Once upon a time news was delivered on the local green by the Town Crier. His three cries commanded a respectful silence and the attention of everyone who listened attentively to his announcement. If only we could enjoy that same eagerness to hear today … what a marketing success that would be! But those days are gone. Today’s world, where news and views cross continents at the click of a mouse, is stuffed with messages. We suffer from information overload and don’t know who to listen to first. If you’re in business, getting potential customers to hear your message is becoming more and more of a challenge. If that’s not daunting enough, the “customer” has been transformed from spendaholic to skinflint practically overnight. Having wallowed comfortably in consumerism for many years and suddenly been battered by the effects of the global economic crisis, today’s customers are much more savvy about spending. What this all calls for is a greater focus on marketing planning Review your product/service, know who you’re aiming at, be driven by results and stand out from the crowd. Build your marketing on the uniqueness of your business then through conventional and more unusual methods create a great-value brand to tempt truly discerning customers. In spite of the recession don’t be tempted to trim back, shelve, or conveniently forget marketing. Right now that would be short-sighted. Experience tells us that, in the past, when businesses have cut back too much they have paid the price. Instead you need to implement a solid marketing plan. From the outset with my start-up, Diva Cosmetics, I relied on my industry background and marketing toolset knowledge to do just this. I reviewed all my options to promote and determine a well considered and practical plan. I evaluated it consistently and the result was marketing success. Since selling Diva Cosmetics, I’ve consulted many entrepreneurs and SMEs using my proven methods, helping them to achieve success. Where marketing is concerned, you need to start by analysing the competition, reviewing your product/service offering, identifying your target market and allocating resources to activities that are likely to bring maximum return. Whether you opt for traditional advertising or buy into the technological advances that now shape the way we live and work, when it comes to the basics of business marketing, things haven’t changed. 1. When setting your objectives consider what you want to achieve. Build a profile of your typical customers: who they are, what they do and how you could connect with them. Do your research carefully and figure out how you can make approaches to this group. Remember to be specific because blanket marketing, with no particular customer in mind, isn’t a good idea. 2. Now you know what you want and who you’re after, how are you going to make it happen? Let’s talk strategy. Thoroughly investigate your activity options. Cost up your proposed activities. Once finalised, plot them on a calendar and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to try reactive, unplanned, or poorly considered marketing – it doesn’t work. 3. Brainstorm what you can do for free. Marketing doesn’t need to be an expensive exercise and it always pays to think creatively about solutions. Once you have a customer base, be up front about asking them to tell their friends about your business because viral marketing is simply the best. 4. What are your tactics? Take a long, hard look at the competition: learn from what they are doing. Work out the specifics of your strategy to include a review of each marketing activity. Measuring your return on marketing investment is one of the greatest challenges but continuous review and assessment is essential Once your marketing activities begin, ensure you track results on a database. This will allow you to see what particular aspect is most valuable either in terms of increasing your business profile, attracting customers or increasing sales. In my book BOOM! 7 disciplines to CONTROL, GROW and ADD IMPACT to your business, I cover in depth how to develop a successful marketing strategy for any business – from management to spreadsheets – and it has proven to be a huge benefit to all my clients. My advice to you is sort out a solid marketing plan; understand what your customer wants to hear so when you send your message they’re ready to listen.