Business Planning

9 Steps to create a Simple Marketing Plan

Posted on November 28, 2014. Filed under: Business, Business Development, Business Planning, Marketing, Marketing Plan, Small Business | Tags: , , , , , |

9 Steps to Create a Simple Marketing Plan
Having a Marketing Plan to grow your business is important, but sometimes creating the plan can feel overwhelming.  This Blog Post simplifies the creation of your Marketing Plan, by breaking it down into 9 questions.  When you answer these questions, you will create a simple marketing plan for your business:

  1. WHO is your target market?
    You have to clearly define who you are trying to reach with your products and/or services.  When you understand who your audience is, you are better able to market and promote to that target audience, so clearly define you target market including the demographics (age, gender, income, etc.) and pyschographics (beliefs, personality, hobbies, etc.)  and this will help you to effectively market and promote your product or service to your target audience.
  2. WHAT is the problem that your target market has?
    You have to clearly identify what problem or issue your target market may have.  Most, if not all, products or services offer a solution to some type of problem.  It may be a direct problem or an indirect problem, but your target market should have some type of problem that your product or service will help to alleviate.
  3. HOW does your product or service solve these problems?
    After identifying the problem your target market has, now you have to show how your product or service solves that problem.  It is important to not only identify the features of your product or service, but more importantly to identify the benefits of your product or service.  People identify better with benefits rather than features.  Saying your product is “light weight” is a feature, mentioning that your product is “easy and convenient to carry with you because it is light weight” is showing how that feature is a benefit.  Taking the time to identify how you solve the problem and clearly articulating that in your marketing material will work to your advantage.
  4. WHERE is your Target Market?
    The next step in your Marketing Plan is locating the target market that you have identified.  The key is to find the places that your target market exists in large quantities.  This is where you are going to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to your marketing activity.  The more people you can reach who are in your target market and are located in one place (an event, conference, workshop, etc.) the better results you will be able to get from your marketing activity.  You can find your target market in various places both online and offlline.
  5. HOW Do You Reach your Target Market? 
    Once you have located your target market, then you need to plan how you would like to reach them.  What activities will you do to reach your target market.  There are over 1,000 ways to reach your target audience (networking, advertising, email, video, speaking engagements, books, etc.)  so you have to decide what method works best for your industry, your company, and your audience.
  6. WHO are your ideal referral partners?
    Referrals can be one of the best ways to grow your business, so including in your marketing plan who your ideal referral partners are and working to build relationships with your ideal referral partners can really help you to grow your business.  If you are able, including some type of incentive for referrals works really well.
  7. WHAT differentiates your company from all the other companies in the marketplace? 
    It is important to not only identify who your competitors are, but to identify how your company is different from the others in the marketplace.  Once you clearly identify what makes you different than your competitors, then you are better able to articulate that in your marketing material to your clients and prospects.
  8. WHEN do you reach out to your target market and how much do you spend?
    Planning your activity is a very important step that many small business owners and entrepreneurs neglect to do.  The key to planning when you are going to reach out to your target audience and how much you are going to spend is to create a marketing calendar.  This calendar will allow you to plan out when you will be doing certain marketing activities, what that marketing activity will be, and how much you plan to spend on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.  Taking the time to do this activity can make a huge difference in the growth of your business.
  9. WHAT headlines will you use to catch the attention of your target audience
    Thinking about the words that you are going to use to catch the attention of your target audience is very important, so taking the time to think about relevant keywords for your audience and your company will help you to craft the appropriate headlines for your marketing material.

Have you created a Marketing Plan for your business?  If so, are there other aspects of your Marketing Plan that you include?

If you need assistance with creating a Marketing Plan for your business, we offer Marketing Plan Coaching for entrepreneurs and small business owners contact us to learn more.

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Do You Have a Business M.A.P.?

Posted on November 11, 2014. Filed under: Business, Business Planning, Email Results, Marketing, Marketing Plan, Small Business | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Blog Image-  Business MAPDo you have a business M.A.P.?  Wondering what a business M.A.P. is, and why you would need one?  It’s a Marketing Action Plan (M.A.P.), and you need one in order to take your business from one place to the next.

When you need to go somewhere, and you are not sure how to get there, you need directions.  You can use a map to get the directions, now a days that map is within your GPS either in your smartphone or in your car.  Well just like the map in your GPS, you need a M.A.P. for your business that is designed to take your business from point A to point B.  The destination may be different for each business, but the need to have a plan and take action is always necessary to get your business from point A to point B.

Similar to when you are following the directions in your GPS, you may at times need to make a u-turn or change routes, but the overall map in the GPS is there to guide you and get you to your final destination.  In fact, after we have made several miss steps or u-turns we love when we hear the words, “you have reached your destination“.  With a business MAP, you may not hear a GPS system say, “you have reached your destination”, but you know you have reached your destination when you achieve the business goal that you set out to achieve.

For example, if your business goal is to increase your sales by 20%, you need to create a M.A.P. on how to get there.  Instead of turns on highways and streets, the M.A.P. includes turns you can make in your marketing activity that can help you to reach your destination, so in the case of increasing sales, a M.A.P. could look something like this:

Point A-  Sales are 50 units a month

Step 1-  Increase leads by doing the following actions:

a.  Attending more networking events

b.  Placing ads on Social Media

c.  Creating an email campaign

d.  Creating an AdWord campaign

Step 2-  Increase referrals by doing the following actions:

a.  Joining a referral networking group

b.  Looking for referral partners

c.  Creating a referral partner program

d.  Having a referral incentive

Step 3-  Increase sales conversations by doing the following actions:

a.  Having monthly webinars

b.  Having monthly teleseminars

c.  Having monthly in-person events

d.  Having more one-on-one meetings with prospects

Step 4-  Increase your conversion rate by doing the following actions:

a.  Creating sales pages with good  content and strong calls to actions

b.  Creating emails with good content and strong call to actions

c.  Creating  videos with good content and strong call to actions

d.  Adding testimonials to your website and sales pages

Point B-  Measure the increase in sales

So as you can see the action that you take in your marketing action plan will determine the outcome of the destination of your business.  You can create a plan for each business goal that you have and make adjustments to the actions when necessary.

Have you created your business M.A.P.?  If so, what marketing activities do you include in order to reach your goals?

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Are you practicing RAM in your business?

Posted on March 7, 2014. Filed under: Business Planning, Marketing, Marketing Plan, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , |

When-you-fail-to-PLANWhen it comes to marketing, most people know it is an important part of business, but not everyone takes the time to fully understand and implement their marketing activities.  Therefore, they practice what I have heard referred to as “Random Acts of Marketing” (RAM).  This is when you try this marketing activity and see if it works, then try that marketing activity, and so forth, and so on.  This is the worst type of marketing effort, in fact, it reminds me of the saying when you fail to plan, you plan to fail and that is why having a Marketing Plan and someone who will keep you accountable to execute that plan is very important for a small business owner.

The first step to stop RAM in your business is to create a Marketing Plan.  When I casually talk to various business owners at networking events, I ask them if they have a written marketing plan and most of the time people do not have a written plan.  It’s good to have an idea of what you want to do for your marketing, but a written marketing plan will help you to get clarity in several key areas of your marketing including your target market, the solution that your product or service offers your specific target market, and how you can successfully reach and convert members of your target market into paying customers.  When you have clarity on your marketing, then you have clarity in your business, so let’s look at each section in more detail:

KNOW YOUR TARGET MARKET IN DETAIL

The biggest thing I hear a lot of business owners say is,  “anyone could use my product or service”, but “anyone” is not a specific market that you can reach out to and create a strategic marketing campaign.  The smarter thing to do would be to pick a specific group or groups of individuals who are looking for a solution to a specific problem that your product or service offers a solution for.  Get to know that market inside and out.  Not just the typical demographics of age, gender, income level, etc., but know the psycho-graphics, what they tend to believe, what hobbies they tend to like, the places they like to go, etc.  This is smart marketing and helps a company to achieve better results.

KNOW WHY YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE IS THE “IDEAL” SOLUTION

Once you full understand the needs of your target market, the next step is to let your target market know why your product or service is the ideal solution.  Unless you live in a bubble, there are probably other people out there who do what you do, so you have to be very clear on what makes you different and ultimately what makes you better, which will encourage people to use your products or services instead of your competitors

KNOW WHERE YOUR TARGET MARKET “HANGS OUT”

Now that you know your target market, you know what their problems are and you know why your company is the ideal solution, now you need to let them know you are available to help!  The best way to do this is to find places where your target market hangs out in large quantities and to stand out as the ideal solution for their needs.  This can be done in both online and offline.

KNOW THE NECESSARY TERMINOLOGY TO CONVERT YOUR PROSPECTS TO CLIENTS

A lot of marketing involves psychology.  It involves getting in the mind of your target audience, understanding their needs, desires, fears, etc. and showing up as a solution through varies marketing activities and using the appropriate terminology to attract your prospects to your business, product or service.  It’s one thing to be at the right place at the right time, but it’s a whole other thing to be at the right place, at the right time, saying the right things!

The second step to stop RAM in your business is to have accountability.  When I say accountability, I mean someone either internally or externally that is responsible for making sure that your marketing plan is executed successfully.  In most medium to large companies a Vice President of Marketing, Chief Marketing Officer, or Marketing Director is the person that is held accountability for the marketing activity of the company, but for smaller businesses that don’t have various departments or the person who is a Entrepreneur or a one man show, he or she tends to add the role of Marketing to the many additional titles and roles that need to be done in the company.  The problem with this is that it can be overwhelming at times to manage all the marketing activity and the day to day management and operation of the business, and sometimes the marketing activity falls to the side.  That’s why outsourcing some marketing activity to individuals who can assist you can be useful.  This could include getting help for some of the strategic marketing planning from marketing experts, and outsourcing some of the marketing activities to individuals who can assist you including:

HIRING A MARKETING COACHING

A marketing coach can help you go through the necessary steps you need to take to write your marketing plan and help you to put together a marketing calendar to make sure you schedule out your marketing activity.  A coach can also help you to get clear on who you really  need to be targeting since most people feel they should be targeting everyone (WRONG!).

HIRING A MARKETING CONSULTANT

A marketing consultant can assist you with looking at your overall business and determining the best type of marketing strategies, systems, and support you will need to accomplish the goals that you would like to achieve.

HIRING A MARKETING ASSISTANT

A marketing assistant can help with getting those marketing activities done.  Let’s face it there are only a certain number of hours in the day and having someone available to accomplish those necessary daily, weekly or monthly tasks needed to execute your marketing can be very useful.

So in conclusion, in order to stop practicing Random Acts of Marketing (RAM) you must put together a marketing plan and execute your plan!  If you are unable to execute all aspects of your marketing it may be a good idea to get some help from a coach, consultant or assistant.

How do make sure that your company is not practicing RAM?

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How do you differentiate your small business from all of the rest?

Posted on December 17, 2013. Filed under: Business, Business Development, Business Planning, Marketing, Small Business | Tags: , , , , |

Your small business is probably not the only business in the world that does what you do, so how do you differentiate your company from all of the other companies out there?  The answer can be found in identify your unique selling proposition (usp). These are the things that make you and/or your company different, but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what your unique selling proposition is?  Follow these three tips to help you to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market:

  1. KNOW YOUR INDUSTRY–  the first step is to know what is going on in your industry.  What is the latest and greatest thing out there.  What changes have you seen in your industry?  What has remained the same in your industry?  How can you be an innovator within your industry?  You want to make sure your company is doing things differently, don’t go with the flow, go against it!  Most of the major brands out there became successful, by doing it differently or offering it in a different way.  Apple did not get to be such a major brand by following the crowd and doing it the same way as the others in their industry, no Apple became a super brand by being innovative!
  2. KNOW YOUR COMPETITORS–  It helps to  know what your competitors are doing, so you can be aware of what they are offering and how you can offer it in a better way.  Nobody really likes to snoop around (well maybe some people do), but it helps to secretly shop your competitors and get to experience the way they do business.  Sam Walton the founder of WalMart was known to be obsessed with his competitors, he wanted to know what they were doing, how they were doing it, when they were doing it, etc. so he could do it better!
  3. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE–  I know I probably say this in almost every post, but knowing your target market inside and out is really key in knowing the needs of your customers, and identifying what makes your product or service the ideal solution for your customer.  McDonald knew that people wanted food quickly.  They did not plan to be the best burger and fries out there, but created a system that offered reasonably good food (I know that is debatable)  in a very fast way, which is what the consumers wanted!

So if you strive to be innovative, to do things differently than your competitors, and to know the needs of your audience, you are on the path to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market and becoming a successful brand!

What ways do you use to differentiate your small business?

 

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How to reach your IDEAL Target Market

Posted on December 11, 2013. Filed under: Business, Business Development, Business Planning, Marketing, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

One of the first steps to any successful marketing campaign is to IDENTIFY your IDEAL target market.  When it comes to identifying your ideal target market, there are two main factors that you should consider:

  1. DEMOGRAPHICS–  this is a description of your target market that includes factors such as age, gender, income level, marital status, ethnicity, etc.
  2. PSYCHOGRAPHICS–  this is a description of the personality type and interests of your target market and includes things like, values, beliefs, characteristics, hobbies etc.

Once you take the time to describe your target market, then you are better able to REACH your ideal target market!

The next step after defining your target market is finding out where your target market gathers in LARGE quantities both online and offline.  This could include places like:

    • Associations
    • Clubs
    • Organizations
    • Conferences
    • Tradeshows
    • Networking Events
    • Meetup groups
    • Facebook groups
    • LinkedIn groups
    • Specific Social Networking Groups

Now you know WHO your target market is and WHERE they hangout, the next step is HOW to reach out to them, and this could include activities such as:

    • Sponsoring Events
    • Participating in Tradeshows
    • Attending Conferences
    • Speaking at Meetings
    • Joining Clubs & Organizations
    • Partnering with associations
    • Online Advertising
    • Adding to conversations on online groups

Once you know WHO your target audience is, WHERE they hangout in large quantities, and HOW to reach out to them, you are ready to start executing your marketing campaign.

What other techniques do you use to identify and reach out to your target market?

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What are you focusing on to get NEW business? Leads v. Referrals

Posted on August 12, 2013. Filed under: Business, Business Development, Business Planning, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

picmonkey_imageWhen it comes to GROWING your business, getting NEW business is very important.  As business owners we look for various ways to get leads or referrals, but leads and referrals are not the same, and should be treated very differently.  Here is the difference between the two, and which one you should be focusing on:

Leads

According to dictionary.com, a lead is a suggestion or piece of information that helps to direct or guide.  A business lead is a suggestion that this person or business may be a good potential for new business for you.  A lead does not come with a recommendation it is merely a suggestion that this company or person may have the services or products you are interested in.  Therefore, before a lead will turn into new business, he or she will need additional proof or a sense of trust to feel comfortable with giving the business to you.  A lead provided by  a third party usually includes the person/company’s name, number or e-mail address for someone who is possibly in the market for your service or product.

Referrals

According to dictionary.com, a referral is a person recommended to someone or something.  A referral results in more business than a lead because it is a recommendation.  When someone is interested in a product or service, they like to know if it is recommended, so if you come highly recommended by someone, you have a higher chance of getting that business.  A referral goes something like this, “Jane I would like you to meet John, John has a business with the services that you are in need of, I wanted to connect the two of you because I know that John does good work and I knew it would be a good connection for guys to meet”

The difference between a lead and a referral is really whether an introduction was made, and if the person was recommended.  If an introduction was not made and the person/company was not recommended, that is considered a lead.  If an introduction was made and the person was recommended, that is a referral.  Businesses close more business from referrals than leads, so what are you focused on getting?  Leads or Referrals?

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3 Ways to Get Capital For Your Small Business

Posted on May 30, 2013. Filed under: Business, Business Development, Business Planning, Uncategorized | Tags: , |

After attending the BE Entrepreneur’s conference earlier this month, I learned about three main ways small businesses can secure capital to grow their businesses:

1.  Traditional financing through a financial institution–  This is probably the most popular or most known type of way to get financing for your small business.  You can go through the Small Business Association (SBA) to get assistance with this type of financing, or you can work directly with a bank or a local credit union.  No matter which avenue you choose, you will be required to have good credit,  good financial statements, a good business plan, and you will be taking on debt for your business.

2.  Angel Investor or Venture Capitalist-  This type of capital I was not as familiar with, but I know it is available for small business owners, but mainly start-up companies and mainly technology companies.  Angel investors use private capital  to invest in start-up companies in exchange for equity in the business, and a Venture Capitalist is a person or company that provides capital for new commercial enterprises.  For angel investors and venture capitalist they are not interested in your credit, financial statement or business plan, but more interested in the business concept, the viability of your  product or services, the management team for the business, and the market demand or potential demand  for your product or service.  Venture Capitalist require equity in your business, so you loose some percentage of control for your business.

3.  Alternative sources of capital–  Alternative sources of capital have become very popular now a days with platforms such as crowdfunding.  Crowdfunding is the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support organizations and companies.  The capital raised is by donations given in return for some item or privilege from the supported organization or company.  The great thing about crowdfunding is your business is not taking on debt or giving away any equity.

No matter what avenue or avenues you choose to use to get capital for your business, be sure to do your research and BE PREPARED before you start any process to gain capital for your small business.

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3 things to consider BEFORE making ANY business decision

Posted on April 23, 2013. Filed under: Business, Business Development, Business Planning | Tags: , , , , |

As a business owner you have to make many business decisions all the time, but how do you know if you are making the right decision for your business?  I feel there are 3 things you should ALWAYS consider before making ANY business decision.  These 3 things are:

  1. Logic– this is when we use our mind to think about the consequences of the decision.  We try to decide will this decision make logical sense for my business mission or goal?   Most business owners always consider the logical reasoning before making a business decision. Logical reasoning includes things like:
    • Does this make sense for my business?
    • How much will it cost me if I do this, or what will it cost me if I don’t do this?
    • How will this affect the bottom line?
    • How profitable could this be?
    • How much time and energy would I have to spend on this?
  2. Emotion–  Some business owners consider the emotional side of making a business decision, but not all business owners do.  The emotional reasoning includes:
    • How would this decision make me feel about the business?
    • How do I feel about working with the individuals involved?
    • Do I feel this could really work?
    • Is my heart in it?
  3. Spirit-  Now this factor is overlooked by many business owners, but could quite possibly be the most important factor.  The spirit is the small voice inside of you (your gut) that usually tells you whether this is right for your business or not.  It is not based on logic or feelings, but on your intuition!  Sometimes we overlook the spirit in making business decisions because logically  the decision looks like it makes sense, or even emotionally we really feel that it could work, but the spirit is somewhat like knowing but not recognizing.  The spiritual reasoning includes:
    • Not really being able to explain why it makes sense or does not make sense, but you just know
    • Not being able to reason whether a decision is right or wrong, but you just know
    • Not relying total on your feelings, but relying on the sense or the direction the decision will take you
    • Paying attention to those small clues that are usually overlooked that give you guidance and direction on the right decision to make

Each decision factor is very different, but all are necessary and should be considered before making ANY business decision!

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The Four Seasons in Business: What Season is Your Business In?

Posted on March 8, 2013. Filed under: Business, Business Development, Business Planning | Tags: , , , , , , |

As most of us know there tends to be times in our business when we are super busy, and times in our business when we are not as busy.  I feel business goes in seasons.  Much like the quarterly weather seasons we experience, the business seasons are necessary for us to go through and appreciate.
  • Season 1 (Winter)-  This is the time when business is kind of “cold”.  We are not getting a lot of business, but we have enough business to keep us a float. We can use this time to make plans and work on building up our network.  Business plans are at the heart of our business and when things are slow we should review our plans, update our results, and plan on ways to improve.  Our networks also tend to be the source of our new business, so building our networks in the “cold” season will help us to get more business for our other seasons.
  • Season 2 (Spring)–  This is when we start to see the fruits of our labor.  We start to get phone calls from people who are interested in our business.  More people are interested in joining our team or partnering with us.  During this season we can say “Business is good”  because we are seeing results.  The goal in this season is to provide excellent customer service and exceed your customer’s expectation.  When we exceed our customer’s expectations and keep our customers happy, it will lead to referral business, which is one of the main ways to help grow your business.
  • Season 3 (Summer)–  This is the time when things are more relaxed and comfortable for your business.  You are getting a steady stream of business, but you are not overwhelmed.  This season is the ideal time to think about creating new products and services that you can offer your clients to enhance your business.  People always like new things, so it is important to consistently offer new products and services in your business.  This season is a great time to offer new products and services because you are able to manage your work load.
  • Season 4 (Autumn)-   During this season your business may experience a slight decrease as you are getting close to the “cold” season.  Don’t be alarmed, now is a great time to amp up the advertising and promotion of your business.  More advertising and promotion of your business during this season will help increase your sales volume due to the natural decline in sales volume you  may be in experiencing.  This season is also a great time to be sure to plant your seeds (follow-up phone calls, presentations, networking, etc.) so you can have a fruitful Spring!

Each season my vary in length and time, but most businesses experience all 4 seasons at some point in the life of their business.  The key is to stay focused and realize nothing lasts forever.

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