Thursday, January 20

Small business marketing plans: You might not want one... 

Guest column by Jimmy Vee and Travis Miller

If you are a small business owner or independent sales
professional and you are working on, thinking about or
reading about creating a marketing plan - STOP!!

So many so called "marketing experts" say you need a
marketing plan and puke out all this
"direct-from-the-textbook-junk" about how to create one
and what it contains. 

Traditional marketing text books and philosophies weren't
written for small businesses. They were written for big
corporations, so the irrelevant stuff between their covers
doesn't mean anything to you but wasted time, energy and

Most marketing experts only know what's in those college
text books - and I got to tell you for a small business
that's poison. I've read all the text books I have the
advertising degree hanging on the wall. I've got the
master's degree too. And you wanna know what? All that
standard education information is garbage.

See, academics aren't interested in the same things as
entrepreneurs. They don't think the same as us and they
definitely don't know anything about small business. They
know theory and principles that work for the masses. That's
why this is standard education stuff. But standard education
principles yield standard results and often times less when
applied to small businesses. 

I don't know about you but I'm not looking for standard
success. Standard success is $30,000 a year and a broken
home for your kids. I think we are all aiming a bit higher,
that's why you're reading this right now and seeking
something more.

In that standard marketing education they talk about the
"Four P's of Marketing" (some say five P's now). The
Five P's are product, price, placement, package, promotion.

For a small business the Five P's are procrastination,
procrastination, procrastination, procrastination,

You need rapid but smart growth - and that's not covered in
a marketing plan or in the "Five P's."

What you need to create is a "Rapid And Smart Growth Plan
Of Attack." 

This is a living and breathing one page document that
evolves as you take action and test results. 

And it's not just a plan. A plan gets filed away in your
drawer because it's too long and too complicated to do
anything else with. 

What I'm talking about is a plan of attack. If you want to
find success you need to ATTACK IT!

I like to use a large easel and a big post it flip chart
pad. I write in red marker so it's ultra obvious and always
carries a sense of urgency.

In this plan of attack you want to make a list of no more
than two or three narrowly defined targets to go after. You
need to solidify your Gravitational Proposition - a unique
offering statement that is irresistible to your target and
pulls them to you with a natural, powerful force.

Your Gravitational Proposition should answer these
1. What is it you are trying to sell?
2. What HUGE benefit does your customer get from the purchase?
3. How much does it cost?
4. Why proof do you offer/why should I believe you?

Your proposition doesn't have to contain all of these
things but a combination of the ones that puts your offering
in the best light possible.

The next thing on your action plan should be the steps you
will take to attack your prospects and the individual
actions you will take to accomplish those steps.

Cross each one off the list as you finish it and add new
ideas as you come up with them. Only add ideas when you can
add actionable steps to take to implement those ideas.

Create time deadlines for each set of steps to incentivize
yourself to get them done. Even create rewards for
accomplishing the projects. You must block out at least one
day per week where you do nothing but plan and act -
otherwise you are doomed to have slow growth and mediocre

You must change your mindset. You must realize your main job
is marketer not doer or seller or manager. Marketing is the
most important job you can master if you desire success in
large scale.

So forget the marketing plan, the four or five P's and
start creating rapid and smart growth by taking aggressive
action. Remember that you must test and measure all of your
efforts for effectiveness and act accordingly.

Saturday, January 8

Small business marketing:Put Up or Shut Down 

Five things every small business must do to survive this recession
Guest column by Bryan Jennewein

Many small businesses fall into the trap of spending little or nothing during challenging economic times. But there are proven strategies for not only surviving, but also growing during recession. Here are five easy ways to make sure your business comes out ahead.

Understand who your customers truly are
Understanding your customers is easy – just talk to them. Don't have the time? Then use a tool like infoUSA.com's Advanced Customer Cloner. Simply upload a list of your best customers, and it kicks out a list of people just like them – even if your customers are businesses. You can even order a report that describes these best customers for a small fee. It's smart investments like this that help prevent the kinds of costly mistakes of less successful businesses.

You have to spend money to make money
We've all heard the age-old mantra, "you've got to spend money to make money," and yet we continually resist doing it. If you're in business, then people need to know you're in business, which means you have to communicate with not only your current customers, but also potential customers. This communication costs money. Many call it "marketing dollars," while I call it common sense. Committing to spending money is difficult – especially when you don't see consistent returns. When you stop spending money on marketing, you only compound the problem. This vicious cycle will only help your business close its doors for good.

Use your money wisely
Now that you've committed to spending money, do so with a plan and a way to measure success. Do everything you can to understand how many dollars you're making for every dollar you're spending. Try a smart direct mail campaign, with a professionally designed mail piece that will get it the attention it deserves instead of a trip to the garbage can. Make sure you include a unique 800# or offer, so you can record these new customers when they buy. Understanding success is easy - just add up all the sales you made from your campaign, factor in future sales from new customers, and subtract the cost of the campaign itself. Or, for even more cost control, try email marketing. It's a very inexpensive way to reach a lot of people. Typically, your response rate is lower, but because you can reach more people, a lot of times these campaigns see more success than their direct mail counterparts – and you don't even have to pay for the stamp!

Craft your message carefully
Think about these three things when planning your campaign:
Hook them with a great offer or special deal.
Reinforce the value of your product or service.
Issue a call-to-action.

Get their attention, tell them why they need you, and tell them directly and specifically what to do. Your message might be something like "Seasonal Discount – 50% OFF of the best baked goods in town, baked fresh every morning by Mama Louisa herself! Bring this coupon when you stop by our store in the Old Market. Visit us today!" And keep some extra coupons on hand in the store. When a customer uses a coupon, just jot down the amount of the order. At the end of the first month, see how well your campaign did by totaling up all of your new business.

Create customer loyalty
Keep giving your customers what they want, learn from what they don't, and look to them for ideas on what else you might be able to provide. This is the key to marketing smarter: a lifelong customer. It's the customer that you've built an emotional connection to in addition to being merely useful. This customer will come to you first every time. This is perhaps the best investment of your marketing dollars, because you've spent money to acquire them once, and they keep buying time and time again. 

Friday, January 7

Small business marketing: Quickest way to the poor house is... 

This smart marketing tidbit came across my desk from Joan Stewart, aka the Publicity Hound:
One of the most valuable tips I learned is that the onslaught of emails I'm receiving from business people offering cut-rate prices on their products and services is, for them, the quickest way to the poor house. In fact, raising prices, even in a meltdown economy, is one of the fastest ways to success.
Why is this so smart? Well, because Joan agree with me on this point. I'm not ashamed to share with you that for 2009, I've just raised my speaking fee. And not by a little - by a lot. Specifically, it's up by 33%. And it wasn't low to start with.
What are YOU doing to raise yourself above the competition - both literally with pricing and in other more customer-centric ways?


Thursday, January 6

Small business marketing: lessons from Home Depot 

A while back there was a Home Depot television commercial that brilliantly demonstrated their understanding of why their customers purchase several of their products. 
It went something like this… A man is standing in the tool department holding a drill while his wife looks on dubiously.  He obviously wants to buy it, but apparently expects some resistance from his wife so in an effort to convince her says, "Don't think of this as a drill, think of this as your new book shelves."  
Well, obviously his ploy worked because in the next scene the same couple is standing in front of the table saws.  He smiles at his wife, points to one and says, "And think of this as your new deck!"  The final scene shows the same couple getting ready to purchase a shop vac.  Only this time the woman speaks up and says, "And I can think of this as my clean garage!"   Not only do they do a stellar job of articulating their products' benefits but they do so without mentioning one feature! 
So, the next time you're tempted to itemize your products' or services' nifty features take a deep breath and stop.  Instead, articulate how those features translate into customer benefits.

Saturday, January 1

Small business marketing: Happy New Year! 

Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to.
~Bill Vaughan

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
~Bill Vaughan

Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits.
~Author Unknown

A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.
~Author Unknown

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.
~Benjamin Franklin

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