Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The All-Important Marketing Plan

Many small businesses conduct their marketing without having a marketing plan.  This is a lot like trying to drive to a distant location without a map, GPS, or directions.  Odds are that you won't get where you want to go!

A marketing plan does not have to be a major headache.  Everything starts with the simple question "what is it that I want to accomplish?" It may be to increase sales by some percentage, or to expand the customer base, or to introduce a new product or service.  We now know the destination.

The plan then moves to "how" and that can take two parts.  One, like choosing a route to a distant city, involves the vehicle.  We know that our ultimate route will vary if we choose, like in our example, car, bus, railroad, or plane.  Here will be a question of doing it yourself, or hiring an appropriate professional.  The second part is the channel or channels.  Do you advertise?  try face to face marketing? and so on.  Those channels should be chosen for their efficiency in doing the job.  Just as you wouldn't drive your car on a river, we wouldn't, say, reach out to, say, health care decision makers by advertising on Nick at Night.

Lastly the plan should include consideration of success.  What does "success" mean?  what measurements (or metrics) will be used to define whether the plan leads to success or not?

Bottom Line:  When you take a journey, you must plan.  Define the destination, the means of getting there, and what will determine the journey's success.  Good luck!  You are one step closer to your objectives!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

30 Second Commercial Needs To Be Fresh

As I network, I listen intently to others' "30 second commercials" and "30 second elevator speeches".  As I have noted before these vary in quality.  Another matter I notice is repetition.  There is sometimes a place for it, but it does pay to freshen the text regularly.

In my thinking, a standard 30-second spot is perfect for known first contact situations, almost certainly in 1:1 environments like "speed dating".  Those are absolutely cases where a first impression makes a huge difference.  And in such cases the most polished delivery works for you.

Then there are networking groups, leads groups, BNI clubs, and more.  Here, repetition of the same thing is deadly.  I have reached the point in mine where I can almost reproduce some others' "30 second commercial" word-for-word.  These poor folks have become wind-up monkeys and I see others tune out.  I really enjoy speakers who always have something new to say, perhaps another way they helped someone, or a new fact that makes their service compelling, or a new way of understanding what they do.  For the fresh-deliveries, in no cases is the core message changing.  It is reinforced by supporting detail.  

A great question for all of us.  How fresh is our "30 second commercial"?  Are people tuning in or tuned out?

Monday, August 8, 2016

LinkedIn is a Can't Miss Opportunity if Used Well

I periodically hear talk in "solopreneur" circles about LinkedIn as a marketing tool.   This particular tool seems to have equal shares of advocates and detractors.  The latter crowd often seem to be populated with those who have had exposure to LinkedIn and didn't get the results they wanted.

LinkedIn is a great tool.  But it is a specialized tool.  Many detractors think it is a venue for sales, and that is exactly what it is not!  Nor is it an especially good way to generate B2C activity (i.e. Business-to-Consumers).

What LinkedIn does pretty well is idea-sharing.  And that comes from the theory that a good way to feed a network is to share ideas, concerns, and solutions.  I have regulars who post multiple items every day.  That may be a bit on the high side, but it is not off the mark by much.  By posting these easily digestible nuggets a solopreneur, or any other businessperson, can establish expertise, authority and most importantly that reminder that you are there, helping people with their challenges.

My principal concern for those posters I see most often is that they over-do "sharing": If articles or other writings are shared, at least do so with a context.  And for heaven's sake, limit those shared Internet memes!

Bottom line: Are you ready to put LinkedIn to work for your business?  Build that network, make appropriate connections, and regularly share valuable content.  You can plant seeds that grow in wonderful ways!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Does Email Marketing Have Enough Pep?

I have found there to be considerable disagreement in my circles about the use of email marketing for small business.  Is email marketing still a good bet?

On the plus side, email remains highly affordable (even free in most circumstances), easy to use, easy to customize, and easy to respond to.   On the minus side, email can be very impersonal and many consumers have abandoned email in favor of texting and other formats.

Email lists are also not hard to build.  Adroit use of web site, requests to customers at time of purchase, and social media offers can quickly build substantial lists.  These solid, opt in lists make for especially promising ROI.

I am not especially concerned about reports of email's demise.  This has been the claim for some years now and email remains a widespread channel, albeit one that is inconsistently read by quite a few consumers.  Moreover, in replacing email we would want something with greater or equal reach, and that has not yet happened.

However, email boxes are quite full for the average consumer, so getting inside with the right subject line and offer is critical.

Bottom Line:  Email marketing will continue to be a strong choice for small business.  This channel has a meaningful return on investment and enormous reach, and can be customized quite well.  But it is important to use appropriate and appealing messaging.