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By Jean McIntyre (Marketing Angels)

Which movie describes your marketing approach: ‘Field of Dreams’, ‘Pay it Forward’, ‘Chain Reaction’ or ‘Game Plan’.

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Common Approaches to Marketing

I’m a bit of a movie buff – well a movie fan – so I like to use movies as a metaphor for life – and marketing is no exception.

Working with lots of Canberra businesses I can identify 4 different approaches to marketing.  Obviously there is one that I think is the most successful but there are elements of all that every business should consider using as part of its marketing plan.

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams (with Kevin Costner) is one of my favourite movies of all time but I have to say it’s not my favourite approach to marketing.  It’s unfortunate though that I see many Canberra businesses who favour this approach.

This is the business that starts with a great idea to sell something that the business owner would like to buy that believes the line from the movie ‘Field of Dreams’: “If you build it they will come”.
They have no plan and therefore no strategic investment in marketing. They believe that their idea is so great and that everybody wants or needs their product so they’ll just come looking for it and buy it.
We can always find cases in history where this approach has worked and been successful.  It’s very, very rare and has only worked with revolutionary products and a very strong unmet demand.
When successful though – these businesses quickly become market leaders who then have market followers. The ones that survive this rapid success are the ones that quickly develop a good marketing plan (and need a huge marketing budget) to stay number one ahead of imitators.
Smart business owners know that this kind of success without marketing effort truly is just a dream.

Pay It Forward

The ‘Pay it Forward’ business relies solely on word of mouth to build their profile and sell their products.

There are a lot of these businesses in Canberra also.   This is likely because it’s a small, contained city with two degrees of separation (hang on isn’t that another movie title?).  If this marketing strategy is going to work it will be in a place like this.

It’s not a bad approach for sole trader whose business is basically just a job. These businesses believe that because they have a good reputation and good connections that they’ll achieve all their business through word of mouth – and so don’t require marketing.

They are usually good networkers and get sufficient referrals from clients, friends and acquaintances to keep them plugging along.

There’s nothing wrong with word of mouth as a strategy – particularly if you have loyal customers.  In fact it should form a part of every business’ marketing plan.  But it should be combined with at least customer service and product development strategies to keep clients satisfied and a reward program to proactively encourage referrals rather than waiting for loyal customers to think of your business and refer.

However if your business is an asset that you want to grow in value and expand – if you want to create an asset that you might sell in the future – then you’ll require goals, thought and planning for the business to experience anything other than simple organic growth.

Chain Reaction

The ‘Chain Reaction’ marketing approach is for businesses that at least want to grow and understand the benefit of marketing to help them with that growth.

On the negative side, these businesses generally regard marketing as a cost (that they’d rather not have) and are typically driven by special promotional deals and ideas from other companies (usually competitors) to present marketing tactis they can use.

This business is the favourite of predatory advertising sales people who arrive with offers of 20% off, additional ads at no cost, free placement in sister publications or affiliate websites.

These businesses often quickly lose faith with their trials of marketing because often the opportunities they take up don’t have the breadth of creative product, distribution, people and other marketing tactics to meet customer needs and the promotions they undertake take up don’t quite match the media habits of their target market.  The tactics might have worked for a competitor – but that competitor likely has a different offering and different messages to deliver.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with being frugal – accountants love business people that minimise their costs.  If you are going get good outcomes from this approach you need to have a clear understanding of your market, your messages and the media habits and associations of your clients.  You need at least a sketch of the kinds of tactics that will work for you so that – when a sales person comes along with a deal – you can recognise whether it’s one that will work to connect with your market and deliver sales.

This folks is what we call a marketing plan!

The Game Plan

The Game Plan approach is the most successful marketing approach.

Game Plan businesses start with goals.  They know where they want their business to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 or even 20 years.  They have a business plan that says what they need to do to get them there.  They’ll have a plan for when they hire and train staff, when they’ll buy equipment, when they’ll seek expansion finance and when they’ll move premises. They know how many customers they’ll have and how much those customers will buy from them.

Above all they have faith in their businesses and that their plans will succeed.

Game Plan businesses will of course have a marketing plan that is fully timetabled and budgeted and they understand that this will be an investment they need to make to get them where they plan to be.

Having a ‘Game Plan’ or a marketing strategy doesn’t have to mean a huge cost.  A smart business owner will conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine which strategies will deliver the greatest brand awareness and ultimately the highest sales from the least outlay of funds and time.

A good marketing plan enables a business to make these important business decisions.

It Doesn’t Need to Be Difficult

Planning of all kinds has gotten a bad wrap over the years because a lot of experts have layered much complexity on to the process.  People think of plans and think it’s all too hard and takes too long.

That’s not the case with marketing planning.

The hardest part of putting together a marketing plan is finding out what makes your market tick, how your competitors present themselves and then thinking about what that means for your business.

Once you understand your market – it’s easy to work out what products you can offer, what you need to say and what are the best media to say it in.  All you need to do then is work out your tactics and set a realistic budget and timetable.

This of course is where a marketing consultant can be really helpful.  Consultants like Marketing Angels can help with all parts of the process – researching your market, developing messages, identifying, scheduling and implementing tactics. We can also just be there to look over your shoulder as you get the satisfaction from achieving excellent results yourself.

If you need a kick start with developing your plan – Marketing Angels is running a 1 day workshop here in Canberra on Tuesday 23rd February at University House in ANU.  Click here to find out more or register.

I’d love to hear about what approaches you have taken to planning your marketing and how they have worked for you.

Jean Mc

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