Effective Marketing Starts with a Plan

bigstockphoto_Shipping_The_World_1398197So many small business owners and entrepreneurs are dreamers, not in any derogatory sense, in the best sense. We see problems and we come up with solutions to fix them. We see opportunities and we grasp them when others won’t. We generate big ideas and we want to share them with all the world.

When we take our big ideas and convert them into a business, sometimes it is hard to put our feet back on the ground long enough to think through the best way to share them with the world. And so we run head long into mix, throw all our thoughts at the wall and hope something sticks.

But there is a better way to market your ideas and it all starts with a plan.

A Marketing and Communications Plan for Your Business

If the thought of planning makes you cringe, which is true for many dreamers, don’t worry. We suggest this easy, six-step plan for creating an effective Marketing and Communications Plan for your business.

  1. Decide What Your Business Stands For: In other words, develop your brand. Who are you as a business owner? What does your business, product or service stand for? What do you and your company value? Is it quality? Is it superior customer service? Is it originality? No matter what it is you need to clearly and convincingly convey that through your brand and it should be reflected in every word and image that you project to the world. It starts with your company logo and tag line. Imagine that is the only shot you will have at explaining who you are and what you stand for to the world, because many times it will be the only shot.
  2. Create Branded Collateral: Take your logo and tag line and begin to build on them with your marketing collateral. This means your website, your brochures, your sales flyers, your business cards and even your product packaging and boxes. Do they all convey the same message? Do they tell the same story? If they are disparate and disjointed, then you might as well throw them in the trash because all they are doing is confusing your audience. Instead, use your collateral to tell a story, your story in a way that convinces the reader to act.
  3. Connect Frequently with Existing Customers: The easiest way to make a new sale is with an existing customer. They already know you, your product or service, and you already know them, what they like and dislike. Use this to your advantage with an ongoing communication strategy for existing customers. Consider your audience when deciding how often to communicate with them and what venues to use but the options are numerous: monthly or quarterly newsletters; weekly or monthly email blasts; daily Facebook posts or Twitter feeds, etc.
  4. Implement an Outreach Program for Prospects: Mine for leads through your business network, your local chamber of commerce, or through paid resources. Once you have those leads, set up a plan for reaching out to them. Maybe it starts with an email or phone call, followed up by a coupon or special offer. Turning a lead into a customer takes patience and persistence, which is why following a strategic outreach plan can help.
  5. Publicize your Business and its Successes: Generating and distributing press releases is one of the most affordable ways to tell your story, so plan to publish one on a regular basis, i.e. monthly or quarterly. Use them to highlight your success stories, such as signing a major client; launching a new product; expanding your services, etc. Send the release to your local newspapers and industry publications, and use online PR distribution sites to help spread the word even further.
  6. Network, Network, Network: In person, online and anywhere you (or any other principals of the business) go, make it a routine to develop connections with other business people in your community, your industry and your target market. Online, LinkedIn is a great social media network for professionals. Another networking tool is your company’s blog. It allows you to provide relevant information, educational resources, and more to your readers. Connect your blog to your social media accounts and reference it in your other customer communications as a resource intended for their benefit.

That’s it in a nutshell. Remember start with the brand and let it drive everything else through your marketing and communications plan. Next week, we’ll share some expert advice on improving your search engine optimization.