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Brian Miller – Creative Director, Luxgraphicus Design Agency

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Last week I was asked  – “what would a business person be saying that would indicate that they might need a new business identity or re-branding?”

Chances are that those most in need of new or re-branded identities wouldn’t be saying anything about it at all! Those who would interest a designer as a potential client however might be talking about their marketing plan, or plans they have for growing their business, or entering  a new market. They would be giving off clues that they were proactively taking their business on a path towards success.

Have you had a light bulb moment lately?

I answered a research survey from a personal development coach today. By completing the survey and returning it I identified myself as their target audience. I was clearly ready to begin to accept the help of a coach in my development. All people would benefit from these services but it is vital that they, themselves see that they need and are ready for this help. Like the light bulb which can be changed by the single psychiatrist, so long as it wants to change, I was accepting that I too was ready to be helped. The questionaire survey raised several issues which swayed me in the direction of the coaching help, but just by taking the time and effort to start the survey rather than dump it in the bin, was evidence enough that I was ready to take the first steps with the coach. We could all do well by working with a development coach, but we have to want to. In fact it is often those who most need the help that are most unready to accept that help.

Similarly, all business could do well by working with a designer on the audit and review of their existing visual identity. Ongoing management of its application and access to its components for operational and marketing activities will ensure a consistent message delivery. This involvement can also identify areas for improvement and potential need to re-brand or re-fresh the existing branding details.

Those businesses in most need of this service will probably not place any value on it. They will dismiss the effort and resources required as unnecessary or wasteful. They are not ready for the change. They are not the audience of the designer. The designers audience are managing their business towards success. They have plans and they are carrying out those plans. A marketing plan will be key amongst those plans and the delivery of its messages will rely on visual design.

The business person may not know they have need for new design, but they will accept that doing an audit of their visual material is a worthwhile process, and one which could help them on their path towards success. Like the coach’s questionaire, accepting that doing the audit is not a waste of time is the first step in working with a designer to drive the success of the business.

It only takes one good designer to create a fabulous business identity, but the business has to want a fabulous identity!

Brian.

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By Jean McIntyre

Marketing Angels

Jean McIntyre

If you’ve got bright goals for where you want to take your business then marketing is the tool to get you there – but many businesses just won’t make that investment.  Jean Mc talks about the 5 worst excuses businesses give for not investing in marketing.

I’ve done it myself.  I’m in the shopping centre and walk past my dentist or my car mechanic – even the lady from Weight Watchers many years ago – walk over the other side and bow my head in guilt and shame because I know I haven’t come up to what I know they expect of me.

I get the same from business people who have talked to me about marketing.  They avoid me because they don’t want me to know that they haven’t done what they need to do to move their business forward.

I’m sure my dentist would say “Well it’s your teeth”, the mechanic “It’s your expensive car”.  I say to business people “it’s our business you are hurting by not marketing”.

When people give me excuses it’s usually one of 5 reasons:

1. Marketing is just another cost among many I’d rather not pay

This way of thinking is what separates out entrepreneurs from people who’ve just bought themselves a job.

An entrepreneur is someone who is clear about what they want their business to achieve.  They have faith in their product and their own ability to achieve their goals.  They have planned the path they need to take to build their business and KNOW that if they invest what’s required  that they’ll reap the rewards.

Entrepreneurs invest in legal and accounting advice.  They will register to protect their intellectual property.  They’ll spend the money to make sure they have their staffing right.  They often have business coaches under contract and any other experts they think can help them to achieve their goals.

Most importantly entrepreneurs understand that they need marketing to raise awareness of their brand in their chosen markets, to generate new customers and to strengthen relationships with existing customers.

2.  I don’t need marketing – word of mouth works for me

This excuse shows a lack of understanding of how marketing works.  For a start – word of mouth only works with an established business with a good reputation and excellent brand awareness.

Growing through word of mouth is a very slow process.  It relies on excellent products (goods and services) and fantastic customer relations.

To make word of mouth work you first need to understand your market, develop products that meet their needs, create language and messages that connect with them and develop lots of brand advocates to help you pass those messages on.

You need to make sure you take charge and that when people are passing on good word about your business they are saying what you want them to say to the people you want them to say it to.

That requires a good marketing strategy.

3. Things are tough right now – I need to prioritise

It’s when things are tough that businesses need marketing more than ever.

Things are tough for your competitors as well .  You need to make sure you continue to promote your business and maintain customer relationships so you are top of their minds and they are likely to choose you over your competitors.

Yes there are lots of things about marketing that are costly (such as advertising)  but there are many things that a marketer can help you plan for that cost very little or nothing to implement.  You can explore online strategies, product development or re-packaging and pricing, new distribution methods, reward programs, public relations and many other strategies that cost very little but can make a big impact in tough times.

4. Marketing is easy – I can do it myself

It’s true.  Marketing isn’t rocket science but it takes a lot of time and energy to do well.

If you don’t currently have the capacity to generate revenue with your time then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t spend it doing your own marketing.

If that’s not the case then you need to weigh up whether spending 12 hours of your time doing what a marketer could achieve in 4 hours is the best use of your resources.

There is however some added value that a marketer can bring that you may not have in your own kitbag:

What a marketer brings:

  • Up to date knowledge of the latest tactics that have worked for other firms
  • A good list of suppliers and introductions to strategic alliances that can best deliver on your requirements
  • Current knowledge of market trends
  • Useful online and other tools for more efficient marketing
  • Good writing and language skills
  • Sounding board – offering an external, independent, objective opinion – someone who won’t get caught up in the “politics” of the business
  • Research – customers will tell an outsider things they wouldn’t tell you
  • A structured approach – to help you download all that fabulous info and ideas in your head and channel them into a realistic plan.
  • Greater awareness of the real cost of marketing implementation
  • Realistic priority setting – i.e. not what you like to do best, but what is most important to achieving results
  • Flexibility – someone you can call on as and when you need to

5. My business is doing well – I don’t need marketing

This goes along with point 3.

I can’t count the number of times recently that people have said “I wish I’d put resources into marketing when things were good to carry me through the tough times”.

The most important thing you can do for your business is to do a marketing plan and then use that plan to set a marketing budget.  Once you know what you need to spend on marketing to achieve your goals – you can put that aside so that you are able to keep your marketing activity going through all eventualities.

It’s about making hay while the sun shines.  When things are good – invest in building brand awarness and growing your customer base – that gives you something to draw on when times get tough.

So What’s Your Excuse

If you have a business that’s more than just a job – that you want to grow and thrive and perhaps sell for a profit – you need to ask yourself the question “Am I putting enough resources into marketing to achieve my goals?”

If your answer is NO then you need to put time in your diary to contact your marketer and get cracking!

I’d be interested to hear your stories about how investing in marketing has paid off for you.

Jean Mc

PS:  I’ll be at the National Tally Room on Saturday – celebrating I hope!

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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’.

Stop Press

If you already understand the value of marketing are ready to start writing your own marketing plan but just need a bit of expert help – stop reading and register for Marketing Angels DIY Marketing Plan workshop 23rd February. $319 early bird discount. Click here to register.See what previous attendees have said

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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 By Jean McIntyre (Marketing Angels)

What marketing changes can you make now that can see you through uncertain times?

Last time I posted I talked about how clever businesses understand that investing in marketing is what is most likely to make businesses ‘recession-proof’. 

A few people were a bit worried.  They said “Does that mean if I haven’t already put resources into marketing my business is going to fail?”

To that I say: “Relax – we’re not quite there yet!”  Australia is in a better position than most countries in the world.  We are not in a recession at this point.  There are still some things people can do to prepare and there’s lots of room to move in Marketing.

If you choose your target markets well and get to understand them completely – you’ll find that mostly their characteristics, needs and values are pretty enduring.  However, there are always small changes that occur – financial ups and downs, trends in tastes and attitudes, responses to competition – that mean that you may need to tweak your marketing to continue to provide what they need in the way they need it.

The 7 P’s of marketing (Product, Price, Promtion, Place (distribution), People, Processes and Physical Evidence) offer lots of opportunity to make changes that will improve the awareness of your brand in the market and customers’ willingness to purchase.

I recently conducted a straw poll on Linked In about what businesses are planning to change (if anything) to prepare for a recession.  The options were:

• Keep up what I’m doing
• Cut marketing budget to save $
• More marketing to build profile
• More marketing to get customers
• Change my product offering

I was pretty pleased with the responses.  Firstly, nobody said they would keep doing what they were doing.  This means that they are all recognising the need to change with the prospect of adversity.

Some said they would cut their marketing budget – but this was only 14%.  It’s an understandable response but not very smart when you consider that competition will inevitably get tighter as demand decreases and price wars ensue.

28% said they’d increase their marketing activity so that they build their profile (and brand awareness).  This is a sound strategy.  When people are looking through the myriad of options online and through the yellow pages for a business to serve them – they will invariably choose one they have some familiarity with and of whom the have already formed an impression.

15% said their marketing would focus on getting more customers.  This again is understandable and a short term strategy to bring in revenue.  It needs to be followed up with a good strategy to deliver quality products, create good customer experiences and develop loyalty, improve referral likelihood and most importantly, build a strong reputation in the market.  This takes time and proper management.

Finally I was most pleased to see 42% say they would change their product offering.  This is a recognition that people still have the same needs but their willingness and capacity to purchase may be reduced. 

There may be opportunities in some industries to offer new products to help customers better manage the tough economic times.  Mortgage brokers for example might offer a re-assessment of contracts to identify savings; accountants or financial planners might offer a service to help people budget better; car dealers might focus more on selling fuel efficient vehicles; landscapers might offer garden checkups to reduce expenditure on water.

There are loads of product ideas that you can try with a bit of imagination and a good understanding of your customers’ needs.

Of course there are other changes you can make across the marketing mix (7 Ps) – finding new suppliers, going to see clients instead of them coming to you, training your staff to deliver exemplary service, offering payment plans, investing in publicity and so on.

In many ways it’s actually an exciting time – full of possibilities for savvy business people. If you haven’t started marketing though – you’d better get a wriggle on.  If your business is to survive – you need to make sure yours is the brand people remember.

Happy New Year and Happy Marketing!

Jean Mc

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www.marketingangels.com.au

Of course as a marketer I always say people should never stop marketing.  They should eat and sleep marketing because it’s central to the success of their business.

Not everyone thinks about it the way I do though and many business people need to set aside special time to devote to marketing.

Here in Canberra it’s pretty much tradition that businesses (that aren’t in the christmas present and party business) shut down for a break.  For that reason, now is a great time to start thinking about marketing.

I say that because marketing is something that takes a lot of thought and planning.  It’s hard to give yourself time to think if you are constantly busy doing what you do.

Here’s what I’d recommend you do with your time:

Step 1 – take a proper break.  Marketing is work and you do need recouperation time.

Step 2 – take out your marketing plan (you know the things you scribbled on that bit of paper last year) and review how you performed against your targets.  Figure out what worked and what didn’t work and why.  Brainstorm three ways you might improve next year and set yourself some new targets.

Step 3 – look at your database and identify your 20 best customers.  That is the ones you like working with the most and those who do the most business with you.  Create a picture of what they look like – their characteristics, demographics, their values, hopes, fears and needs.  With that in mind, think about ways that you could serve them better.  What additional value could you add that would generate more revenue and secure their loyalty?

Step 4 – Still on the database – identify the leads you had in 2008 that didn’t go anywhere.  People who said “not now” or “I’m not sure” or just didn’t get back to you.  Make a list for someone in your team to contact them in the new year to check how they are going and whether they need anything from you.  You might even send them a special offer to let them know you are thinking of them.

Step 5 – Review your collateral.  Get out all your brochures, your business card, your yellow pages ad – even other advertising and look at it from the point of view of your customers.  Is it still creating the right image to appeal to your market?  Could it do with some tweaking or a re-fresh?  Make some notes for your graphic designer to discuss in the new year.

Step 6 – Write it up.  Write down what you’ve come up with in dot points and schedule activities in your diary.

Step 7 – Congratulate yourself – you’ve just started your marketing plan for 2009.

Of course if you need help with all this or to take the next steps.  Make a time to have a chat with your friendly marketer.  I’m going on holidays too but I’m always happy to have a coffee with my friends.

Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2009.

Jean Mc

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