Marketing planning and why now is a great time to do it

Planning, that old exercise of writing a list of things you are going to do, only never to look at the list again!  Sound familiar?  The start of a new year is generally filled with repeated resolutions that are quickly forgotten once day to day life starts. We all do it in various aspects of life, but planning for your business and your marketing is crucial.  Your business has the people, resources and desire to make the year a great one, why not augment that with an effective Marketing Plan.

Marketing planning should be something you look forward to as it is this plan of activities that will lead to business over the year.  There are however a few golden rules that must be applied to your plan.

The plan must be something that works with you at all times, it must not be completed then ‘filed’, never to be seen again.

The plan must be visible, either as a chart on your office wall which you can tick each time you’ve completed an activity; or a spreadsheet that you populate with activity, costs, and results.  It really doesn’t matter how you choose to see your plan, the important bit is that you do see it, daily.

It also needs to reflect activity that can be carried out by you, on a regular basis.  It may include the number of prospect calls you’ll make each week; the client visits you’ll book to focus on repeat business and upselling; the target number of tweets you’ll send out daily; the networking events you’ll attend each week.

Whatever the action, make it SMART, that old marketing adage which still applies to business today: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.  Some of the activity can be outsourced to expert providers, but again this can, and should be, ticked off your list and measured in terms of performance on an ongoing basis.

Creating a plan now will also make future planning far easier.  Reflect on which activity has worked: created the most leads and most importantly, provided the best return on investment.  Without a plan you can’t accurately reflect which marketing activity works best for your business, so which to do again, and which not to.

When you know where you want your business to be in 12 months time, you’ll have a much greater chance of getting there.  With a strategy in place and a plan of action to follow, any marketing for your business will produce much better results than ad hoc initiatives.

For practical help in writing an effective Marketing Plan for your business, why not come to a workshop we’re running on the 24th January at the Harwell Innovation Centre, Harwell Campus, near Didcot from 9am to 1pm.  At the end of the workshop you’ll have an effective and achievable Marketing Plan to take away and put into practice.  For more information on the SOS Marketing Workshop click here.

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Where is your business?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingWhen you first set out on a journey with a map, you need to know where you are. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, you can’t work out the best route to your destination and you can’t determine how long it’s going to take you to get there.

The first thing you need to think about when you’re creating a Marketing Plan for your business is where your business is now. Knowing where you are at the start of this journey will help you plan the best route to your goals. It will also help you set your goals so that you can see the distance you’ve got to travel between where you are now and where you want to be. You might think that you’d like to take on 100 new clients in the next twelve months, charging each one £1000 per day for consulting or coaching. However, if you’ve only got two clients right now and you’re only charging £300 per day, you’ll have a lot of work to do to reach your goal. (Of course, if that’s the goal you really want to aim for, that’s great and knowing your starting point will help you plan the most effective way of getting there.)

So what is your business? What resources do you have at your disposal, to deliver your services to your clients? How long have you been doing what you do and what sort of reputation and experience do you have?

You also need to think about the products and services that you currently provide and be clear on what you offer, to help you decide the best direction to take. Are you delivering what your clients actually want and are you doing what you really want to do? Is there a demand for what you want to offer or are you doing something you only think people might want?

Who are your clients? What sort of people and businesses do you work for? Where are they and why do they need your help?

Finally, what about your competitors? Do you know who your main competitors are and what they do? How much do they charge and what makes you different from them?

Take the time to think about all these questions and the answers as they apply to your business and make sure you know the starting point of your business journey.

This is an excerpt from my new book about Marketing Planning, which will be published on 16 November 2011.  Pre-launch orders now being taken – click here to reserve your copy.

What’s your marketing strategy?

Chantal Cornelius from AppletreeLast week I wrote about setting goals for your business and marketing. Once you’ve done that, you then need to plan how you’re going to get to your goals – the strategies you’re going to use.

Whatever sort of journey you’re on, you need to work out the best way of getting to your destination. Will you drive or take the train? How will you get to the station and if you drive there, where will you leave your car? There are lots of options to consider and you need to select the most appropriate, which will be based on your starting point and your destination.

There are four main strategies you can consider, when deciding how to get to your destination. Unlike with an actual journey, you can use more than one of the strategies. In fact you could use all four of them in combination, if appropriate, to help you reach your goals.

Why do you need a strategy? For the very same reason that you set goals your marketing and your business. You could just set off and try lots of different marketing activities, in the hope that they will take you to your goals – a bit like just turning up at a bus stop and hoping that one of the buses that stops there is going your way (and assuming that buses still stop there!) Or you could plan the best approach and only spend your valuable time and money on what you know will work. Having a strategy and following it is much cheaper in the long run than the scatter gun approach to marketing.

The four strategies are based on your clients – current ones and potential ones – and your products and services – existing ones and new ones you can develop.  There are four ways in which you can combine these elements, giving the following four strategies:

  1. Sell more existing services to your existing clients
  2. Sell new services to your existing clients
  3. Sell existing services to new clients
  4. Sell new services to new clients

Many people overlook the first strategy, yet it is usually the easiest and most cost effetive one to use. Number four is usually the most expensive and risky, although it can provide the greatest returns. Start at number one and once you’re sure you’ve done all you can there, move on to the next one. Each one needs a different type of marketing, so getting clear on what you want to achieve will help  you get there.

Click here to read last week’s blog about the starting point of your journey.

How SMART are your goals?

Chantal Cornelius from AppletreeYou’ve probably heard of SMART goals. It’s a way of setting goals that many people have used for years. But did you know that you don’t have to have SMART goals? Read on to find out more, but first, here’s a recap of the traditional way of doing things:

Specific – this means you goal needs to be definite and unambiguous.

Measureable – so that you can measure the change that occurs, in terms of number of clients, size of turnover or whatever you’re aiming for.

Achievable – within your reach. If you’ve only got two clients now and you want 100 within two months, can you really do it?

Realistic – could your business cope with taking on 98 more clients in two months? Are there that many people needing your service in your area?

Timed – when do you want to achieve your goal?

So a SMART goal for your business might be to double the number of clients over the next 12 months.

The problem with setting yourself SMART goals is that they might not inspire you. They may not encourage you to push yourself and your business, to see what you can really accomplish. Here’s why:

Specific – this is not always a good thing, because it would exclude goals like those of Apple for “insanely great technology”.

Measureable – so something measurably average is better than something clearly outstanding that’s hard to quantify?

Achievable and Realistic – objectives you know you can achieve are much less challenging than ones you might achieve, if you really put your mind to it. The worst thing about achievable objectives is that once you meet them, you’re likely to stop trying. An impossible goal like “to be the best career coach in the UK” is much more likely to inspire you. You may never get there, but every day you’ll get a little closer.

Timed – this creates a dangerous illusion that you can decide not only what’s going to change, but how long it will take. In reality the world is unpredictable and you need to be ready to change with it.

Some people believe that using SMART objectives assumes that the future is predictable, that it will be similar to the present and that your continual success will simply require more of what you’re already doing. If this is you, set goals for yourself and your business that really inspire you, even if you never quite reach them.

If you’d prefer to set SMART goals, that’s fine too. The framework works really well for some people, especially if you’ve not done much goal setting before. Use SMART goals that will drive your business forward.

How SMART are your goals?

A new way to segment your clients

Chantal

My client Sarah designs and makes the most gorgeous curtains. (Click the link to see examples on her website!) Last week we spent half a day together, working on her Marketing Plan, so that she can raise funding to take her business to the next level. As part of the Plan, we talked about her clients and she told me about a great way she has for segmenting them. There are three levels:

Bread and butter clients – good clients who buy from her because they know that what she produces is good quality and they want something a bit different; they are conscious of the cost. Sarah has quite a few of these clients and they’re relatively easy to attract.

Cream clients – great clients who buy the quality and expertise that Sarah offers, without questioning the price. They always take Sarah’s advice on the best options, even if it costs a bit more. Sarah has a few of these clients; they are harder to find yet once she’s got them, they keep coming back for more.

Dream clients – for Sarah a Dream client would be a public school or boutique hotel – somewhere that needs a lot of what she has to offer and that can afford her quality and personal service. She doesn’t have any Dream clients yet and it’s going to take specific marketing and personal contacts to win some. Once she got a track record with one, it’ll be much easier to find more of them.

I’ve always segmented my clients according to how much I like working with them, how easy they are to attract and how likely they are to keep buying. I use an A–D scale, with A being the best, or the Dream clients. However you do it, it’s important to segment the clients you’ve got, so you can decide how often to keep in touch with them. It’s also vital to segment your potential clients, because that will determine the best type of marketing that will attract them and the right message to use. Bread and butter clients might appreciate being taken out to lunch and receiving elegant, expensive brochures; but will that help them refer you to your Dream clients? At the other end of the scale, you’re unlikely to meet your Dream clients at a networking event and they’re unlikely to respond to (or even open) a simple mail shot.

So if you haven’t been through your client and prospect list recently, now is the time to do it. Divide them into different levels and then look at what you need to do to market to each of those levels.

How do you segment your contact list and what do you do differently, for different people on that list?