"ON YOUR OWN"- COLUMN 2-
Developing a Marketing Plan
In our last column, we discussed the importance of writing a marketing plan. A marketing plan is like a roadmap- it helps you get where you're going faster. Without a roadmap, you may make it to your destination, but having a good plan before you leave makes for a much more efficient, enjoyable trip.
STEP 1- WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET
One of the most important steps in developing a marketing plan is to determine who the prospects are for your product or service. If you ask a business owner, "Who is the potential customer for your product?", and he/she answers "Everybody is a potential customer!", I'll show you a business that is destined to fail. No business can or should try target EVERYONE. The more specifically you define your target market, the easier you make the rest of your planning. Defining your market properly allows you to select the right marketing/advertising vehicles, schedules, pricing, and more. By not clearly defining who you are trying to reach, you are setting yourself up for failure.
To use my business, as an example, in 1991, I decided to leave my position as a manager for a market research company. I wanted to become a professional magician. I took 9 months to plan out my business plan and marketing strategy. The most important thing I did was to figure out who could use the services of a magician in this day and age, and to try to find a niche that wasn't already saturated. I made a few false starts, but as of this writing, i have a very clearly defined target market- it is so clearly defined, I can tell you EXACTLY which magazines my prospects read, when the best time to reach them is, and why they need a service like mine. By narrowing my focus, I have become well-versed in the specific needs of one market segment, which enables me to be very efficient in my marketing. DEFINE YOUR TARGET MARKET!!
STEP 2- HOW DO YOU REACH THEM?
Having determined who your most likely target market is, you must now figure out the best way to reach them to persuade them to buy from you. Jay Levinson has written a series of books with the common title "GUERILLA MARKETING", wherein he lists over 100 marketing "weapons"- tools that help you reach your target market. Some of them are the more traditional methods- radio and print ads- and some are more unconventional, such as flyers, card decks, and answering machine messages. Levinson makes some great points in his books- any budding entrepreneur would do well to but the entire series. (Levinson also publishes a daily e-newsletter- to subscribe, go to http://www.gmarketing.com/tactics/daily.html.) The point he stresses repeatedly is that you must use marketing weapons appropriate to your target market. Many business owners rush to radio and TV ads in an attempt to reach as many people as possible. In many instances, this is a quick path to bankrupcy. If you've clearly identified your target market, you may not need to use TV or radio- in fact, you'd be wasting your money advertising to people who aren't interested in your message.
To effectively spend your marketing dollars, you need to research the habits of your prospects- what newspapers do they read, where do they live, where do they shop, how do they spend their free time? If you are marketing a product for new parents, your answers would be different than if you are aiming for the college market. The Internet and your local library can be invaluable sources of information regarding your target market; mailing list brokers can give you lists of names broken down into every conceivable category; your targets can be reached, you just need to do a little legwork.
STEP 3- WHEN DO YOU REACH THEM?
When you're first starting out, the answer would be "As soon as possible!" A new business needs to hit the ground running, and you need to start getting cash flow started. Once you've gotten over this initial hurdle, however, you need to make up a marketing calendar. Simply put, a marketing calendar is a year-long overview of how and when you will be spending your marketing budget. Once again, doing this most efficiently means you need to know as much about your prospects as possible.
For example, the best times to market to my prospects are the months of September, January, and May. 75 percent of my marketing budget is spent in those 3 months, and the rest is spread throughout the year. In those months, I use the marketing weapons I have determined will be most effective in reaching my prospects. For my business, the most effective weapon I have found is direct mail. I also have several websites, run small classified ads in trade publications read by my prospects, and use several other weapons as well. The bulk of my business, however, comes from direct mail, so every September, January, and May, I send out thousands of letters to my prospects. This brings us to the next step- WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THEM? We'll address that issue in the next column. See you then!
Any questions, comments, etc can be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.