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Carla Williams Johnson, Chief Executive Officer and founder of the Trinidad-based Carli Communications.

Time to pivot

Expert says business marketing is not supposed to be reactive

As companies continue to grapple with the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the future, a regional marketing and advertising specialist, says it cannot be business as usual if they want to increase their visibility and keep their doors open.

Carla Williams Johnson, Chief Executive Officer and founder of the Trinidad-based Carli Communications, is telling businesses not to be afraid to seek professional help. In fact, as she reflected on the pandemic, Williams Johnson said when it comes to major crises, it is people like herself that need to come to the forefront to inform business owners about what they should focus on and do to stay in business.

Marketing an investment

She made the point in a recent interview with The Barbados Advocate, as she made it clear that business owners must stop seeing marketing as an expense and see it instead as an investment in their business. Williams Johnson warned that if businesses are not willing to embrace the change that is needed and to pivot, making the necessary adjustments to their strategy, delivery and operations, it will likely result in the demise of their companies.

“Definitely invest in the help that you need. It might seem counterintuitive, because you may say you don’t have the money, but I don’t think you can afford not to invest, if you don’t have the specific knowledge and expertise in order to navigate the business environment. Investing in yourself and investing in the people you need is the way to go,” she stated.

The marketing specialist continued, “A lot of people think that investment and expense are the same thing, it really isn’t. An expense is where you spend for no returns, an investment is investing for future returns... A lot of business owners, because marketing is not tangible they can’t understand it is an investment. It is like education, it is an investment now for future earnings. So investing in an expert is just the same thing, investing now for future earnings”.

She made the point while noting that for too long businesses have not been taking marketing seriously, and have either been engaging in do-it-yourself (DIY) marketing or utilising persons who are not properly trained and lack the requisite know-how.

“There are some people who genuinely don’t know what to do, and they have been DIYing their business marketing. Maybe someone told them you need to be on Facebook and that was the beginning and end of the conversation, oh you need to do sampling and that was the beginning and end of the conversation. There was no strategy behind it, so they are doing all of these things and it is almost as though they are running on a treadmill, because they do not have the component behind it in order to make their time and energy and investment pay off. What I do is connect the dots for my people, which is what I find a lot of people don’t do”.

She continued, “Marketing is not a one size fits all, every business has its own puzzle and the pieces will be different for it to fit together. So bring in somebody that can help you. There are a lot of people like myself that are offering free consultations...  so you don’t have to shell out money until you are sure that this person can truly help”.

The marketing specialist, adding that marketing is not supposed to be reactive, said businesses are supposed to know their customers inside out and “know exactly what their needs are, and provide those needs for them before they even ask for it”.

“Moving forward I would strongly suggest that more businesses change their content, to really connect and relate to their audience, that is going to drive more sales than just hard selling. The next thing is to increase your brand awareness, through the use of the media, publicity, features and podcasts, because you want not just to be seen and heard, but you want to build that credibility behind you,” she indicated. (JRT)

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