Marketing Archives

Setting up Your Personal Selling Strategy

Personal Selling StrategyThis is probably the most powerful marketing tool you have. People will usually buy from those they trust. Without that rapport, then sales can drop significantly. There have been hundreds of books written on this subject, and there are many resources to help you maximize this marketing strategy. Your business plan will merely show how you intend on using it in combination with the other marketing strategies.

You will always be selling whenever you deal with a customer. Whether it is during the initial information-search that they are conducting, during the sale process, or the after-sales support – every single interaction with your customer is a reflection on your success in business.

Poor service WILL equal poor sales.

But how can you improve this part of your business, and how can you incorporate it into a business or marketing plan? Here are two powerful strategies that you should include in your plan.

  1. Survey your current customers
  2. Survey your potential customers.

Previously in this guide we have talked about surveying your customers and perfect strangers, to gauge how they approach the buying decision for your product or service.

However, you should always work on improving your service and approach with your customers. This means that you must ask them on a periodic basis for some feedback. In other words, a Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Conducting A Customer Satisfaction Survey

This strategy can uncover some gems of information that you could never hope to get if you were conducting this survey in a written form.

This means it has to be done over the phone or face-to-face. You can adapt to the customer’s responses much more easily, and will be able to hear the tone of voice as well as the actual words. This will give you even more information you can use in your business improvements.

To make this process easier for you, we have gone ahead and put together a sample survey that you can use and adapt to your business or industry. Simply fill in the details in a word processor like Microsoft Word, print up, and you are on your way. Download your Customer Satisfaction Survey here. You will need Microsoft Word (or similar) to use the file.

Once you have gathered the data from the surveys, you will need to analyze the results. This means that you should look for the comments that were repeated 2 or more times. These areas will need to be focused on or reinforced, depending on the nature of the comment.

If you have a number of responses that indicate your customer service could be sharper and more punctual, then you will need to work on this. If you have a number of responses that highlight how effective your product knowledge was, then congratulate yourself and be sure to keep yourself informed of all new emerging products.

Not only will this information help you adapt and improve your customer service and sales process, but the answers you will get will help you to fine tune your marketing strategies. It is a good idea to conduct these surveys once a year. You will have a natural attrition of customers throughout the 12 months, and each year you will be able to get some new idea or nugget of information that will help you improve your business.

Also, your customers will appreciate the fact that you are concerned with their needs, and will enjoy giving you’re their feedback, good or bad.

Conducting A Potential Customer Survey

Although a potential customer survey will gather some of the information that you have already, what this survey will do will is highlight the areas that are important to all customers, and what your new customers expect from you.

As well as giving you some insight into how your target market thinks and what they expect from you, this tool can also be used for lead generation. Regardless of whether you sell a product or service, the questions in the survey will indicate what the potential customer would be interested in hearing about in more detail – your service, product specifications, and so on.

Wherever possible, conduct these surveys in person. It will give you a much more detailed response, and the more information you have the better prepared you are to succeed.

You can prepare the survey from scratch, or you can use our survey template that we have put together for you. Just as with the other templates, simply change the questions or add questions to suit your needs, and begin! Download your Potential Customer Survey here. You will need Microsoft Word (or similar) to use the file.

The Power Of Word-Of-Mouth

It usually takes more effort to have one of your customers make a positive comment to a friend or family member about your product or service, but it is worth it. Most people will follow the advice and recommendations of those they trust over any advertisement or form of marketing.

Here is an example of what good customer service and personal selling can do for a business (courtesy of Top Shelf Groceries):

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Steve has a customer called Mrs. Jones and she has a neighbor called Ms Clary. Mrs. Jones tells her neighbor about Top Shelf Groceries, and about how good a product range Steve has and the service she receives. Ms Clary decides to try Top Shelf Groceries out and needs to find the address. She goes to the phone book and finds his listing, called to find out the opening hours, and then went to the store to make a purchase.

She was impressed with some of the Deli items, and Steve had some tasters out for customers to try. After sampling the product, she purchased some cheeses and meats for her dinner party the next night. The diner party was a roaring success, with many guests commenting on the quality of food and its taste. Ms Clary now shops at Top Shelf for all of her specialty items, and often for her basic items as well.

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It was important for Steve to have his details readily available for Ms Clary, so she could call and enquire further about his products and service. However, he never would have had the chance if it wasn’t for his high quality products and his level of personal selling and service he provides his customers.

You can see how personal selling can work in so many ways. Not only in building the initial awareness of the business, but in encouraging your customer to make a trial purchase, and then building a good foundation for future purchases. The main points to remember when dealing with people are:

  1. You must be sincere. People can tell if you are insincere. They will lose faith in you and you will lose their custom if you are not genuinely concerned about solving their problems and meeting their needs.
  2. You must be honest. If you think that your product or service cannot satisfy them, tell them so. People will respect you for it, and will invariably buy from you in the future.
  3. You must be professional. Some sales people can become too slack, or improper, in front of customers. Always remain professional and courteous, regardless of a customer’s appearance and attitude. The customer you are dealing with may or may not notice it, but others will.

Business Marketing and Promotions Plan

Business Marketing and Promotions PlanWhen you have worked through the major marketing and business promotions strategies that you can use in your business plan, you will need to know when these strategies should be used with each other. Some of the marketing and promotions strategies can be self-explanatory – e.g. sales promotions during seasonal periods such as Christmas, advertising promotions etc. Some need some forward planning.

To help with this, there are two approaches you can utilize when planning your marketing activities. These two approaches are referred to as Pulsing and Continuous marketing promotion campaigns.

You can also check out some sample marketing plans to see how the strategies have been put together to form a cohesive marketing campaign.

Pulsing and Continuous Business Promotions

These two terms refer to the way that you promote your business. The Pulsing Approach means that your promotions are carried out in a pulsating way – on, off, on, off, etc. Whereas the Continuous approach is just that – it is an ongoing promotion.

Depending on what tool you are using will influence what approach you take. For example, unless you had a lot of money, you wouldn’t run an advertising promotion or sales promotion all the time. However, you would have your phone listing all year round, and your web presence will be continuous.

Pulsing

  • Magazine Advertising
  • Transit advertising (buses, taxis, etc)
  • Seasonal sales promotions
  • TV

Continuous

  • Classified Ads
  • Website
  • Directory listings

When these marketing and promotions strategies are combined using these approaches, you will increase the effectiveness of your overall marketing campaign. For example, advertising on a mass medium such as TV or radio can be supported with transit signage, and a directory listing or website. As the customer finds out about your product or service through one channel, this awareness if reinforced through other promotion strategies, and [hopefully] the customer will then contact you for a sale or enquiry.

Have a look at the Top Shelf Groceries’ Promotional Timeline and how the promotional tools overlap and support one another, with some pulsating and others continuing all the time.

Using a diagram from this example can help to give you a very brief and visual overview of your coming promotional activities for the next 12 months and when you will be running the campaigns. We have provided you with access to the excel file that this simple diagram was created in, and an image file you can print up and manually fill in yourself. Download your excel template for your business promotions plan .

When you decide to use these strategies will be dependent and influenced by the trends in your industry. If you offered services that were needed at the end of financial year, such as a Tax accountant, then you would advertise and promote your business more heavily around this time. Likewise, if your business was related to schools, or the holiday seasons, then this would impact on your timing. Using this chart and knowing the trends will help you lay out your promotional campaign in advance.

You must never stop promoting your business. The moment you do, your competition will move in to take your market share, and your customer will begin to forget about you. Even the large companies such as McDonalds and Coca Cola still spend millions on the promotional campaigns just to maintain their market position.

Make sure you assess the success of your campaign against your goals. Take note of the times and the combination of marketing and promotions strategies that brings you the greatest success. Then, plan a way that you can duplicate this combination again in your business promotions.

Starting an Email and Direct Marketing Campaign

Starting an Email and Direct Marketing CampaignAfter you have completed your business plan and begin to take action on your marketing strategies, and preparing for your email or direct mail marketing campaign, you must decide what the message will be. What is it that you hope to achieve? Knowing your audience is crucial here. If you don’t understand what needs or wants your target market has, then your message will not be as effective and your return on your investment of time and money will not be as high.

You must make this direct marketing campaign grabs the reader’s attention and convince them to buy your product or service. And as mentioned before, the best way to do this is convey the benefits that the customer will get from making the purchase.

Choosing your images

A picture can tell a thousand words. If you chose to add an image in your direct marketing piece – be it of the product, yourself, or that of a happy customer with a testimonial – make sure that it supports your writing. If the collective message is in sync, then your chances of success will go up. If it is a product you are promoting, then show the reader how this product will make their life easier or better.

The selection of a picture is as important as the letter itself. Take the time to brainstorm with others what image will work best. Trust your instinct to start the process by testing your idea. With digital technology, you can take as many pictures as possible and not waste money. As long as you plan ahead, you will not put yourself under pressure to find that ‘perfect shot’.

Gathering the quotes

As you are writing your letter, contact the printers, design company and the mailing company to ask for quotes on the campaign. By doing this, you ensure that you have some prices to compare your invoices to when they arrive after the campaign has been delivered, and it lets these companies know about the job so that they can be prepared.

Design and Printing

If you plan on putting the letter together yourself without the input of a designer or printer, then skip this step. However, if you need or would like the input of these creative professionals, then get them involved in the process from the start. Ask for a quote, and when doing so, give them an idea of when they might expect to see the content, so that they can begin the design and print planning process.

A printer will need to know what type of paper you plan on printing on (90gsm (or similar) paper weight is standard letter paper weight); what level of colour will be used (full, partial or mono); whether it is double or single sided, and how many you need printed, etc. If you are unsure about what details to provide a printer, or any company, ask them.

Mailing Company

Understanding the quotes that you receive from a supplier of services can be confusing if you haven’t received one in the past. The main information you need to impart to a mailing company are the following:

  • List quantity
  • Details about the outer envelope and inner envelope (reply paid envelope) – how many to print, etc
  • Time frame to complete the campaign

Any other queries, ask for their feedback. If you have missed something, they will ask you either by phone or email before they submit a quote. After all, it is their business and they know what they need from you to prepare the quote properly.

Preparing the mailing list

Depending on the software you use in your business, this task may be as simple as saving a copy of the data and sending it to the mailing company. If you are renting the names from a List Broker, they will deliver the data in the correct format to the mailing company.

If you are using your own list, the simplest option is to save the data and send it as a CSV file. Make sure that you have deleted the duplicates and formatted the data correctly (i.e. all abbreviations of street types the same – not “St” and “Street”, but “St” as the standard, for example). This saves times and eventually money when preparing the mail to be sent.

Once this list is ready, simply send it to the mailing company. They can then put the data into their system in preparation for receiving the finished printed product.

Confirming design and layout

This process is a case of receiving, viewing and making any changes necessary on the proofs sent to you by the designer. They may be able to produce the first draft and almost have it perfect – the layout of the picture, the font use, and the colors used.

Other times they may need to have some direction provided to them by you. There are a few factors that, when followed, will help get the desired outcome:

  1. Have an idea in your mind of how the photo or image can be used before the designer produces a draft, and let them know.
  2. Make sure the font is able to be read easily.
  3. Make sure it matches to the specifications for space that the mailing company requires to print the recipient’s address at the top of the letter
  4. That it is appealing to more than just your eye. Check it with a couple of other people around you, and listen to their feedback.

Recording results

It is important for you to assess the success (or failure) of the campaign to know if you reached your goals. Keep a record of each sale or response (depending on the campaign’s goals), and monitor it.
Some possible goals that your campaign might have include:

  • Sales leads
  • Database generation
  • Product enquiries
  • Sales
  • Profitability

We have set up a simple excel calculator to help you quickly calculate the success of your direct mail campaign. You can access here or through our business resources page, along with other business calculators.

Your Call to Action

With all of your promotion strategies, you must have a Call to Action. This means that you are giving your potential customer a directive. It might be either to make a phone call; to visit your store or website; to fill in a form and send it in.

Be sure to include a response mechanism with your direct marketing piece. It might be an order form, a number to call to take advantage of the offer, or an email address to communicate with to take advantage of the offer. If you forget to include this, then the campaign will not be as effective. In fact, if the customer has no way to act on your message, you will make no sales.

For example, you have a letter inviting customers to attend a VIP evening for a new product launch. Include a number and a reference code that they must quote in order to reserve their spot, and then reward them with a free give away.

Your Call to Action must also have a sense of urgency with it if it is to be effective. Your customer must feel that if they don’t take action now, then the benefit that they will get from taking action will no longer be available. For example, when promoting a new product, it might be that the product will be unavailable in 1 week due to demand, so the customer will need to act today to secure their one for themselves.

Some important points to remember:

* Convey benefits – in every direct marketing campaign you do, you must convey the benefits to the customer. That is the only way that you can get them to respond favorably to your offer.

* Set your goals for the campaign – monitor the performance of the direct marketing campaign, and compare it to your goals. This will give you valuable feedback as to what worked, and what didn’t.

* Call to Action – decide what it will be, and the mechanism to facilitate the customer responding to you – response slip, email, form, phone number, etc.

Once you have completed one or two direct mail campaigns, this process will get easier. Start with the idea and the message. Move to developing the message through a letter or postcard, as well as requesting quotes from the necessary third parties. Assess the design draft against expectations, and look for a consensus of opinion and balance between images and text. Print and mail the letter, and track your results.

The strategies and ideas outlined here can be duplicated on the Internet. After you have set up your email campaign (newsletter, pop-up window, etc), use these strategies to make sure you are maximizing your efforts with your online customer.

This is a lot of information, but Direct Marketing is a strategy that can boost your business in a way that can out-perform the other strategies if done effectively.

How to set up a Direct Marketing Campaign

Direct Marketing CampaignThe final marketing strategy for promoting your business and including in your business plan is referred to as Direct Mail, or Direct Marketing. For years this strategy has proven to be extremely effective for many businesses. However, some companies will argue that it is a waste of money, and shouldn’t be done. As long as you have researched your customer and target audience, and know what it is they want and are looking for, then this marketing strategy should be included in your business plan and used when promoting your business.

This strategy is a complex one, due to the many ways that it can be used, and the issues that you need to be aware of. Direct marketing is NOT sales promotions or advertising. They are tools that are addressed to a specific customer or target audience, outlining a particular issue or product that you think will solve one of their needs.

It also needs to be mentioned that direct marketing can be expensive. There are a number of ways that it can be done, but the response rate is small. As a matter of fact, if you receive a 1-2% response rate on your direct marketing campaign, then you are doing very well. Anything less than 0.5% is a poor result, and anything more than 2% is a great result. Most businesses that implement this strategy will have very similar figures, and these results have been proven time and time again. So, for a mailing of 100,000, a response rate of 2,000 would be excellent.

Why such a small figure?

If you consider the quantity and quality of some direct marketing pieces that arrive in your mail box each week, what do you do with them? Most people will flick through their mail, and tend to stop at those items that appear to be a hand written, personal letter from someone that they know.

We all love to receive mail, and we tend to ignore the window-faced bill envelopes. On top of the mail we receive, our mailboxes are often full with other advertising material. After a hard day at work, we most often do not have the time or the patience to sit down and read a letter from a company that ultimately wants our custom. Another issue to remember is that not all of your customers will want what you are offering at that time. If you are offering a special on a book or a service you provide, then only a small parentage of your customers will actually be interested, as they have a need that they need satisfied.

Despite these expected results, you will be surprised about how you can use it in your business.

Choosing Your Direct Marketing Approach

What are some direct marketing campaigns that are used by businesses? Some examples include:

  • Newsletters
  • Appeal letters – by charities, etc
  • VIP (Very Important Person) invitations
  • Product announcements
  • Special offers for your customers

Direct marketing has been traditionally delivered by the postal system. This will still continue to happen, and depending on your budget and business you should consider using this option with your campaign. However, with Internet and email marketing you have a much cheaper, quicker and more interactive option available for you to use. Depending on your budget, you should use both traditional and electronic delivery methods.

When preparing your campaign, you have two options in gathering your names and addresses to mail to. The first option is to rent or hire the details from companies that specialize in gathering data for direct marketing . The second is to gather the details of your own customers. Both of these options have their benefits.

Renting a Mailing List

If you have a young business (or are planning to start one in the near future) and have not gathered the names of your customers yet, then renting the names for your campaign is a great option for you. There are many companies that have already gathered mailing details across many different target markets. You are then able to contact these companies, often referred to as List Brokers, and organize to have a portion of these names rented to you for a one-off use.

For example, they might have the names and address, phone numbers, etc of CEO’s of financial companies, broken down by country and region. If you had a product or service that would appeal to these potential customers, then you can rent these names for your campaign. Another example is that if you wanted to contact consumers who had young children and shopped twice a month, they might have these details too. It all depends on what product or service you are offering.

This data is usually gathered in a lifestyle survey that postal services conduct each year. If the names are available for you to rent, then the consumer has given their permission to receive mailings from companies just like yours.

Advantages

  • Immediate access to mailing information
  • Qualified recipients for a mailing
  • Able to refine the information you want according to a set of criteria you have – location, age, interests, etc

Disadvantages

  • Can be costly
  • Can only use those names once for the fee – each time you want to do a mail out, you need to rent other names again
  • The potential customers have not heard of you before, which can reduce the effectiveness of the mailing

This option can be used to build your own database. Despite not being able to use the names again unless you re-hire them, you can add the details of those that respond to the mailing to your own database. They have now become your customer!

Some of these companies will give you a ‘deliverability guarantee’. This means that they guarantee a certain amount of your direct marketing pieces that will be delivered to the addressee (usually 98%). So, if you rented 10,000 names, and 9,800 were delivered, then they have met their guarantee. If only 9,400, then they haven’t, and you could possibly get a credit or a refund on the cost of these names. (i.e. Cost per name to rent might be 16 cents. If 400 names aren’t delivered, this might mean that you can get a $64 credit toward your next mailing).

Check what the list company’s deliverability guarantee is. Imagine what a mailing of 100 000 names would cost, if only 94% were delivered? At 16 cents per name, that would be $640 in credit to you!

Here are some list brokerage companies you can contact to begin your direct marketing campaign.

Australia

United States

As the above list is a tiny fraction of the resources you can turn to, a great place to start is with your postal service in your country or region. They will be able to either provide you with the right information, or point you in the direction you need to go. After all, they are in the business of delivering mail!

Build Your own List

This is by far the more preferred option for your business. Using your own database places you in a better position to get a more successful response from your direct marketing campaign. As long as the names and details you have gathered have been in accordance with relevant SPAM and Direct Marketing policy where you operate, then this is the preferred route to take. You should work towards having your own list to mail to as a long term goal.

Advantages

  • Low cost
  • Data can be used again and again without additional costs
  • You own it
  • The recipients have heard of you already
  • Can do many different direct marketing campaigns (newsletters, special announcements, etc)

Disadvantages

  • Limited to how many names that you can gather
  • If you customer base is local, then this might limit your business expansion

Ultimately, a two-pronged approach of using rented lists and your own list is a very effective way to use direct mail.

Take a look at your current database of names (if you have one), or consider how many people you want to contact for your direct marketing campaign. Have you a number yet? Is it 1,000, 10,000?

Make Sure You’re Spam Policy Compliant

What is SPAM? SPAM relates to any unwanted emails and letters that you receive in your email inbox. It is a result of the prolific explosion of unwanted emails that people have received from all over – from people promoting illegal products to soliciting money fraudulently.

Traditional mail can still be accused of SPAMMING, but often this will result in negative company image and a disgruntled consumer giving your business a bad reputation. With electronic mail, this can result in massive fines and possible jail time. It is very important that you comply with SPAM policy. If you do, then you have nothing to worry about.

How do I become compliant?

With electronic gathering of names and addresses, you must always give the reader a chance to remove themselves from your list – known as ‘unsubscribing’ or ‘opting out’. This needs to be included in every single mailing that you send to your customers. You also need to state how you use their details – i.e. what your Privacy Policy is.

When people are joining your list, an effective way to be SPAM compliant is to employ what is called a ‘double opt-in’ approach. What this means is that once they have asked to join your list, they are sent an email to confirm that request. In effect, they ask you twice before they go on the list.

As long as there is an expectation to do business with and communicate with the recipient due to normal business dealings, then it is acceptable to use their details in a mailing. If you are unsure about your legal obligations in relation to spamming please contact your solicitor or legal advisor. For more information, please review the PDF files and websites below:

Australia

United States

A Complete list of SPAM policy for other countries:

How does the Process work?

Once you have decided whether you will use a traditional or electronic approach and where you will get your names from, the next step is to write or prepare the direct marketing piece.

Let’s assume that you want to send out a letter announcing a new product you are about to launch. Gather all the information about the product, list the benefits, and begin writing. Remember, a customer does not buy a product – they buy what the product can give them. Keep that in mind with every communication to your customer. Remember – BENEFIT, BENEFIT, BENEFIT!

If, like most people, writing a sales letter or direct marketing letter scares you, do not worry. For most of us, writing is not a gift, but it CAN be learnt. Just as in writing media releases, writing a direct marketing piece can be developed. As a rule of thumb, if you allow your passion for your product or service to come through in words, then you are almost there. Some techniques that can help you include:

  • Scribbling notes
  • Talking to a tape recorder, then transcribing it
  • Talking to someone else and have them help you write it.

If you haven’t checked out Ken Evoy’s Make Your Content Pre Sell, then have a look at how that book can help you become a more effective writer.

We have used a great product called Instant Sales Letters. This product will give you access to tons of sample letters broken down into different target markets, and you can use them for your web business, dentist business, consulting or service-based business. Once you grab a copy of this for yourself, you can use the files however you want, and can be downloaded as a text file and fully customized.

We also have a couple of resources in our Business Resources section of the website that can help you with this part of the process.

Another option you might consider is to use a freelance writer to prepare the letter for you. A great website you can go to is Elance.com. This site gives you the opportunity to post the job that you need doing, whilst people who are skilled in the area you need can bid for the job. This option may be one that could save you hours of time and much more in stress, if you are not confident or have no time to write the direct mail piece yourself.

Check out Starting an Email and Direct Marketing Campaign to begin your own campaign.

Sample Marketing Plans

Business Advertising

business advertisingAny print medium can be used as a business advertising tool. Any interactive medium can be used as an advertising tool. In fact, there isn’t much that cannot be used. However, the final decision of what you use depends on your customer.

Here is a list of places that you could advertise your business:

  • Directory listings – such as Yellow Pages, phone books, industry directories, etc. Important for people to find your details if they are referred to you by a friend.
  • Local papers – depending on customer base and location.
  • Magazines/trade journals – Trade journals are magazines published and distributed to people within a certain industry, such as a design journal, a building or engineering journal.
  • Transit – Signs on buses, trains, and at bus stops and train stations. This can also include advertising on taxis, if it is done in your area.
  • Major newspapers – national and major metropolitan newspapers.
  • Television and Radio

When making a decision to invest money into any business advertising as part of your business plan, there are a number of factors that you must take into consideration before choosing to book the ad space and make the commitment. Ultimately, these considerations will relate back to the overall marketing goals of your business.

Know The Intended Audience

When you are considering advertising in a publication or on TV or radio, it is important that you know the target audience of that method. This will influence whether you advertise and what message you promote to the audience. Information on a reader’s/viewer’s income status, family life cycle, age, and so on will impact on the success your advertisement will have.

For example, if your target audience is that of young families and the publication is focused on the elderly or teenage, then there is a good chance that you will not advertise in this medium. By knowing the audience of the advertising method is, it will help you to have a better return on your investment.

Reach And Frequency in Advertising

How often and how far your business advertising travels will affect how successful the campaign is. If you only advertise once, then the response will be much less than the results of an ad campaign extending over 5 or 6 placements. The number of times you advertise for a particular campaign is referred to the frequency of the advertisement.

You can achieve frequency by advertising in different mediums, such as local paper, local radio, and the Internet. However, regardless of the medium, the audience must be the same. If it is a local market you are after, then stay local with advertising and repeat the message to the same target market.

The number of prospective customers that your advertisement is seen by depends on the number of people the medium is distributed to. So, if you chose to advertise in the local papers, and their readership is 45,000 people, your ad could (potentially) be seen by that many readers. This is commonly referred to as the reach of the medium.

Television has historically had the greatest reach for advertising. It has the ability to reach as many people in the shortest possible time, with greatest impact. However, it costs. Major radio stations and metropolitan newspapers tend to be the next successful medium for reaching many potential customers. Local papers and radio stations follow, and then other niche market publications.

Typically, the organization’s message needs to be seen at least 5 times for the message to be received by the target audience. This may be an ad, media release, Internet article, radio interview, and another ad. That is why it is important to assess advertising opportunities in relation to the complete marketing approach, to maximize the return on the investment.

Decide To Advertise and Market your Business

When a publication contacts you with an invitation to advertise in their product, you must assess its suitability for your business. To do this, ask a few questions, such as:

  • How many readers/viewers/listeners do you have?
  • How often does it go out?
  • Describe your typical reader/viewer/listener.

The answers to these questions will tell you if the publication, etc has the right audience, reach and frequency you want to invest in.

How much should you spend on advertising?

This is defined by your budget. Before the financial year begins, your budgets should be prepared by working with other key staff. How much you spend is always up to you. If you operate a business with other partners, then you will be accountable to them for your decision. At the very least, you are accountable to you, and so your decision should be well thought out and based on facts. This is where your customer research will help, as it indicates where your target market looks to gather information about your product or service.

When assessing the opportunity, ask yourself questions like:

  • What campaigns are you currently running?
  • What is in need of promoting the most?
  • When did we advertise last time, and it what medium?
  • Have we promoted the same message in another form?
  • Could we promote the same message in another form to maximize the advertisement? A good example of this is a media release next to the ad in a feature in a local paper.

Designing the Advertisement

Some businesses try to design the advertisement themselves, whilst others use the services of a design agency. They both have their drawbacks. The first can appear unprofessional, and the message may not be as strong across every medium. The second option can be difficult if the business doesn’t have the available funds.

There are a number of sites on the Internet that you can visit to find great design firms to outsource your design and advertising needs to. One well-used site is Elance, which provides an opportunity for you to search for people you can outsource work to.

Wherever possible, try not to use the publication’s designers to design your ad. Their concern is in page layout, not in how your message appears to your customer. This service may be free, but you could quite easily end up with three different designed ads appearing in the same publication, and you have lost the chance to enforce your message three times to the same audience. Stay true to the brand and image of your business at all times when advertising.

When working with design firms, you will need to trust their judgment and ideas, but keep in mind that you know your customer best. Have a look at other work they have done as examples. Design businesses can be a great part of your promotions plan if used well. Don’t be restricted by location, either. In today’s society of emails and phone calls, you can access this skill from almost anywhere.

As with any company that you outsource jobs to, do your due diligence. Make sure they can provide the service they promise they will, and ask to see some of their previous work – even talk to their previous clients.

Placing Your Advert and Monitoring The Results

Once you have assessed these factors in preparing to advertise, place your ad and monitor the results. This is probably the most important part of any advertising you will ever do. If you don’t know what medium is giving you the results, you won’t know which advertising to repeat, and which advertising to avoid.

A very simple way to monitor the result is to ask your customers where they heard about you. Either ask them as they enter your store, call your business, or make a purchase. You can also use this approach if you are testing different words in your ads. Some words and messages will have a greater impact than others. This method of testing and finding out the results will tell you which ads are working, why they are, and in what medium. Once you know this, stick with it.

Now that you have an idea about where you could advertise, and some of the considerations you should address before, during and after you place your ad, refer to your research and have a look at how your ideal customer gathers their information. Do they look in directories, the Internet, or the local paper? Use this information as a starting point in planning your business advertising campaign.

Online Marketing strategyInternet or Online Marketing is fundemental part of your business plan and marketing strategies. This page will give you an idea about how to integrate internet marketing into your business plan, as there are literally thousands and thousands of websites that have more detail about the ins and outs of internet marketing and promotions.

With so many successful online business in existence, why waste time and energy reinventing the wheel, so to speak. One of the most successful and simplest ways to get started online is to model someone that has shown themselves to be an expert – someone who is already making a living with their business on the internet.

Internet Marketing Center ©

After beginning in 1994 with Cory Rudl, this business has grown to generate over $20 million per year in sales. They have a number of great products to help you get started on the Internet. Their most successful and detailed product is their Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet course. If you want a complete blueprint about starting and running your business online, then this resource is a must.

SiteSell

Another very successful business on the Internet is Ken Evoy’s SiteSell. Ken has been successfully marketing and growing his online business since 1997, and has enabled hundreds of thousands (yes, that many) small and medium-sized businesses out-compete their larger competitors as a result of his easy and very powerful methods of online marketing. His SiteSell system provides new internet businesses with a complete package that gets the site built, hosted, and optimized for traffic online.

I suggest that if you are serious about growing and developing a business on the Internet, be sure to use the wisdom of those that have gone before you and can show you how you can achieve similar results as they.

Using The Web For Your ‘Bricks-N-Mortar’ Business

With a vast majority of business and personal users of the internet going online to search for information, you need to make sure you are set to be found in their information searches.

Firstly, having a website does not mean that you need to be selling products online. Given that people are looking for information, then providing good information should be a must when considering the content for your site (this webiste is one such example).

This information can be used in a number of ways:

  1. Gathering email address for further marketing via direct mail and email
  2. Increasing the credibility of your company
  3. Encouraging your customer to visit you for more information.
  4. Generate sales leads and enquiries for your product or service
  5. Letting potential customers know about you and what services or products you sell.

These uses are not exhaustive, but the power of the internet and a well-designed and thought-out website will result in sales, regardless of what business you are in.

For example, let’s say that you run a plumbing business. Most days you organize your jobs and those of your staff, ensure that you can respond to the emergency calls, and generally are so busy that you have no time to consider having a website.

However, as the year unfolds, the flow of work slows, and you find yourself looking for clients and hunting for work. You begin to wonder how you might be able to speed up the process of sourcing new customers.

After some planning and consulting with a business consultant (or using a site like this one), you decide to set up a website and provide site visitors with basic but invaluable tips about home plumbing maintenance. You reason that the tips you are giving them will make your life easier when it comes to servicing their heater or cooler, and it will save them some money in the long run. In order for site visitors to get hold of this information, they must give you their name, email address and location. You can then use these details in your marketing efforts, and can follow up with them about their current plumbing needs and how you might be able to help them.

From this example, you can see that having a website and an online presence does not equal
“I must have a product to sell online”.

Getting Online

What are some basic ways that you can use the internet to promote your business?

  • Search engines – most users will go to a search engine to help them find what they are looking
  • Online directories – in much the same way as Yellow Pages and phone books, but over the Internet
  • Web site – as mentioned already, it can act as an online brochure, with all of your offline promotional material including your physical business address

If you don’t have a website yet, do not panic. It can cost next to nothing to set up, especially with the use of templates to help with the design of it.

Templates and other design functions have been streamlined over the years to help you build your web presence in a fraction of the time it used to take. Alternatively, you can use a web design company, who can help facilitate the web hosting and domain registration process. Ken Evoy’s SiteSell can also help you get started.

Be sure to keep the issue of user-friendliness in the front of your mind when you put your site together, of have a designer do it for you. You must make it easy to use and find information for your site visitor, otherwise they will simply click away.

Talk with your Customer

Once you have a website up and running (it does NOT have to be complicated – think of it as an online brochure, saving you printing costs), it will need to be promoted, so your customer can find out about you. There are a number of strategies that you can use, but one of the most important strategies you should implement on your website is that of Permission, or Email Marketing.

Permission Marketing, sometimes called “Opt-in Marketing” is the proper and effective use of email for marketing on the Internet. Permission marketing works by inviting visitors to your website to “subscribe” to your email-based mailing list (newsletter, special offers, private sales, etc…) by entering their email address and hitting a “submit” button on your site. Subscribers “opt-in” or give you their “permission” to receive your periodic email when they subscribe, hence the term permission marketing.

Why should you have a newsletter?

A major goal of a website is to capture your visitor’s name. To do this, you must give them a reason why they should give you their email address. Most often, people are searching for information on the internet. As such, they are usually enticed by something for free. If your website provides great articles, tips and ideas to your target audience – for FREE – and all that is required is their email address, then more people will subscribe.

Once your list begins to grow, you can target them specifically about your product or service. That may be through special announcements, emails and sales letters, promoting other products and receiving a portion of the sales, and so on. Building your list is the most direct and successful way to develop a reliable and profitable business using the Web.

Get your site visitor’s name

Create a sign-up/pop-up window. Most web browsers are accustomed to dealing with pop up windows. They serve as a reminder, and highlights your offer to visitors for subscribing. With modern web browsers able to block the traditional pop-ups, technology has evolved to allow web sites to still have a message ‘pop’ in front of the site visitor, without it being blocked by the web browsers.

Referred to as Fly-in Ads they are a piece of programming that you can add to your site that produces a pop up window and can allow for people to fill in a form. It is not a traditional pop up, as it is imbedded in your main webpage code, rather than a new window altogether.

Once you have the software to help you complete this part of the strategy, set up a pop-up subscription window for the main page. Be sure to include details about what your subscriber will receive, and how often you will email them. A link to your privacy policy should also be visible from the home page.

Give something away. Visitors to your site will be much more likely to give you their email address if they are receiving a reward for doing so. It is a basic human principle – reciprocation. By offering something for free, more people will feel obliged at a subconscious level to give you their email address – especially if it is the only way that they can get the free item. This free gift can be an article, an e-book, or information that they are looking for (travel tips, summary of work visa details, etc).

Communicate with your customer. Your website visitors will need to be reminded about your product or service – often. By leaving it longer between communicating with them, you increase the chances of losing their custom and unsubscribing from your list, as they can see no value in the relationship. You must develop an approach where regular emails and newsletters are provided to your customers and subscribers. This can be done by:

  • Providing product or service reviews from within your industry
  • Latest updates from you about your business or service.
  • Specials that you have coming up that your subscribers might be interested in

By building a relationship with your subscribers through constant contact and delivering great information, they will grow to trust you and anticipate your emails. These subscribers will become customers over time, and hopefully advocates of your products.

Your subscribers must feel that they are receiving something from you that has a perceived value, and is unlikely to be provided by another site. The reality is that there are many sites providing similar content and value, but none with your unique flair and personality. So, make sure your emails convey this feeling to the reader.

Important Points with Email Marketing

Don’t promise to offer anything more frequent than you feel comfortable with. If once a month is enough, then that’s fine. However, don’t leave it longer than a month, as your subscribers will forget why they subscribed in the first place. Make sure you check out the Direct Marketing section of the site to find out how you can ensure that your business is completely SPAM compliant.

If you want to grow your business, you must be on the Internet in some way. Even if you have a traditional ‘bricks-n-mortar’ business, you still need to have a virtual business presence too.

What is Marketing?

Marketing strategies (sometimes referred to as the Marketing Mix) is the description for those activities that you will do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis that will result in making a sale and generating revenue. It is those activities that involve creativity and salesmanship, and are often the most rewarding and most frustrating part of any business.

Many businesses wish to launch straight into the marketing component of the business planning process, without taking the time to properly prepare. You need to understand how the other parts all tie in together and how the industry is behaving prior to launching into marketing and promoting your business. When you have this understanding, you are ready to plan your marketing strategy with a clear idea of who your customer is and what they want from you.

Marketing and Promotions can be described as communication – what, and how, we communicate with our customer. As such, the strategies tend to be more involved and detailed simply due to the dynamics of communications.

Before you plan how you are going to communicate to your customer, you must know what it is you want to say. Let’s have a look at the communication process.

  1. It begins with your message, which is ‘encoded’, or translated, via the promotion method you use.
  2. This is then ‘decoded’ or interpreted by your customer. This message is impacted by influences outside of your control, such as the customer’s friends and family. The message also has to contend with your competitor’s message being sent to the customer at the same time.
  3. The customer then responds to the message according to what response you want (visit to the store, making a phone call, etc)
  4. The process begins again.

What is the message you want to say? For example, it might be about how great your product is, and how it will help your customer feel good about themselves. Don’t make the message long. Keep it sharp and to the point.

For this part of the business planning process, allow your brain and imagination to expand. You just don’t know what Million-dollar idea is in your head that could launch your new or current business to a new level.

As part of marketing and promoting your business, there is an on-going process that you will need to employ, using the marketing strategies mentioned below. You will need to continually attract new customers, convince them to buy from you, and then convince them to buy again.

These areas are:

  • Building Brand Awareness – letting your potential customer know who you are and where you are.
  • Building Customer Trial – convincing your potential customer to sample your product or service.
  • Building Customer Loyalty – providing your customer with a reason to continue to shop from you.

The Promotions strategy has six components in it. They are:
1. Business Advertising
2. Public Relations (or Publicity)
3. Internet Marketing
4. Personal Selling
5. Sales Promotions
6. Direct Marketing

Advertising

Public Relations

Internet Marketing

Personal Selling

When making a decision to advertise your business, first consider these important factors.
Read more
Publicity and public relations refers to those actions you take to tell your story to the public.
Read more
Internet Marketing is a core part of your business plan. Find out how to integrate it into your business plan.
Read more
Your personal selling strategy is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have.
Read more

Sales Promotions

Direct Marketing

Pulsing & Continuous Business Promotions

Sample Marketing Plans

A Sales Promotion is any form of promotion that is offered as an incentive to a sale.
Read more
The final marketing strategy to include in your business plan is referred to as Direct Mail, or Direct Marketing.
Read more
You will need to know when to use the marketing strategies in your plan with each other.
Read more
Sample marketing plans can provide insights into how strategies have been selected and used.
Read more

All of your business marketing and promotional activities can be broken down into one of these categories.

Pulsing and Continuous Business Promotions

Business Publicity and Public Relations

Part of your business plan and marketing strategies should include publicity and public relations. Ever wondered where some of those stories come from that make it onto the Media? Have you noticed how some businesses’ names are seen with charitable signs? This is all a result of a Public Relations (PR)/Publicity strategy.

What is Public Relations/Publicity? The dictionary term for it means that it is the professional maintenance of a favorable public image. Publicity refers to the professional exploitation of a product, company, or person, by advertising or popularizing.

In other words it is those actions that a business takes to tell its story in a favorable way to the public.

Some examples of PR/Publicity in action are:

  • A special story about a customer, a worker, or something your product or service has helped. E.g. A customer of yours turning 100, and is the oldest member of the community.
  • Supporting a local charity event or local school event – sponsoring an aspect or paying for the entire event.

Publicity is any exposure you can get your business in a favorable way, and is often seen linked to charitable events. If you haven’t already, consider adopting a strategy that sees you sponsor or support a charitable event in your area each year. Maybe it is providing a service or product at charitable events at no charge. It might also be a local school or community group in need of business support. Have a think about events in your area, and how you can be a part of them.

In the same way as Public Relations and a media campaign helps establish your brand awareness, so does Publicity. This has another benefit of building your good will in the community. By good will, we mean the impression that your community and ultimately your customer gets when they think about your business. Is it the type of business that gives back to the community and is a ‘decent company’? Or is it the type of business that takes and takes, never giving or supporting in return?

Like it or not, your community (online or offline) will develop an image of your business in their minds. This will impact on their decision to do business with you. Also, in adopting to support a charity or event, you are doing something much more than building your own brand – you are giving those less fortunate a chance at a better life.

Public Relations And Media Releases

There are some key points that need to be considered with this strategy. Media releases and stories for newspapers and television and/or radio MUST be newsworthy. Keep in mind what is happening in the news-world, and write your media release with a unique twist or angle that will help it stand out from all the others. Also be sure to take a look into what your business is currently reflecting online A lot of information is available and gets published online as well as in papers. Your company’s reputation can easily be found through a simple Google search of your company name.

To help you with writing your own media releases, here is an approach to developing your own media list and media campaign.

Submitting Media Releases

The role of any effective media release is to do one the following:

  • Inform the public about an event
  • Educate the public about an issue
  • Ask for support from the public for a community need
  • Tell a positive story
  • Announce a product development that benefits people or a community group

Before writing any media release, it is important to define the message of the article, and to gather your information. This may include statistics, pictures, comments and the facts of the event, story, or message you want to convey.

Writing the Media release

As with anything, practice will help improve writing ability. Keep in mind that by writing a media release you are attempting to complete the journalist’s work, and increasing your chances of having a published media release. Unless it is absolutely necessary, keep the media release under one page in length.

Effective writing is a skill that CAN be learned. Some of the best writers in history did it. If you don’t have the natural ability to sell/promote your product or service in the form of a NEWSWORTHY media release, then we suggest you read Make Your Content PreSell. It is a book written to help you develop a web site, but the principles are basic and can be easily applied to any writing that you do. It is 100+ pages of great information and is available for free download.

Here is a format that can be used when preparing a media release. It is not guaranteed, and there may be other formats that suit your writing style.

  1. Paragraph one – opening sentence and paragraph must be attention grabbing. Convey the message of the media release in this paragraph.
  2. Paragraph two – expand on the story, adding any background information or supporting material that goes to developing your story further.
  3. Paragraph three – The use of quotes can really help the reader. It adds a sense of realism to the story or article, as there is a person behind the story, or even telling it. This quote should be referenced to a person. If quoting from a person outside your organization, then make sure you have their permission to use their words in print.
  4. Paragraph four – any other elements or statistical information can be included here as well. This is the paragraph that you can start to enforce your message to the reader.
  5. Paragraph five – Closing paragraph and details. The media release does not have to have a long and formal conclusion. Often a statement of what your business is focused on (reinforcing the message), your website and a contact number.

Supporting photographs

It always helps to convey the message of the media release through a picture as well. Many papers, local and metropolitan, will have standards for photo quality and size. Also, digital photography is the preferred format, as it reduces the time and costs to convert a traditional film photo to use in a print run for the newspaper.

Standards common for digital photos:

  • DPI – 300
  • File type – JPG
  • File size – 1 MB+

Building and maintaining the contact list

There are a number of methods you can employ to grow and maintain this list. The best method to do this is to contact the paper or publication/media outlet and ask for the name of the journalist responsible for handling media releases either in the local area, or those stories related to your product, service, niche market or target audience (teenagers, families, etc). This can be done either by phone or in person. Some Information to collect might include:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone number

Journalists change quite frequently at newspapers, especially local papers. They either change positions in the same organization, or leave the organization completely. This requires a constant effort on behalf of the media officer to maintain their contact lists for media releases. To maintain your list, a periodic contact to the journal (phone or email) to find out if there is anything that you can do for them is a good idea. You can touch base with the journalist, verify their details, and offer your services to support them. After all, they are paid to find stories, and if you can deliver a story to them that is suitable, you make their life easier.

Sending the Media Release

Once you have written the media release and taken any supporting photos, it is time to prepare the email or fax. Most journalists prefer to be contacted via email with respect to media releases. Unless you have been asked by a journalist specifically to do otherwise, send the media release by email.

To achieve maximum success with your email, follow these steps (possible Template to use):

Good morning /afternoon,

Please find attached media release relating to/about (fill in subject here). Any questions please contact me on (contact number).

Kind Regards
Your Name
Business Name
Business Address
P –
F –
E – you@yourbusiness.com
W – www.yourbusiness.com

 

ALWAYS include the text media release in the email. You increase the chances of success of the journalist in reading it if you include in the email. Some companies have strict safeguards on their incoming emails, blocking emails that have attachments. Also, if the journalist has to open up the word document after they open the email, the chances of them doing so are small. So, include your media release at the bottom of the email.

When sending the email, it is good practice to send the email to yourself, and include your media release list in the ‘BCC’ field of your email. In this way, the recipients receive an email that does not show your contact list in their email header, and keeps the contact details of your media release list confidential.

Following Up on the Media Release

As a result of your media release, you will either see it printed in the publication as you sent it, it will be passed over by the journalist for another story, or they will call you for more details. You never know what is happening at their end to influence their decision about what stories to print, and what stories are current in the community.

If they ring, be professional and confident in your statements about the subject of the media release. Be sure you have the facts and the message clear in your own mind to carry the message through to the journalist.

Media Campaigns are a great strategy in helping you build a brand in the community that is unbiased. The Media can be very helpful at times in doing this. Spend time thinking about what is unique about your business – write it down now.

Always keep in mind the question – “What’s the story here?” If your mind is constantly searching for a newsworthy angle for your product, service or place of business, you will find it.

Contact the local media, and ask for the details of the person who you send your media releases to. Take them out to lunch – get to know them. The more you can utilize the Media to help your business, the better.

Sales Promotions

How you use Sales Promotions in your business plan will depend on what type of product or service that you are offering.

A Sales Promotion is any form of promotion that is offered as an incentive to make a purchase. For example, you are walking through your local supermarket and you know that you need to purchase some dishwashing liquid. When you arrive at the products, you see another competitor to the brand you usually buy offering 20% extra for the same price. As such, you decide to buy the different brand this time, as you get more value for money.

You have been seduced by a Sales Promotion. By offering you more product for the same money, as a special offer, you were enticed to buy. Now, it is up to the product quality to keep you as a customer.

Another example of a Sales Promotion is a coupon. Sometimes you see them on the back of packages or in newspapers. It is another incentive to you to make a purchase on a particular product. Other examples include contests and sweepstakes, and the all-to-popular taste testing. This particular strategy is very effective with hot food, and can encourage many customers to make a purchase based on the smell alone.

Types Of Sales Promotions

To help you get started, here is a list of some sales promotions you run, and some times during the year you might run them.

Dates/Events

  • Christmas Sale
  • Easter
  • Mothers Day
  • Fathers Day
  • The Company birthday
  • First Day of winter
  • First Day of spring
  • First Day or summer
  • Valentine’s Day
  • New Year Sale
  • Independence Day/Australia Day, etc sale
  • Your First Baby Sale

Types of Promotions

  • Giveaways
  • In-store displays
  • In-store demonstrations
  • Sweepstakes and contests
  • Coupons
  • Rebates
  • Samples
  • New product launch
  • New service launch
  • Loyalty programs
  • Celebrities visiting your place of business
  • Value-added purchase

It is important to note that a Sales Promotion is a short-term strategy, and should only be used to help launch a new product or service into the marketplace, or to help increase sales during a quiet period.

Because the nature of a sales promotion is to make a purchase of your product more appealing – provided the customer takes you up on the offer immediately – this has an affect of weakening the brand. Over time, this will affect your market position in the eye’s of your customer, which will not support long-term growth.

A good example of this is a furniture shop that continually runs a sales promotion giving away a coffee table with a lounge setting. After a while, you begin expecting the store to have these specials and giveaways, and are happy to wait until they do, instead of making the purchase when the sales promotion isn’t being run. Basically, Sales Promotions say “Buy it Now“.

Planning Your Sales Promotions

Your first step in this process is to decide on what types of promotions you want to run, and when to run them. You should only run one promotion at any given time. The reason being is that you will need to track the performance of the promotion, and see which one worked best and what the results were. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself that may spark the brain-storming process:

  1. What products can I bundle up together and sell as a pack?
  2. Can my supplier provide me with extra product at the same price (i.e. in a different package, such as a 20% extra)?
  3. What prize would my customer want to win – a holiday, car, sport tickets, etc?
  4. Can my customer taste or try out my product in the store/shop/place of business?
  5. What long-term benefit can my customer get from me by becoming a loyal customer (i.e. loyalty programs)?
  6. Can I give away any samples of my product/service to my customer when they purchase another product from me?
  7. Does my price give me any margin to run a discount sale for a limited time?

Have a brainstorm about what incentive would attract your target audience to buy from you instead of your competitor. Will it be a give-away? A free offer with a purchase? A buy-1-get-1-free offer? Use these questions to come up with at least 5 different Sales Promotion strategies that you can implement in the next 12-18 months in your business.

You can chose to run your promotions when your competitors are running theirs, slightly before (if you know), or slightly after. Many of the supermarkets actually run very similar promotions, within a week or so of each other. Also, if you know when your business is or will be quiet, plan your promotions for this period.