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In meetings, the word “marketing” has become a trigger for me.

It’s something that I’ve always thought King of Pops was naturally good at. We have a fun product, have spent time developing our brand look and feel, and have cultivated a social media following and email newsletter through consistent content.

Still, when we are stuck on a tough issue and “marketing” is proposed as a solution I can feel my blood pressure rise.

One of the benefits of co-founding, owning, and working in a business for so long is that you’ve had a chance to see a lot of things work and fail. My brother and I have history and context from fifteen years of conversations and experiences within the business.

I’ve seen random success, like this post where one of our catering sales team members was blindfolded guess the flavor of pops get hundreds of thousands of views, and I’ve seen content we spent weeks working on get zero traction. 

We’ve hired agencies, marketing directors, and most recently business development managers to help better tell and interpret our stories. We’ve had plenty of wins along the way, but not predictable wins. 

I think that is what is most tricky about investing big in marketing. Especially, when you are a small business operating a small budget.

In some ways it feels like you are playing a slot machine, but when you finally hit the grand prize you don’t get the satisfaction of lights, sirens and money clanging down.

We celebrated the success of the post above and kept doing similar ones that performed well, but it is hard to say what we got out of it. It’s unlikely that someone immediately went to buy a pop after watching this video.

The challenges of small business marketing woes have been on full display at our updated HQ this year. In the Spring we opened an event space and bar here. It’s a funky space with a stage, TVs, games, and a shipping container we sell pops, soft serve, pop-tails, beer and wine out of. We’ve hosted dozens of successful events, but we’ve hosted just as many flops. Our HQ in a great area, but there is no built in traffic.King of Pops HQ Bar_0111-1

It's quite spacious, with a capacity for about 300 people, so when only three people show up, it's awkwardly empty. Hosting an event that nobody attends is the epitome of disappointment.

When we try to solve the puzzle of getting people to show up, social media is brought up as a silver bullet. I don’t have any better ideas, but this frustrates me. I’m confident that an extra social media post a week before an event will have very little impact, but in the end I relent and we put together a new post. 

In contrast to other marketing campaigns that lack a clear objective, such as a post promoting a new flavor, when we post to entice people to visit our space for a specific event at a specific time, we can definitively determine its success (or lack of success in our case).

I feel a particularly uncomfortable brand of discomfort at events when the attendance is sparse. There's this underlying sense of letdown, coupled with a strong desire to blend into the background. I'll scurry around, busily setting things up, all the while painfully aware that nobody is going to show up.

At the same time, when an event is a success there is almost nowhere I’d rather be. We hosted our 14th King of Pops Field Day a couple weeks ago, and in late November we had about seven hundred people come out. I was in charge of the “beat the pro” ping pong table. I lost quite a few prize tickets, but had a great time28E6A260-D765-4D61-B2B4-E2F292BD11BB_1_105_c

The promotion of this event was a team effort. We met to make a plan, put up posters, texted our friends, and set a goal. This time it was all bout creating UMOHs (Unexpected Moments of Happiness, our company purpose), and that sentiment came through. 

This is the underlying power of a marketing campaign vs. a random extra social media post. The proliferation of marketing tools have made putting together content easier than ever, but a coordinated plan will always take planning a discipline.

The first step is deciding what you want to influence. After that you need to create a hypothesis and put together a plan. Once you execute the plan, take the time to review what worked and what didn't work. Then you iterate. And you iterate again and again until you've got something valuable.

To be honest, I haven't executed to this level yet, but I'm on that journey. And part of writing a blog like this is to get thoughts down that you believe.

I believe this these thoughts.  

My Q4 ROCK is to create three marketing campaigns. First, I need to define what a campaign is. This is brand new for me, but I’m doing it right now.

Our goal is to establish credibility as a thought leader in the mobile food world. The hope is that this will increase our inbound franchisee leads. The specific measurable is to grow this list email by 10% each month. 👉🏼

We’re going to write a blog post every week that highlights lessons we’ve learned and shares new ideas we’re trying out.

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