Seven Ways to Energize SalesWhen revenue hits a rut, consider these tips to help you jump-start your sales.In this highly competitive marketplace, its vital to keep your marketing campaigns fresh, new and ontarget. This fall, kick your marketing into high gear with this seven-point checklist.1. Reestablish Listening PostsSmart marketing relies entirely on understanding your customer. You need to know not only whothey are and what they buy, but why they buy -- and why they choose to buy from you. Redoubleyour efforts at dialogue through social media, message boards and blogs. And get direct feedbackfrom customers or clients, or via your front-line salespeople.2. Announce Special PromotionsUse special incentives to draw customers to short-term promotions. This fall (much like the last),cost-conscious consumers are looking for good prices and great value, and promotions are a winnerwith most all economic groups. Coupons are increasingly vital, and there is a major rise in thedesirability of online coupons.3. Polish Lead ManagementOver the summer, lead tracking and follow up may have become a bit haphazard. Be certaineveryone who takes inbound calls asks every new lead where they heard about your company.Make the leads generated by your online, print and broadcast advertising trackable. And wherepossible follow up all leads within 24 hours. Todays sales are built on trusting relationships that growfrom excellent customer service.4. Focus On Fresh IdeasDont rely exclusively on a small team or just your marketing staff to produce fresh ideas. Makeinnovation everyones responsibility this fall with brainstorming sessions, company retreats or bygiving special recognition to individuals with the smartest suggestions. If your business has fewemployees, assemble a seasoned advisory board or form an online advisory group made up ofmembers of your target audience to give input in exchange for sales perks.5. Renew Retention CampaignsDo you have regular e-mail or direct mail promotions that go out to your entire customer base? Thisfall, use e-mail to crank up your retention campaign by putting it on a consistent weekly or biweeklyschedule. Soon youll have discovered which incentives and messages work best to retain andupsell current customers and convert prospects, and yield the highest return on investment.6. Enhance Your GivingIn this era of rising social responsibility, customers and prospects want to know youre a goodcorporate citizen, and this is a great time to align with a nonprofit. Businesses that rely on localcustomers benefit from helping community-based causes. You can provide pro bono services orundertake a promotional campaign to raise charitable funds. Just be sure to promote the undertaking
via your website and the press. Youll provide help where its needed most and earn appreciationfrom customers that leads to sales.7. Freshen Your ContentWhen was the last time you updated the content of your website and your family of sales andmarketing tools? Since your website is generally the first place prospects go to learn more aboutyour business, its crucial the sites appearance and themes are current. Imagine someone followinga logical path from your website through each step in your sales process, and make sure allmaterials and messages they encounter flow seamlessly from one to the next. With more shoppersthan ever browsing the Web this fall, its a great way to jumpstart sales.5 Ways to Take Customer Loyalty to theNext LevelNew customers are the lifeblood of companies. Or are they? Lately, marketers have been spendingmore time on current customers -- revamping whatcustomer service means, investing more incustomer relationship management (CRM) systems and building teams to improve communicationwith customers.In this age of social connectivity, customer loyaltyhas become more valuable than ever. Consumersshare stories of their interactions with businesses on social media, meaning that word-of-mouthmarketing is more valuable than ever.Since customer loyalty can be critical to making a sale, ask yourself what youre doing to cultivate it.When was the last time you spent money or resources on making your customers feel appreciated?Many might argue that a focus on customer appreciation isnt just a best practice -- it could mean thedifference between failure and survival in todays word-of-mouth driven economy.Here are five ways you can take customer loyalty up a notch:1. Improve your Thank You.Most of us have a Web page or email that thanks our customers for converting, whether that meansjoining the community, purchasing a product or signing up for a newsletter. But chances are goodthat the "thank you" could use some work. Because the thank you page or email is seen by everysingle one of your customers, you should ask: Does it put your best foot forward?Rather than merely using that page to confirm an action, why not add some useful resources, follow-up steps or company contact information? Other ideas for improvement include lacing in a promotionto instigate immediate action or simply making the message more visually enticing.Related: Richard Branson on the Secret to Exceeding Customer Expectations
2. Optimize your feedback channels.Feedback comes in many forms, but chances are youre getting customer responses you arent evenusing. While many companies tap into what their customer service department is hearing, they areless likely to proactively survey their website visitors or to analyze their cancelation and return forms.Thats a shame because these are all opportunities to get more information on what customersneed.When you take the time to improve your feedback channels, you are telling your audience, "We careabout what you think." This reminder can help build loyalty and help you answer concerns in atimelier manner, reducing customer loss and building trust.3. Go beyond cancellations as a performance indicator.While you need to know how many of your customers are cancelling, it is a reactive performanceindicator. In addition to monitoring your customers loss, you can gauge loyalty by watching yourcompanys "net promoter score," frequency of customer interactions with your business and thelength of time between customer visits. By tracking how engaged customers are and how likely theyare to recommend your company, you can get a more complete measure of their loyalty.Related: How to Get Customers Using Your Online Rewards (Video)4. Assign someone to manage it.Tracking and improving customer loyalty can be a challenge if no one specific is managing it. Goodcandidates for this responsibility often come from customer service, marketing, operations or productteams. The key qualifications are the ability to work well with others and a belief in the value of bothqualitative and quantitative data analysis.Whoever you choose should understand that customer loyalty may touch a number of departmentsat your company, but it deserves its own champion for maximum success.5. Evangelize the gains and losses.While customer loyalty should have a dedicated advocate, it is a company-wide effort. Unfortunately,customer loyalty scores rarely get touted as much as revenue and profits. Why is that? Manycompanies see customer loyalty as something beyond their control, that it is the natural result of thewebsites they build and products and services they sell. But companies have a number ofopportunities to build trust and loyalty by making their interactions with customers the best they canbe.To show the importance of these interactions to customer retention, you can share with the rest ofthe company the results of your loyalty measurements, whether good or bad. This makes it acompany-wide priority, and only then are you really taking customer loyalty to the next level.
5 Steps to Creating Effective CustomerSurveysIn the wake of Googles Penguin update, the quality of your online content should be one of your toppriorities. Not only can packing your pages full of high-value posts improve your presence in thenatural search results, it also can go a long way toward improving customers experience on yourwebsite.One way you can determine which types of content you should focus on is through customersurveys. Follow these five steps to conduct effective surveys that turn up the most insightful results:1. Do preliminary research.To create an effective survey, you want to be as targeted as possible. Simply asking readers, "Whattopics do you want me to write about?" may not turn up as many good ideas as asking them aboutspecific subjects.To decide on your topics, first go to your Google Analytics account and look at your Top 10 contentpages. If you see any similarities between these articles in terms of their topics, ask your readerswhich ones theyre most interested in.Related: How to Create a Search-Friendly Website2. Draft your questions.For best results, include no more than five to 10 questions in your surveys. Consumers generallyhave short attention spans, so if you bombard them with dozens of rapid-fire questions, yourcompletion rates can drop significantly.As youre writing your survey questions, try to let participants expand on their thoughts. "Yes or no"questions wont give you as much information as free-form text responses.3. Offer an incentive for completing the survey.While your survey is still in the planning stages, you may want to come up with an incentive toencourage readers to answer all of the questions. Many websites offer a small discount or adownloadable white paper to motivate people to participate.If you do decide to offer an incentive, think through how youll distribute it to readers. Sendingincentives to participants can be time consuming, so look for a survey programlikeSurveyMonkey that lets you automate the follow-up process.4. Set up your survey.Now, its time to set up the program that will record your answers. If youre a skilled programmer, youmay be able to code your own survey response form and embed it in your website. Alternatively, youcan check out data collection programs such as SurveyMonkey or KwikSurveysif youd rather use an
automated approach or youd like to take advantage of features you may not be able to codeyourself.Both of these tools enable you to set up simple customer feedback forms for free. SurveyMonkeyalso offers paid plans if youre interested in more advanced features, such as the automated follow-up described above. SurveyMonkeys plans start at $17 a month for a "Select" membership.Related: 5 Tips for Making Your Website More Social5. Publicize your survey to readers.Once your survey is ready to go, get the word out to your readers by advertising it on: • Your website • At the end of your blog posts • Within your email marketing messages • On your social media profiles • In your email signatureRemember that readers may not have time to take your survey when they first see it mentioned. Itsimportant to advertise it in multiple places to ensure the highest possible completion rates.As responses come in, evaluate them and where appropriate, make changes to your website or yourdigital marketing plan. Responding to this feedback will show your readers that you value theirinsights, and it will go a long way toward achieving your search engine optimization goals.
3 Olympian Strategies to Get Gold-MedalTough in BusinessJust like elite athletes competing in the Olympics, you need to have your head in the game whenyoure trying to grow your business and your brand. Becoming mentally tough is as critical to yoursuccess as regular training, says former tennis pro and performance coach Steve Siebold, who hasworked with top athletes like Andre Agassi. Siebold says the same psychological strategies that helpelite athletes power through tough times can help treps persevere and become great. Here are threeyou should adopt now.Remember the why. Elite athletes dont shed blood, sweat and tears because of the money, fameor glory. They do it for thOlympic Great Greg Louganis on Refocusing Fast After Failuree love of thegame, says Siebold in his book, 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class(London House,2010). Similarly, most entrepreneurs dont launch their businesses to get rich: They do it becausethey believe in their business idea and themselves. When the rigors of being an entrepreneur seemlike too much, refocus on why you started your business in the first place. Visualize the rush that youfelt as it began to grow, like when you landed your first big client."When I was losing all the time in tennis, what kept me going wasnt winning or losing. It was aboutplaying the game," Siebold says. "Truly successful entrepreneurs are the ones who keep going--theones who are up at 3 a.m. thinking about how to make their business better or get over thatobstacle."Related: Olympic Great Greg Louganis on Refocusing Fast After FailureBecome a learning machine. From watching tapes of their own and competitors performances toreading books about how to improve their technique, Olympians are hungry for that bit of knowledgethat will help them get better. Business owners need that same voracious appetite for information
that will give them a competitive edge, he says. That might mean studying your competitors actions,reading about breakthrough marketing or management techniques, or keeping abreast of newtechnology developments in your industry."When I was coaching Agassi [in mental toughness], I suggested a three-inch change in his stanceeven though I wasnt his tennis coach. We spent weeks talking about it, but he made the change andimproved his game," Siebold says. "If entrepreneurs paid that kind of attention to detail andimprovement, making those tiny changes, the overall results could be dramatic."Stay clear-headed in conflict. Competition is, by nature, a form of conflict. Every Olympian wantsthe gold medal, but only one can win it. Coaches and their athletes might not always see eye to eye.But those conflicts drive the elite athlete to the highest levels of achievement. Siebold says itsimportant not to sidestep conflict in business, assuming youre invincible. Instead, focus on yourability to work through it, without letting your ego or emotions get the best of you."Once you start believing youre the best and youre a genius -- the best thats ever been -- youreprobably not accurate," he says. Instead, stay alert and nimble, he cautions, because there is alwaysa competitor waiting to take your spot.5 Tips to Help Your Marketing MessagesSingWith attention spans short and competition intense, clear language is essential to help marketingmessages sing and spark interest in your business.As in all relationships, people connect with straightforward and honest communications. In fact, 84%of consumers are inclined to trust companies using jargon-free language, according to JosephKimble in Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business,Government, and Law (Carolina Academic Press, 2012).Drawing on my business-writing experience, here are some guidelines for effective marketingdescriptions to build your reputation and business:1. Clarify thoughts. The first step toward understandable language is clear thinking. Before writingany business message, take the time to distill key points about your company. Can you describeyour product or service clearly and succinctly? What qualities differentiate your offerings from othersin the industry? How will customers benefit? If you cant reply to these questions without hesitation,focus on developing clear explanations.Related: How to Start Conversations That Make Instant Connections2. Energize descriptions. Through your words, you can convey action. To create promotions withimpact, for example, delete strings of adjectives. Also, try to avoid overused descriptions like "hot"
and "best," which have lost their meaning. Instead, rely on verbs full of energy, such as "sparkle,""zip" and "zoom." Pinpoint the specific advantages of products and services, and convey a sense ofurgency: "Save time and money now!"3. Create snapshots. Clear words and messages have the ability to paint word pictures. Vividimages leave impressions in customers minds, giving them a sense of your business and the peoplebehind your operation. A slick description often sends clients running to a competitor, whereassincerity can build your reputation and inspire long-term loyalty. Phrases like "family owned andoperated" or "dedicated to giving back to the community" will help clients connect with your humanityand commitment. Then, back up your words and show that your business is genuine.Related: A Small Talk Survival Guide for the Schmooze-Averse4. Simplify sentences. Through simple language, you can help readers understand your business.Complexity and clutter make processing information difficult, so dont pack multiple ideas intosentences. Make your thoughts easy to digest by using words that readers recognize, like "giant,"rather than chasing them to a dictionary to define "behemoth." Many dont have the time and willstop reading at the first stumbling block. Shorten each group of words—and know the importance ofa period.5. Refine drafts. After drafting your promotion, review the wording with objectivity. Process theinformation as if you were a customer just learning about your business. Slash every word that isconfusing or unnecessary. Simplify and polish every word to help the essence of your company,identity and message rise to the top.
How to Compete with the Big Chains?Think LocallyWhat do you do as a small, independent retailer when a major food chain, big-box store or nationalfranchise becomes a direct competitor? All along youve been specializing in items that arent in themainstream but sell well, and then some big outfit like Sears or Walmart decides theyre going tohorn in on your action.A perfect example is Kroger, the Ohio-based supermarket chain that recently began offering naturalfoods inside half of its 2,500 stores, setting aside aisles now designated as Natures Markets. Whenthis happens, what can you as a specialty retailer do to remain in business and retain yourdominance in any niche market?Your first reaction might be to lower prices in order to compete with the big stores. But thats likebringing a knife to a gunfight. Theres no way youll ever compete on price. Yet there are steps thatspecialty merchants can take in order to maintain position. Heres a list of things your business cando to maintain the customers you already have and win even more business when being forced tocompete with a national chain: Connect with locals using social media. Large chains and franchises typically do a terrible job of maintaining social media profiles in the local communities where they have stores. Set yourself apart by ramping up local engagement via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. Blog locally. If the big boys even have a blog, theyre not likely spending time focusing on local issues. By frequently blogging about topics that your local customers actually care about, you increase your stores odds of generating positive local search results online. And youre telling your customers they should have more -- not less -- information about the
products and services you sell.Support local causes. National chains move slowly, especially when it comes to sponsoringor supporting local events. As a local yourself, pay attention to whats coming up on the localevents calendar and join up with civic-minded organizations that are targeting the samepeople who might like to buy your products or services. Supporting local causes endearsyour brand among your target demographic.State your differences as positives. Dont bash the competition -- either in front of yourstaff or with customers. Instead, point out the clear differences between your offerings byspeaking in positives, not negatives. For example, "Featuring locally-sourced ingredients thatare healthy for you and your family since 1997" is a better message than "Buy local!" or "Youcall that organic?"Use size to your advantage. In most cases, everything you see on the shelves of a big boxor chain store, or being sold or offered by a franchise, is there because one person -- anational buyer or category manager -- approved it. You, however, can start selling a newitem on a moments notice. By specializing in the niche items that helped you build yourenterprise, youll continue to drive business in your direction.
How a Lean Startup Can Keep CustomersThis is the second of three excerpts from The Startup Owners Manual, a recently published step-by-step guide for building companies. The first installment is How to Get Customers.Keeping customers in the web or mobile channels has the same goal as retention efforts in thephysical world: to minimize churn by providing great products and services, and interacting withcustomers often.Retention is done more easily online, where companies have the incredible power and ability to trackand monitor every customers individual behavior (without violating their privacy).Loyalty programs and other tactics borrowed from the physical channel can play a significant rolehere, as can elegant personalized (and often digital) customer service. FAQs, user blogs, clubs, andnewsletters help with retention as well.As you come up with a strategy, remember that retention programs live or die by a close monitoringof customer behavior. You want to learn whos staying, whos leaving and why. Its especially criticalto follow the behaviors you most want to improve.Related: Starting Lean: Selling a Vision (Video)Here are a few examples of what to monitor: Each customers start date and sources (such as referrals by a blogger or another site). Customers individual activity level. How often do they come? How long is each visit? Whats the time span between visits? Customers decision to abandon. What were they doing that caused them to do so? Customers behavior onsite: what do they click on, and what dont they click on?Keep the following guidelines in mind as you test customer-retention programs:
E-mail is easy to ignore and at times feels like spam, so be careful about overly relying on it. At least four of five e-mails are never opened, and consumers often unsubscribe. Consumers often resent "faux" personalization. People appreciate legitimate, helpful personalization ("Here are the sneakers we have in your size, 11D" is far better than "Great buys for Bob"). Dont get lazy and make automated marketing programs your only customer- retention efforts. Embrace social networks as points of retention. Use them to keep visibility high and to invite customers and friends back often.Remember, the data that customers give you make personalized retention efforts easy. But youneed to collect it. As you observe and track customers behavior, use that data to create personalone-to-one relationships that guide them to the next steps. (But always respect personal-dataprivacy.)Related: Seven Ways to Keep Angry Customers (Like Me) HappySome simple retention tests to consider: Outreach programs, including welcome e-mails, how-to guides, and phone calls thanking the user for coming aboard and offering simple tips on how to get more out of the product. Consider retention e-mails like these: "We havent seen you visit in two weeks. Is everything OK?" or "Ive noticed youve had a few problems. How can we help?" or "Have you seen some of the new features on our site?" Blogs, RSS and newsfeeds to further engage customers or users with the product or site. Loyalty programs (borrowed from the brick-and-mortar world) that encourage and reward repeat visits, purchases, or referrals. Contests and special events: webinars, special guests, new features, and other reasons for current customers to come back. Mobile app push notifications: iOS/Android, for instance, gives developers the ability to push messages to users even when the app is closed. Product updates, which always drive loyalty and retention. Live phone calls to users shortly before contract renewal is a good option if you have a subscription revenue model. Make them friendly, service-oriented calls, but always listen for signs of potential churn and be ready with a deal, discount or offer to save the customer. Tips-and-tricks newsletters, or time-triggered e-mails every week or two based on users on- site behavior or lack of visits. Personalized customer service and support, conducted digitally as much as possible. Customer lock-in/high switching costs: If its relatively easy for your customer to switch from your products to your competitors (in an existing market) youll probably have a higher churn rate. You may want to consider tactics to "lock in" your customer to your product or solution
(through unique technology, data that cant be transferred—think Facebook and LinkedIn—or high startup costs with a new vendor.)Lastly, youll want to monitor and act on at least these basic retention metrics: Signs of dwindling visits, page views or time spent on the site or app. Increased time between visits. Average customer life (how long they stay active) and, if possible later, lifetime value. Increases in complaints, help or support tickets. Reduced response rates or open rates on company e-mails. Organize the metrics around "cohorts," or common groups of customers (like "those who joined in January"). Three-month customers may behave one way while 9-month customers may be much more or less active than their newer brethren.The Five Broad Strokes of MarketingA lot of marketing theory confuses people because it’s more complicated than it has to be. Whilewondrous new technologies can help you in your mission of raising your profits, marketers don’t letthose technologies blur that mission. Keeping it simple is a powerful competitive advantage when itcomes to speed and profitability.The seller is happy when the buyer is happy. So make as many buyers happy as you can. Thatrequires quality and service, but that’s why you’re here -- and it’s not complicated.The entire process is made up of five broad strokes. Take those strokes and add as many bells,whistles, systems, technologies, apps and economic doodads as you want -- but be sure that all fivebroad strokes are taken. Do that and you’ll never think that marketing has to be anything that SimpleSimon couldn’t handle with his right hand tied behind him.
1. Listen to find a problem you can solve. The first broad stroke doesn’t require any of your hands-- only your ears. The first broad stroke is your ability to listen. Be alert for problems. Be alert insocial situations and the social media. Be alert in the attention you pay to the mass media. Arepeople talking about problems they have, problems that need solving?Zero in on the problems that don’t yet have solutions. Pick a problem that you can solve. That’s howyou respond to opportunity.Related: How to Make Your Marketing Work Together2. Pricing the solution. The second broad stroke is determining how much it will cost you to solvethat problem. Maybe you can solve it with information and with service. If not, how much will it costyou to make it or buy it? Be very careful with this step, as with all the broad strokes, to overlooknothing. Broad strokes tend to magnify errors, so you don’t want to make even the most minormistake.3. Marketing. When you tally the costs of producing your offering, don’t overlook the costs ofmarketing it. And don’t overlook the necessity to market it.If you build a better mousetrap, the world won’t beat a path to your door unless they know about thatmousetrap. They learn about it from your marketing, especially if it’s marketing.If you’ve come up with a truly nifty solution, the marketing for it will catch wind and fan out to otherswho have long been searching for a solution. It’s nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if youmarket.It is now well understood why people patronize the businesses that they do. It’s known that theyfavor products and services that they trust, a human characteristic that has given rise to aphenomenon called “branding.” Branding helps people trust you. One of the jobs of a marketer is toconvince customers to trust his or her offering.Of course, quality is one of the factors that earn trust. And that’s why it’s part of the third broadstroke. Another factor that gains gobs of trust -- and gives the little guy an edge over the big guy -- isthe ability to service what he sells. Don’t forget that one of your sacred goals is make yourcustomers happy. Terrific service does just that.4. Service what you sell. Terrific service is not necessarily free for you to provide. And yes, it doesrequire effort. In particular, it requires a person who wants to deliver it and doesn’t do it just becausehe’s supposed to.Factor in the cost of service right along with the cost of marketing and cost of goods.Related: 5 Ways to Build a Solid Email Marketing List
5. Earn profits. The fifth broad stroke is what marketing should be all about. Not sales. Not storetraffic. Not turnover. Not responses to an offer. Not hits to a website. Not awards. Not sales records.Not any metric you can name. That fifth broad stroke is profits, what’s left over after you’ve deductedthe cost of everything else in your business. No matter how glowing the other numbers in yourbusiness may be, it’s the profits that should glow, that keep you in business, that enable you to growyour business, that attract investors, that entice buyers of companies, and that ought to be the primereason you went into business.It’s your job to grow healthy profits every year. You owe that to yourself, your employees, yourfamily, and your future. That’s why profits best reflect your success. Profits are elusive. Profits arehonest. Profits are hard-earned. But profits are not complicated.They are the fifth of the five broad strokes of success, and they are crucial to your company’s health.But earning them is not a winding road. Instead it is a straight road, possibly uphill, but alwaysleading to exactly where you envision going.Apples Simple Marketing ManifestoEditors Note: This is the second part of a short series of posts as I read Steve Jobs, the newbiography of the Apple co-founder written by Walter Isaacson. Read part one.The first glimmer of what was to become tech giant Apple Co. appeared in 1971 when electronicsengineer Steve Wozniak developed the circuit board that would evolve into the Apple I computer.But in Walter Isaacsons new biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Wozniak says Appleprobably never would have existed had it not been for Jobs vision for selling the computers inconsumer-focused packaging.In the book, Isaacson describes an encounter between Jobs, Wozniak and Wozniaks father, Jerry, arocket scientist who usually discounted the merits of anyone who wasnt an engineer. During theexchange, Jerry told Jobs (in slightly more aggressive language) that he hadnt actually createdanything and didnt deserve a 50 percent stake in the burgeoning business. To that, Jobs, still ateenager, began to cry, and said hed walk away and let Wozniak run the operation himself.But Wozniak understood the harmony between himself and Jobs, and knew the company wouldntexist without Jobs entrepreneurial drive. "It was Jobs who had turned his [Wozniaks] ingeniousdesigns into a budding business," Isaacson writes.Related: Steve Jobs Surprising First Business Venture
Indeed, it was Jobs who pioneered Apples customer first, a "computer for the rest of us" marketingplan. Instead of creating products they wanted to make, Jobs aimed to produce products thataddressed consumers needs, feelings and motivations.By 1977, as Jobs and Wozniak were frenzied, taking orders for the Apple I and looking for venturecapital as they developed the Apple II, the men brought on investor Mike Markkula into the business.In addition to injecting $250,000 into the company and becoming a third partner, Markkula penned"The Apple Marketing Philosophy," a three-point call to action that has served the company well. Itcan also be an example for other startup businesses. Point No. 1: Empathy Apple should strive for an "intimate" connection with customers feelings. "We will truly understand their needs better than any other company," Markkula wrote. Point No. 2: Focus To be successful, Apple should center its efforts on accomplishing its main goals, and eliminate all the "unimportant opportunities." Point No. 3: Impute Apple should be constantly aware that companies and their products will be judged by the signals they convey. "People DO judge a book by its cover," Markkula wrote. "We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities."Five Steps to Create a Marketing PlanHow business owners can put together a detailed marketing guide for businessgrowth.While your business plan generally outlines your entire business, a standalone marketingplanfocuses specifically, and in more detail, on just that one function. When business owners want todive deeper into their marketing strategy they will likely put together a detailed plan that outlines theirmarketing goals -- as well as the steps needed to accomplish them.The standard components of an effective marketing plan can vary depending on who you ask. Hereis my recommended five-step process for developing a marketing plan that will help you achieveyour goals for business growth.
Step One: Look inward.Think of your company as if it were a person with its own unique personality and identity. With that inmind, create separate lists that identify your businesss strengths, weaknesses and goals. Puteverything down and create big lists. Dont edit or reject anything.Then, find priorities among the bullet points. If youve done this right, youll have more than you canuse, and some more important than others. Kick some of the less important bullets off the list andmove the ones that are important to the top.This sometimes requires input from your managers as well. For example, your management teamthinks being conservative on spending is a weakness but you dont. That might be something to dropoff the list.Step Two: Look outward.The next list youll need to make outlines your businesss opportunities and threats. Think of both asexternal to your business -- factors that you cant control but can try to predict. Opportunities caninclude new markets, new products and trends that favor your business. Threats include competitionand advances in technology that put you at a disadvantage.Also make a list of invented people or organizations who serve as ideal buyers or your ideal targetmarket. You can consider each one a persona, such as a grandmother discovering email or acollege student getting his or her first credit card. These people are iconic and ideal, and stand forthe best possible buyer.Put yourself in the place of each of these ideal buyers and then think about what media he or sheuses and what message would communicate your offering most effectively. Keep your identity in theback of your mind as you flesh out your target markets.
Step Three: Focus on strategy.Now its time to pull your lists together. Look for the intersection of your unique identity and yourtarget market. In terms of your business offerings, what could you drop off the list because its notstrategic? Then think about dropping those who arent in your target market.For example, a restaurant business focused on healthy, organic and fine dining would probably caterto people more in tune with green trends and with higher-than-average disposable income. So, itmight rule out people who prefer eating fast-food like hamburgers and pizza, and who look forbargains.The result of step three is strategy: Narrow your focus to whats most in alignment with your identityand most attractive to your target market. In other words, focus on the area that is shared by allthree lines in the diagram here.Step Four: Set measurable steps.Get down to the details that are concrete and measurable. Your marketing strategy should become aplan that includes monthly review, tracking and measurement, sales forecasts, expense budgets andnon-monetary metrics for tracking progress. These can include leads, presentations, phone calls,links, blog posts, page views, conversion rates, proposals and trips, among others.Match important tasks to people on your team and hold them accountable for their successes andfailures.
Step Five: Review often and revise.Just as with your business plan, your marketing plan should continue to evolve along with yourbusiness. Your assumptions will change, so adapt to the changing business landscape. Some partsof the plan also will work better than others, so review and revise to accommodate what you learn asyou go.