay ahead of the setbacks.

Finding new customers

One of the biggest challenges any company has is finding new customers. Before you’re able to find new customers, it’s important to clearly identify who your ideal customer is, because in order to know where to find him or her, you have to know who he or she is. I say “he” or “she” (singular) because it’s much easier to market to one person than to try to market to 1,000.

If you can create a mental picture of just one customer, from the way they dress, to their career, to what they like to do in their spare time, then your marketing efforts will be that much easier. Get as detailed as possible.

Once you create an “avatar” of this ideal client, now figure out where this person hangs out — where you could put your service or product in front of them.

So learn to clearly identify your target customer up front, and this will save you time, effort, and money in your marketing efforts later.

Measuring the ROI of your marketing efforts

Depending on your marketing methods, it can be hard to measure your ROI to see if what you’ve been doing is actually working. It’s important to know what channels are effective and which ones aren’t so your budget isn’t spread too thin across too many channels (some of which may not be effective).

But here’s a quick tip: studies show that inbound marketing (blogs, social media) is 3X more likely to outperform outbound marketing (direct mail, trade shows, print advertisements) efforts. People are inundated with “sales interruptions” all day (as many as 2,000), so they are finding ways to filter out those messages.

If your company has more focused efforts on outbound marketing, or if you don’t yet even have a focused marketing strategy, it’s time to start planning creative inbound marketing strategies that bring new customers to you. Inbound marketing relies on earning people’s interest through valuable content rather than buying their interest.

Since most inbound marketing strategies focus on online content, you will then also be able to better measure your ROI through analytics. Successful businesses often check their analytics 2-3X per week to stay on top of rising trends in their content, signaling what to do more of and what to cut back on.

Lack of consistency in your marketing efforts

Are you unsure where to start or what channels to focus on? If so, this can cause you to hop around from one marketing strategy to the next, and if you have employees, it’s important for everyone to be doing things the same way. It’s also important to maintain brand consistency.

To do this, you want to set up some systems in your business.

No, it doesn’t sound sexy or fun, but putting the right systems in place will serve you well in the long run, saving you time, money, and headaches.

Are there any tasks that are repetitive that you do on a daily basis? Are there ways you can delegate those tasks to someone else, or better yet, automate them?

Does your team have a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which outline the precise way to perform certain tasks? It might sound tedious, but having a standard that everyone adheres to ensures consistency in your brand and your marketing efforts.

Share your marketing challenges

What are your biggest marketing challenges? How can you “clear the deck” in order to deal with these challenges sooner than later, saving you time and money and providing smooth seas for your business?

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