Please know I don’t pretend to be a marketing genius. However, I have had more experiences than I can count that have taught me some amazing marketing strategies that work, and many that don’t.
Consulting with business owners daily who are working hard to build sales and revenue has given me a unique vantage point to catalog ideas and strategies to share with others and oftentimes use myself.
I have also hired several marketing “experts”, assistants and directors in my own firm to help our business grow. Some with better success than others, but each bringing creative ideas and strategies to the table we have been able to build upon.
Finally, I actually did obtain a Masters in Business; and although the emphasis was in tax, I had the wonderful opportunity to work on several marketing projects and learn the ‘academic approach’ in my undergrad and graduate business degrees.
So with all of this ‘so called’ education and experience, I ask for your humble patience and understanding that I may have learned a few things about “Marketing” while consulting and teaching thousands of clients over the past 12 years.
In fact, I was so inspired and passionate about this topic that I dedicated an entire chapter of my book to business and marketing plans, as well as a whole appendix section to designing and building a Marketing Plan.
So here are a few strategies I feel are the building blocks of a successful Marketing Plan:
Step 1. Establish Your Niche and Brand It– Use the research you completed in your Business Plan, or if you’ve been in business for some time and never went through the process of creating a Business Plan, step back and take a fresh look at your business. Be very clear with yourself about what service or product you are going to provide and why it is so special. Be prepared to brand this service or product in every possible way you can. Before you can market something, you have to be sold on it yourself as to why it is different and better than your competitors. This “difference” should be a theme in all of your marketing materials and give you a clear vision on what methods you will be using to sell it and why.
Step 2. Define Your Target Customers– Using the product mix created in your Strategic Plan, define your target customers. Who is going to purchase your services or products? Describe them in detail. Where and how are you going to find them? What are their purchasing habits, and how are you going to fill that niche or need? What is the best price for your services or products based on your target customer?
Step 3. Build Your Plan– Using some of the following sections and ideas, build a list of marketing strategies that you are already using and that you may want to implement in the future. Don’t leave anything off the list. Even if you don’t have the budget or time for it right now, write it down so you can work toward employing some of them in the future.
The plan would be divided into sub-sections, such as:
– Internal Procedures. Maintaining a Customer database management system, Customer thank-you program, Customer holiday and birthday contact list, ABC client rating system, and Re-activation mailings, phone calls, and scheduling just to name a few.
–Public Relations. Consider your branding logos, images and material in all marketing activities, Contests and events, Seminars or workshops, and possibly Charitable activities.
– Technology. Do you have a monthly e-newsletter, e-seminars, quality website, SEO program, on-line video presence and not to mention an aggressive social networking campaign?
– Printing and Signage. Make sure the quality of your brochures, fliers, business cards, and any signage is of the utmost quality.
– Media. Even traditional media can prove profitable in certain markets with Radio, TV, Newspaper, Magazines and even coupon mailings.
Step 4. Detail the When, Where, and How of Each Strategy– Under each marketing strategy in your Plan, include four important details regarding how each strategy will be implemented:
– Purpose. What is the purpose of this marketing strategy? Who will it target and why?
– Procedures. What specifically needs to be completed? Who is going to do it and when? Is it going to be you, an employee, or outsourced?
– Statistical goals. Remember, you are managing by statistics! There needs to be objective numerical data to confirm the success or failure of this strategy. Find it, and use it weekly or AT LEAST monthly.
– Budget. How much is this strategy going to cost? Is it one time, weekly, monthly, or annual? Nail it down, and review it regularly.
Step 5. Track Where Your Customers Are Coming From– If you are aren’t tracking where your new customers came from, your marketing budget could well be money spent in vain. Be religious about asking every one of your new customers where they heard about your company and what made them come to you. Ask them their opinion about your marketing pieces, if possible.
I’m convinced that millions of small-business owners don’t have an affordable and practical contact to help give them support and direction with their marketing needs.
Most business owners make their best guesses as to what may work for marketing and take a shotgun approach to finding a method that may work for them. This is never a desirable approach.
So your best to create a Plan and realize it’s not a one-size fits all approach. It will constantly be growing and should be modified on a regular basis.
Essentially, I am trying to say that the “Perfect” plan is what is best for you in YOUR business. Every marketing plan will be different. Even businesses that are selling the same product or service may use a different strategy to reach their customers and close sales.
I simply share this section and these resources with you in the hope of helping you better reach the sales goals you have set for yourself in your own business. Bottom line, I feel the most important step you can take to increase your sales is to develop and maintain a real plan and follow it.
Mark J. Kohler is a CPA, Attorney, Radio Show host and author of the new book “The Tax and Legal Playbook- Game Changing Solutions For Your Small Business Questions” and “What Your CPA Isn’t Telling You- Life Changing Tax Strategies”. He is also a partner at the law firm Kyler Kohler Ostermiller & Sorensen, LLP and the accounting firm K&E CPAs, LLP. For more information visit him at www.markjkohler.com.