BY ANDI GRAY
Dilemma: We’re dealing with a lot of trial and error with a bunch of marketing efforts—some worked and some didn’t pan out so well. I’m sure there’s probably a better way to go about it than waiting for the results to determine an initiative’s success. Do you have any suggestions?
Thoughts of the Day: A marketing plan can give you a structured approach that can significantly increase your chances for success. Figure out how to come across with your core message and identity. Define where you are and where you want to get to. Describe the unique items. Then dig deeper into the how and why of interacting with prospects and converting them to customers.
Some entrepreneurs are eager, resourceful optimists who are also far too willing to jump into their marketing approaches with both feet and no plan. Others stay away from marketing altogether, finding it uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and overwhelming. Many have been deeply disappointed in the past, with limited results for the money and effort expended. But few take an organized approach to marketing that forces them to think through what will lead to long-term success in marketing for their businesses.
Start by answering two key questions: How do you set your company apart from everyone else who does something similar? And who might be most interested in that?
Define what makes your company one of a kind, from the insiders’ and the outsiders’ points of view. Inside is your employees, values and ethics, company mission, processes and systems, products or services, your vendors, and everyone and everything you interact with to deliver. Outside is the marketplace that is looking for the kind of help your company can provide—whether they know it or not.
Address the following to refine your approach:
• What makes you so special? Document how your company stands out.
• Make sure there’s a wide-open market with plenty of need, because you’re not going to come close to selling to everyone you contact.
• Define desired results. Report on results. Analyze how much further you have to go. Measurement is critical to any successful marketing plan.
• Play with changes in price and scope alter prospects’ interest. Look at which offers turn into sticky prospects and customers.
• High-value road or bargain-basement approach? There’s no perfect answer, although most folks will agree that a higher margin beats high volume.
• Is your potential customer a beginner, expert, or somewhere in between to using your type of service? Highbrow or low? Formal or informal? Make sure you both understand and speak the language of your best customers.
Craft messages that reflect the tone and needs of your company and the marketplace. One of the best ways to develop messages is to ask your best customers how they would best describe what your company has done for them. Keep in mind that great customers, speaking powerfully about their experiences, can help you craft messages that other potentially great prospects can recognize. Come up with several that you can test.
Dig into where and how to connect with prospects, and what special offers will get their attention. Plan the traditional connection routes: trade shows, billboard, events, media campaign. Document how you will put the internet to work—from website and landing pages, SEO, keywords and tracking, to video storytelling and advertising on various sites. Complimentary variety usually works the best.
Build a budget and break that down into a variety of options for reaching targets, keeping in mind that some tactics are costlier than others. Document a capture system that converts interest into inquiries into qualified leads into sales. Track results and compare that to the forecast you created when you started your plan, to find out what’s working and what still needs work. [CD0118]
Andi Gray is the founder of the business consulting firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.