The marketing plan integrates all activities that are required to reach the customer, from defining the position, image and promise of value that form the brand identity, to the style of product packaging, to where and how the product or service is sold. It can be argued successfully that the marketing portion of your business plan is the most important. Investors and lenders will surely take an in-depth look. Let’s float some ideas on how to create some buzz for what you’re selling.
THE ADVERTISING AND PROMOTIONAL STRATEGY
The time tested way to get the word out to broad swaths of potential customers about the debut of your business and the advantages and benefits offered by your products and services is through advertising. The advertising methods that you choose will depend upon the customer, the business you will enter and your budget. Think carefully about how you can reach customers in cost-effective ways.
Be prepared to do an advertising roll-out, step by step, to introduce your business to potential customers. You’ll start with business cards and a brochure or contact sheet (for Freelancers). You may also have a website, or you may wait a few months until you can budget that project. Depending on your business, you may do a leafleting campaign to announce your opening and place promotional fliers in selected locales.
You might do an open house. You might offer discount coupons. You might give away an inexpensive branded promotional item to your first 50 customers. You may take out a small ad in a local newspaper or in a business group newsletter, or place a banner ad on a website that is popular with your target customers. You could start a blog! Brand identity will guide your advertising and promotional activities.
If you have some money to work with, you may decide to hire a PR firm. If you can find a PR person who 1). has contacts in your industry and 2). will actually produce the results they promise, then by all means sign on. Getting articles written about you in print and online publications or even a coveted guest spot on local TV is a wonderful way to spread the word, establish credibility and expertise and bring in clients.
But be advised that PR people often oversell. In all likelihood, if you sign up for the economy plan, they’ll do nothing for you except take your money.
So create your own PR. Networking will be a big part of your promotional activities, so read the article in this blog and work on your Expert Elevator Pitch. You would be wise to join a few professional and business organizations like the chamber of commerce and at least one or two others. You need to get the word out about your business and start filling your sales pipeline with clients.
You need info on happenings in your industry and business environment. You need to meet colleagues and yes, competitors. This latter group can be very helpful. They can tell you pitfalls to avoid. They can tell you the backstory about suppliers and vendors. They know your customers better than you do. If they’re nice, don’t be too proud or too shy!
Social networking will also be an important part of your promotional strategy. Depending on your business MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook will give you an online presence in addition to your website. See the article Your Personal Brand Part II for tips on creating the right online presence.
Finally, developing an advertising calendar will be very helpful. It looks good in the plan and is a practical way to budget advertising dollars and ensure that you include all advertising options that both reach your target customers and make sense for you. It will remind you to place seasonal ads when appropriate and meet advertising deadlines.
I’ll be back next week with Part III of Marketing, the final segment.