I have seen this phenomenon time and time again, but I would never have understood it unless it happened to me. First, the punchline: always be marketing. Why? To avoid peaks and valleys.
If you’re a small business, chances are good that you get busy actually delivering your product and/or services. After all, delivery is what triggers revenue, so you have to deliver to survive. But there’s a challenge: finding your next customer. So you have to market to keep the flow.
My first startup, a website development and hosting business, began as two guys with a server and a partial T1 line. We built websites and provided technology services to a few core clients. At one point, we had a major account that we had to focus on almost exclusively for a .year. At the end of the year, our customer shuttered their business, and we were faced with replacing about 90% of our revenue, essentially overnight. For a couple of years, we were bouncing through projects with peaks and valleys of revenue, entirely because we would land a project, then work on that until launch, and then we’d be faced with that next “where’s the revenue coming from now?” conversation. Only when we grew large enough to dedicate more regular time to marketing did the revenue become more predictable.
So the lesson is this: market all the time. Go to events, check in with customers for new opportunities, ask for referrals, run PPC campaigns, use content marketing and everything else you can think of. Do something EVERY DAY. Not every time you complete a project. A small investment on a regular basis keeps the revenue flow smoother than anything else you’ll do.
Marketing is not an event, it’s a routine.