Marketing: Develop a plan, start it now and stick to it

As business owners, marketing takes up a great deal of our time and often becomes a great challenge as we move our businesses forward.
Often when I’m consulting with a new client, they find their marketing challenges “hard” and often push them aside because the idea of unraveling the marketing puzzle is daunting.

Unfortunately, no matter how solid your product or service is, without effective marketing no one will ever know about it.

It’s January, and along with the abundance of health and fitness resolutions, this is the time of year many business owners begin to set their marketing resolutions. Marketing is like a diet in that it works most effectively when you stick to a plan; it is simplified when you have a strong support system in place; and when you decide to do it, you should do it and not put off until tomorrow what can be done today.

Think of marketing as the umbrella over everything you and your staff do to promote the company and its image. Marketing encompasses all of the tasks of promotion and includes everything from advertisements and press releases to who answers your telephone and the greeting they use.

Public relations can be broken down to all of those things that you don’t pay for: the press releases that you send to area media as well as pseudo events that you develop to increase your customer base.
Public relations efforts are particularly effective because of the credibility they provide. Remember, though, that newspapers, magazines and television stations are not in business just give free space or airtime. You have to offer a reason for them to talk about you.

And then there’s advertising, which is everything you actually pay for when promoting your company. Advertising is the simplest to define, but can be the hardest to execute effectively. The simplicity of purchasing an ad often overshadows the need for both creativity and strategy.

“Creative without strategy is called art,” explains Jef I. Richards, an author and recognized advertising strategist. “Creative with strategy is called advertising.”

If we look at all marketing activities as 50 percent creativity and 50 percent strategy, then we get a solid grasp of how simple this marketing concept can be.

When you develop a creative marketing plan and then focus on a strategy to carry out that plan, you’ll be amazed by the success of your efforts.

Surprisingly, your only task in marketing is to create knowledge, likability and trust among current and future customers. It’s proven that people don’t buy from you because you run the fanciest ad campaign. People buy from you because they know, like and trust you. The creativity, branding and professionalism of your company should always be reflected in your promotion. Your advertising will play a key role in creating trust among your consumers. But looking past the campaign to the real goal helps to center your efforts and create more effective promotion.

The question becomes: “What can I do RIGHT NOW to develop a strong base of customers who know, like and trust my company?” It can be as simple as picking up the phone and making some calls to your customers to wish them a happy new year or as complex as writing a marketing plan for the year.

A successful marketing plan includes some very basic components: an acknowledgement of who your target market is (the more streamlined the better), a budget, a calendar of when you will do your marketing activities and a method for evaluation. While evaluation is listed last, it’s one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. Without proper evaluation, there is no solid way to judge success. Every successful company has a solid method for tracking the effectiveness of each part of its marketing plan.

If you have no idea how much to spend on your marketing campaign, start with 10 percent of your gross income and go from there. This will give you a strong start. When this money is targeted specifically, you will watch your bottom line grow. A strategic integrated marketing campaign will include advertising, public relations and abundant networking with your target market.

So, as you begin your year and start planning, remember that marketing doesn’t have to be hard. Are you likeable and trustworthy? Then the only missing link is to let your customers know who you are.

Do what excites you in your marketing. That’s what works.