Your 2004 Marketing Plan
Anyone who has promoted their own business knows successful marketing requires multiple programs and that it is a dynamic operation, consistently changing throughout an organization. You want to be unique in your marketing, particularly when you are trying new approaches to discover what does and does not work. Creativity executed in every aspect of your business will not only keep you happily employed, it will propel you forward to success.
Whether you are beginning a new business or expanding an existing one, let's review some of the opportunities we have to use to reach new and repeat clients.
Ask yourself, "What are some creative ways I can advertise my business? Where does my target market hang out? What are their buying habits and hobbies?" This helps you identify where they are most likely to see you so you can choose the right advertising opportunity.
Then you have to work on the right message. "How can I grab their attention in six seconds? What action do I want them to take? How many words will it take me to get from one to the other?" If you need to learn how to write good copy that sells, study from the people who have made millions doing just that. For instance, read books by Joe Sugarman and Ted Nicholas.
Traditional advertising options include print ads in magazines and newspapers, TV/radio commercials, signs, brochures, direct mail pieces or custom letters (we'll discuss online marketing later). Again, what groups are you trying to reach and what do you want them to hear? The more creative you can be with you're positioning and the easier it is for them to perceive your uniqueness, the better your hook will reel in the fish.
The power of a press release cannot be understated. They are not difficult to write and you can find dozens of service providers on the Internet. When sending out press releases, only get in touch with editors who write about your industry or topic. Some editors prefer to be contacted by mail, e-mail or fax ? avoid calling them. To distribute your news release, you can use the services of Businesswire, PRNewswire or an online service such eReleases or PRWeb.
Publishing industry articles with a company byline is very powerful and if you don't use it, you are missing out on many opportunities.
Print publications often look for freelance writers. A good public relations (PR) person obtains editorial calendars six months to a year in advance, and develops appropriate story ideas around these plans. Is a magazine featuring a topic that you specialize in? If yes, then pitch your story idea to the magazine. If published, make sure you get a byline and bio at the beginning or end of the article.
One media resource is www.mediafinder.com. Here you can locate print publications including magazines, newspapers, catalogs, journals, tabloids, directories, reports and government publications in which to place your material.
Public Speaking, Community Activities, Networking
Investigate local organizations and get out in your community. What trade associations are close that you can attend regularly? Nothing sells better than good business relationships.
Do you have an active chamber of commerce you can join to meet other business people? Obtain a list of networking groups in your area and try them all out.
Also, become good at public speaking. There are so few people that can do this well and it is a tremendous way to get people interested in what you do. One of the best ways to learn to speak in front of people is to join a local Toastmasters group. You can find a local group at the Toastmasters International web site (www.toastmasters.org).
Tradeshows are alive and well, and they are a great way to meet new people, check out the competition, and catch up on new products and services. You can also make critical connections with people who have synergistic products and/or services that want to do co-op marketing. If you can't afford a booth and all the exhibition fees, walk the convention floors with plenty of business cards to hand out. Then go schmooze. By the way, you can find a list of most tradeshows nationwide at www.tsnn.com.
If the idea of selling yourself makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck, then study the sales process from successful salespeople until you can model their behavior without flinching or compromising who you are.
Customer Relationship Management
Not enough can be said about how well you need to treat your customers. No matter what, the customer is king.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is a critical tool for every business. Varied levels of functionality are available and you need to get the right-sized one for your company, as well as a package with the appropriate features. CRM software can save you enormous amounts of time dealing with customer questions and other issues. The more automated this function becomes, the more profitable your company can be. And, because this kind of system "personalizes" the interaction with your end consumer, it also is an extremely valuable marketing tool.
At the lower end of the CRM spectrum is contact management software such as ACT! and Goldmine. In the mid-market are programs such as Oncontact and Epiphany. One of the best ways to make this decision is to find out what systems others in your industry are using. Then you can be certain the right functionality will be available to you.
Here's one more critical key in easily promoting successful customer relations: how you treat your employees trickles down to the customer. Set a good example and that's what will get passed along as well as come back to you full circle. Never take for granted how much goodwill can boost your bottom line.
Trying to cover the online marketing world in this small amount of space isn't possible, so here are a few recommendations on some of the most important things for you to research.
E-mail campaigns are powerful and one of the most important things you can do is build your customer e-mail list. It can be used to stay in touch with your current customers, as well as find new prospects. Be mindful, you need to be keenly aware of spam ? advertisement e-mails sent without the request or consent of the recipient. Do not use this marketing tactic as it can only hurt your credibility.
Many say banner advertisements don't work, but if you are industry-specific they can be highly effective and very cost-effective. Check out directory sites such as www.buildingonline.com and www.abc.org. Or trade associations such as MCAA at www.masoncontractors.org, www.awci.org or www.concretenetwork.com. Get a professional copywriter to create your hook and make sure you track the ad back to your site so you will know where to keep investing your ad dollars.
Try creating ads for text/HTML newsletters such as AECnews, Architectural Record or Engineering News Record. Because these publications are so targeted, the lists don't need to be huge. Just make sure your ad is good enough to make them click through to your site.
Did I forget to mention that you need a web site? Can't imagine why you wouldn't have one, even if it's just a brochure site that explains your company and it's mission/vision, history, testimonials, past projects, etc. It's another opportunity to make a great first impression with your prospects and make it easy for them to locate you. Search engine optimization is critical to finding your web site, so if you do not have your own internal IT organization to handle this, then hire a company to do it for you.
Creative Marketing Plan Secrets
Why not begin 2004 with a well-planned, creative marketing plan? Here are some secrets that will make it easy for you to get started.
First, create your strategy for your marketing plan. What are the issues surrounding your industry and how will you offer a unique solution to them?
What is your vision for this company and how do you want to be perceived?
Articulate what you must accomplish in the upcoming year. Always include deadlines that enforce accountability to specific tasks.
Unique Selling Position
What is your corporate and product positioning? List your benefits and features as well as the value proposition you offer the client.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of every competitor and explain exactly how sales people can sell against each one, including pricing.
Clearly and specifically identify each and every target market and their nuances.
Create an Action Plan
Write a marketing communications program that addresses each target market and includes phases of roll out, such as creating a new logo and business development package, or developing a new flyer or brochure. Analyze all of your advertising opportunities and create a chart of what is available, including costs. Then prioritize your program and create deadlines for each to be accomplished.
Last but certainly not least, you need to create your budget. Include everything you have chosen to accomplish for this year and allocate funds to each activity or event within your financial allotment.
Here's one last recommendation. If you are new to business planning or want to hone this skill further, here's a great place to start. Get a copy of "The Insider's Guide to Strategic Business Planning for Design and Construction Firms." You can find a copy here: www.zweigwhite.com.
Now get out there and kick some "you know what" in 2004. Good luck!
About the Author
Cathy Taylor is a marketing consultant with over 20 years experience. She specializes in strategy and plan development, as well as management of communications and public relations programs in both the high-tech and small business sectors.