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Marketing Plan: Homework – The plan before the plan

preparing to write your marketing plan
When it comes to smart marketing, think Apple. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

A marketing plan, for many small business owners, consists of, “I wonder if newspaper would work?” “Let’s try that.” The sad part is that in about 25% of cases, this type of plan actually works. It’s like throwing darts at a target while blindfolded – sometimes you hit dead center. The bad part of this method, when it works, is that it sends a false message that is passed on to other business owners, and it encourages the thinking that there is some kind of marketing “magic bullet” out there that works for everyone.

I would assign some of the 25% success rate to good business owner instincts. Some business owners have a way of looking at their business in an analytical way. They see the numbers, see the sales, and know their customers. They seem to instinctively know where, when and what to advertise.

Other owners look at their businesses in an emotional way. They think that the success of their business is because their customers think exactly the way they do. They listen to the same radio stations, watch the same TV shows and read the same newspapers. Because of this, they “feel” that if they do what they like, then things will work; they empathize with their customers and sometimes these emotional marketing methods have some success, but in most cases, they don’t. As a result, a lot of ads fail, owners are convinced that whatever medium they tried doesn’t work for them, and marketing and advertising money is wasted. I don’t know about you, but I would like to receive a little more than a $.25 return for my ad dollar.

A Twenty-Dollar Bill for Every Dollar Spent

If I walked into your office and told you that for every dollar you gave me I’d give you a twenty-dollar bill how often would you like to see me? Chances are you would not let me out of your office as long as you had dollar bills there.

That’s exactly what your marketing plan is supposed to accomplish. It’s supposed to turn dollar bills into twenty-dollar bills. It’s supposed to bring in the right customers with a genuine need for the products and services you sell. Any other efforts that do not accomplish this goal are wasteful and unnecessary. I would much rather receive $20.00 in sales for every $1.00 I spend in advertising. A little pre-planning before you advertise can make that happen.

Planning

We’ve all heard, “Failure to plan is a plan to fail.” It’s corny but true. Suppose every business only needed one customer to survive. But you had to go out and find that one customer. So you jump in your car and … what? How would you find where your customer lived, so you could go see him or her, and tell them about your products? You could go door-to-door and eventually you would find them… unless they weren’t home. You could call everyone in the phone book. The possibilities for contacting everyone are endless. But you don’t want everyone… you just need that one customer.

Smart business owners know that if you have a plan you could use the process of elimination. You could look at the demographics of your selling area and match that to the people who are most likely to want or need your products or services. You could narrow your search to specific neighborhoods or areas of town based on income. If your product is a family product you could eliminate non-family homes. If your product is age specific you could eliminate age groups that are not your customers. Married vs. single, renters vs. home owners and so on. The more you know about your customer’s lifestyle, and how they will use your products and services, the easier it becomes to find that one customer.

Some Final Thoughts

Obviously you need more than one customer to stay in business. But I use the one customer analogy for a reason. Your advertising should talk to one person, not the masses. Your product or service solves a problem for someone. It makes their life better, easier, safer, etc. That’s why it is critical that you talk to that one person because only one person is going to read your ad. That same one person will pick up the phone, or come down, or send in a payment and business happens. And then another, and another, and another will do the same thing. And they will do it over and over, day in and day out.

How does, “Let’s try the newspaper!” — sound now?

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