The purpose of a plan is to focus your efforts. Without it, you’re likely to wander the marketing landscape hoping that you bump into your customers along the way. This often results in wasted money and time, not to mention the missed opportunities.
Some plans fall short because they chase the latest trends or they’re inconsistent about keeping the communication lines open. Others miss the mark because they fail to take a holistic approach. Here are seven communications channels to include as part of your marketing plan, regardless of the size of your company and marketing budget.
Generating publicity is extremely effective for building your brand awareness and credibility, as well as creating an ongoing conversation with your market. Imagine the value to your business if you had a positive news story or endorsement by a leading publication, blog, or news agency. Consider the industry or street cred you will receive if a top executive from your company will speak at an industry conference or other popular event. The key to publicity is to focus your energies on building a rapport with the people who are centers of influence over large groups of your target audience.
2. Promotional Events
In a marketing environment that continues to develop new opportunities online, promotional events are an excellent strategy for increasing your face-to-face time in a group setting. When you meet in person, you have a greater opportunity for judging perceptions and reactions to your brand. Plus, you can build a better relationship with your target audience, improving your word-of-mouth network. You can hold events at your place of business or host them at an off-site location. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to plan and market your event. Poor planning often results in an event that can do more harm to your brand than good.
3. Joint Ventures
There are multiple options and benefits to engaging in joint venture marketing campaigns. You may connect with a partner who holds sway over a large group of target prospects. This will help you gain quicker exposure than if you were trying to pursue the same group on your own. You may find a partner who has complementary products or services to your own. By working together you can save marketing costs, and offer a bundled solution that can be more attractive to your target base. Before you begin, make sure everyone involved in the joint venture has a clear understanding of the goals and objectives, as well as roles and responsibilities.
Think of how many times you made a buying decision based upon the recommendation of someone you trust. As you build your base, ask your satisfied customers to share their stories as ambassadors of your brand. If need be, you can create incentive programs to get them to take action.
Look for opportunities to create a referral program with other centers of influence, too. You can develop affiliate programs whereby other people or businesses sell you products or services to their customer base. This will generate additional income for your business, and it will increase your brand awareness with a new group of customers.
5. Internet Marketing
You can’t compete if customers can’t find you online. The Yellow Pages are passé, and even with referrals, most customers do some degree of research online before they choose to connect with companies. Your Internet marketing can include your website, social media profiles, pay-per-click (PPC) and other paid advertising campaigns, as well as interaction on industry forums. Don’t fall into the trap of pursing a plan of ready, fire, aim. If you’re in a hurry to build your online presence, start with some quality market research and analysis, followed by planning, before implementing.
Thomas Jefferson had a famous marketing quote, “The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.” Some companies ditch their advertising because they believe they can’t afford it when in reality they can’t afford to do it poorly. The good news is that the opportunities offline and online for advertising continues to expand. However, this expansion can create some negative consequences, too. With so many options, you need to do your homework to identify key elements, including defining your ideal customers, calculating their lifetime, identifying where they spend most of their time, and where they look for information to help them with their buying decisions.
7. Customer Follow Up
Don’t assume that just because a customer bought from you once, they will buy again. You need to continue the conversation with your customers post-sale. If you have a new product/service to offer, or if your business wins an award, hires a prominent person to the team, enters into a joint venture, or anything else that is newsworthy and can impact your customers in a positive way, make sure they get the message. If you don’t continue to invest in your relationships with your customers, there are plenty of competitors who would be willing to step in to woo them away.
For more information about how to create an effective marketing plan for your business, call us at (410) 366-9479 ext. 2#.
Dina Wasmer is President of Incite Creative, a marketing and graphic design firm that provides brand-building services and strategies for small-to-middle-market businesses and non-profit organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Additionally, Dina is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore teaching typography and graphic design principles. For more information, log onto www.incitecreativeinc.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org