This isn’t one of those posts you can blast through in sixty seconds. This requires a cup of coffee (or a cocktail), a moleskine notebook, and a lot of careful, thorough deep thinking. Let’s get started:
1. What are you really selling? Can you articulate simply – and exactly – what you sell? Or do you offer too much stuff? Does your market know what you sell? Does your market need what you sell? Is it obvious to the people who might buy from you? I mean OBVIOUS? Don’t EVER assume that your market knows exactly what you do, and how you can help them. They don’t lay awake at night wondering how to buy from you…
2. Have you solved your prospecting problem? Who are you selling to? Do you really know? Or are you just casting a large net hoping to snag a few hopefuls?
Is your marketing effort making it easy to capture new prospects? Is it easy for them to take action to inform you they are interested? Or have you neglected to really think carefully about how you identify — and capture — your business prospects?
And are you finding enough prospects to ultimately meet your profit goals?
3. What is your market niche? Yesterday, I asked if you are getting enough prospects to run a profitable business. The more important question is “are you getting enough QUALIFIED prospects?” If you are not, you might need to narrow your market niche. (And yes, narrowing your niche will provide MORE prospects…)
Classic case of the auto mechanic asking for referrals from anyone you know who owns a car… This is too broad, there is no way to help this guy. But if he asks for names of Jaguar owners to reach out to, this request is much easier to handle, and you probably know a few of those…
4. Is Your Sales Process Nailed Down Tight? Hopefully you’re thinking through how to solve your prospecting problem, and can find enough qualified prospects. But can you close ‘em?
If your sales process sucks, it will just suck faster if you simply feed more prospects into it.
How do you track and monitor your prospects? How do you communicate value? How do you answer objections? How do you foster trust and grow the opportunity in your sales incubator? How do you move them to make the final buying decision?
5. What Is Your Marketing Story? So, what do you do? How do you help people? What makes you different? Why are you memorable? Is your story transferable…meaning is it easy for others to share your story with others?
And do you have one simple story/message? Instead of multiple, conflicting, confusing stories that result in the market place not really sure what it is that you do?
6. Do you have an actual strategy behind all your marketing tactics? We’ve talked about what you sell, how you sell, to whom you sell, and what story you tell when you are selling. Now, how do you deliver that message? What tactics are you employing to deliver that message? Social media? Direct mail? Email marketing? Networking? Advertising? Trade shows?
Do you chase the latest shiny “tactical” object? Or do you know what message delivery vehicle works? Is there an actual strategy behind what you do? Or do you throw the proverbial spaghetti against the wall?
7. Is Social Media Right For You? The answer is yes.
Problem is, most people don’t do it right.
They blast messaging one-way. They don’t engage. They don’t build relationships. They don’t educate. And most importantly, most don’t give the process time to take root, and give up before the time investment bears fruit.
Have you identified where your prospects/referral sources are spending time (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)? Have you grasped the concept of using the tools to make meaningful connections? Are you helping others?
8. Is Blogging Right For You? I have yet to find an organization that couldn’t benefit from blogging. None. But I am becoming more careful in recommending it to people, because most people I know aren’t good bloggers.
Blogging is necessary because it educates your market, demonstrates skill and knowledge, strengthens SEO for your online presence, and is a great sales tool.
But most people fail because they struggle to generate meaningful content, and quit after not closing a big deal even though they published two whole posts… [sarcasm intended] In other words, they quit too soon.
9. Is Your Website Converting? You blog. You’ve invested in fancy schmancy design. You try to focus on keywords. You try your hand at – or invest in – search engine optimization…
And you don’t get many website conversations – which means people aren’t taking the action on the website you want (not signing up for newsletters, not buying products or your services, not subscribing to your RSS feeds…
Are you doing enough to focus on why? What can you change? Is it too hard for the visitor to do? Is your content not compelling? Do you plan to figure it out?
10. Is Your Collateral Working For You? You have tri-fold brochures. Various sell sheets on products and services. Rack cards. Company calendars. Business cards.
But is any of this stuff really working for you? I mean, can’t most business prospects get what they need from your website and/or social web presence? Do you really need to spend the money on this print stuff?
That’s what you need to find out. Maybe your target market NEEDS printed material. But you’ve got to know…
And how important is design? Are using Word templates and printing at home hurting your business?
11. What is your networking strategy? How significant a role does networking play in your prospecting efforts? Attend too many events? Attend too few events? Attend all the wrong events? Go to the same groups week after week, seeing the same people?
Are you going to events that are populated with your actual target market? And how effective is your follow-up strategy?
And how do you see social media playing a role in your online networking? Are you employing the same “networking” tactics on Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn?
12. Will geolocation move the needle? Do geolocation applications like Foursquare and Gowalla make sense for your business? To be honest, if you are a retail establishment, and you are not experimenting with these apps, then you are potentially missing a big opportunity…sort of the modern day loyalty card. And an OBVIOUS way to more deeply connect with real customers…
But what about B2B sales? What about large organizations? What about selling consulting services? Does it make sense for you?
Foursquare just passed 5 million users. Now while that doesn’t compare to Twitter’s 160 million or Facebook’s 600 million, it is still worth reviewing.
13. Will QR codes matter? You might first ask, what the heck is a QR code?
Although these quick response codes have been around a while, they are only beginning to seep into daily conversation. You simply scan the code with some type of reader, usually on your smart phone. This present bits of information, which hopefully results in someone taking action.
How does this relate to you? You can place QR codes in magazine advertisements, on collateral, promotional items – the code could offer a specialized discount for the people who take the time to scan the code.
You’ve got to ask…is there a place for this unique message delivery method in my marketing?
14. Are hosting events worth your while? Is there marketing utility for you – or your company – to bring people together by hosting events? Should you create your own networking group? Should you organize large events around product launches or new service offerings? Can the effort increase your brand awareness?
Hosting an event gives you an easy excuse to reach out to people, provides content and story lines for your social web apps and website, and can give your PR a boost.
15. Is your bounce rate too high? Do you even know what the hell I am talking about?
A “bounce rate” is essentially the percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site (Wikipedia).
In other words, you need to know what the bounce rate is for the common landing pages on your site. A landing page bounce rate over 50% is cause for concern. You want visitors to check out other pages.
E-commerce sites need LOW bounce rates. Blogs and other informational sites have higher bounce rates. You need to get a sense for what your industry standard is to measure and compare, so that you can make appropriate adjustments.
16. Is e-mail marketing working for you? If done right, e-mail marketing remains one of the most powerful ways to go to market…
Problem is, most of us are doing it wrong. Not a day passes that some organization sends me their e-newsletter…UNSOLICITED.
I wish people understood how poorly this reflects on their brand…
You really need to rethink how you build your lists. Don’t buy them…and just because you met someone at a function and they give you a business card doesn’t mean they want your newsletter.
And careful on your message. Make it unique – not just regurgitated blog posts. And it must provide value to people!
17. Is your SEO strategy working? Search engine optimization, the process of optimizing search results when people search certain keywords and phrases…in order that your content is more likely found on search engines like Google.
Is your strategy working? Do you have a strategy?
Are you optimizing your keywords? Do you know what your keywords are?
Is your SEO vendor producing results? Do you even need one?
Is your website properly optimized for search? Do you even know?
Are you tracking the numbers via Google Analytics? Do you know what those even mean?
Are you aware that this SEO “science” is constantly evolving?
18. Will cause marketing work for you? We admire people/organizations that go above and beyond to give back to the community.
I’ve always believed that “giving back” is good marketing. Our society allows us freedom to live the lives we want, to achieve the things we want. It certainly can strengthen your brand to align you and your company with causes and organizations doing good things for those in need, and making the community a better place.
Not to mention (selfishly), doing this will expose you and your brand to a whole new reach of people. Good networking!
What will you do?
19. Do you practice blazespotting? If you follow this blog, you’ve seen me write a lot about “shining a light.” I am now in the process of evolving my thinking on this concept – and taking it to the next level. I now call it “Blazespotting.”
I take it from trainspotting, which is defined as the hobby of watching trains and noting their serial numbers, usually for long periods of time. In our case, “Blaze” is defined as “flash of light.”
Blazespotting – the hobby and discipline of watching people + organizations and noting/broadcasting their good works, usually for long periods of time.
Proactively showcasing the good works/good deeds/thought leadership/innovation of others reflects strongly on your own brand, builds trust with you, and strengthens your position in the marketplace.
The social web makes this process even easier. But it all comes down to making a conscious decision to showcase others!
20. Are you focused on your customer experience? Running a business, we are tasked with a lot of day-to-day responsibilities, but I sometimes wonder, do we focus too much on all but the one thing that truly matters…how our customer interacts with our business??
I recently wrote a post called 33 Questions To Ask Customers. The purpose here was to help us ask the right questions to better understand if we are providing a meaningful experience for our customers…
Are you doing enough of that? Do you understand how EVERY employee in your organization interacts with customers? Do you study how your customers interface with every facet of your business…from the telephone, to the website, to your twitter handle?
21. Is Your Company Culture Fostering Success?
Do you foster a work environment where people can be creative?
Do you empower your people to creatively solve customer problems?
Do you reward your people for making mistakes?
Do you encourage innovative thinking?
Do you waste their time in pointless meetings?
Do you encourage continuous learning?
Do you seek employee input on all things?
Do you engage them in discussions about the company culture too?
Do you make it clear that ALL employees are a part of the marketing team?
And do you recognize that you never stop improving these elements in your business?
22. Are you providing enough value to your readers? And by value, I mean more than just distributing good, helpful content, I also mean engaging with them too…
If all you are doing is broadcasting one-way messaging about how good you and your products are via email, blogging, social media, and print…then you are wasting my time and your prospects time.
You need to not only put out educational and engaging content that provides solutions to your audience – you need to connect with that audience and engage in conversation about these topics too…
Is your content conversational and helpful? Or are you just broadcasting and telling?
23. Do you do the little things? Like NOT charging me for air at the gas station…
Like bringing me a FULL, LARGE coffee to-go cup when I get my check…
These little gems happened to me…just in the last 24 hours… And the real power in them? Not expecting them…
And that’s what you have to think about. Analyze all the little elements of how your customer interfaces with your business, and identify where you can implement little memorable gems.
Sometimes you just need to listen to your existing customers, because they will give you plenty of ideas if you let them…
And sometimes you need to empower your own employees to create their own little gems…let them create their own meaningful experiences… DON’T make them follow a strict script where little gems die in the ether…
24. Are you doing enough learning? Most people are not. And that is why they fail, or labor in a job they detest, or wonder why they have no creativity.
And it is your own fault.
Why aren’t you focused on learning all that you can? Why don’t you dedicate time to this process? Why aren’t you encouraging your employees to keep learning, or at least providing them with material they can learn from?
I believe continuing education is the most important thing you can do to become better…
Better at life, better at creativity, better at marketing, better at business, etc…
Why aren’t you living in bookstores, searching the internet, talking to mentors – to become better?
25. Does your workspace work? Is your working environment conducive to productive work? Creative work? Interruption-free work?
I am amazed at how many people are forced to work (or try to work) in places they HATE to be in. And you can imagine what that does for their work ethic, morale, and not to mention creativity!
You must create a workspace for yourself or your company that allows you – and your people – to be at their best. And the hard part? It is different for each employee.
Workspace design is something that is often overlooked, or designed in such a way to minimize office expenses, with NO consideration for the employees.
26. Is day-to-day admin dragging you down? If you are like me, you lose dramatic amounts of time fiddling with the day-to-day admin of your business. Invoicing, chasing down accounts receivable, inventory, paying bills, payroll, health insurance paperwork, etc.
Marketing, selling, and doing the creative work you are hired to do in the first place gets put aside because the “running the actual business” stuff gets in the way…
But yet, this is vital to the operation of the business, right?
Have you thought about adopting new processes? Thought about buying software that makes your life much easier? Or have you thought about biting the bullet and hiring professional help to get this work done?
It may be time to shake things up.
27. What are your revenue goals? Do you even know?
A lot of the small business people I speak with don’t really know. Which boggles my mind. To be honest, without this goal, you CANNOT create a marketing plan. And without a marketing plan, you are far more likely to not have a good year with your business.
What are your revenue goals? Do you even know what you made in 2010? 2009? Are you growing? Are you declining? Are you all over the place?
Until you determine what your revenue goal is for 2011, you can’t do a thing to draft a plan, or make proper strategic marketing and business decisions for the coming year…
28. Do you have cash flow? Unlike the last question (Day 27), you probably know the answer to this one. And yeah, you either have cash flow…or you do not.
You can’t operate a business without it. You just can’t. To put it simply, you need it to do stuff: Marketing. Prospecting. Equipment. Experimenting. Learning, etc.
Cash flow helps determine a company’s value, liquidity, risk factors, and can judge past or future prospects of the business. But yet, most small business people don’t think enough about it, or don’t have any cash flow (however you define it, whatever your context).
At the end of the day, your cash flow must remain net positive for your business to remain solvent!
29. Do you have a big enough marketing budget? I think the answer is no, since most people tell me “I am marketing on a shoestring” or “Business has been slow, so I cut my marketing” or “How much did you say?”
So how in the hell are you going to build your business? Or get new members? Or get people to vote for you? Or get people to support your cause?
Follow along here: You need to make enough sales to meet your revenue goals. You sell to your prospects. You have to have enough prospects to close enough deals, assuming you won’t close every opportunity. Thus, you need to spend enough on your marketing budget to talk to enough prospects.
I ask again: do you have a big enough marketing budget?
30. Have you created your seven-step marketing plan yet? So here we are on Day 30 of this marketing plan development post series. How is your progress coming along?
Your marketing plan should consist of basically seven components:
1. Understand market and competition – is there a need for what you sell?
2. Understand your customer – who are they, where are they, why will they buy, how do they buy?
3. Determine your precise target market / your niche. Where is your focus?
4. Develop your message. What’s your story?
5. How will you deliver the message? Networking? Direct mail? Paid advertising? Social media? Blogging? Others?
6. Goals – How many prospects do you need to touch? What is your close rate? How many sales do you need to meet your financial goals?
7. How will you pay for it? Setting your marketing budget high enough to reach enough viable prospects…
Pretty simple, yeah? Don’t over think your marketing plan. And the key to success? Process the plan in order from number one to seven. This is critical. One steps builds on the former…
What about you? Get started now.
[cartoon by @gapingvoid]
Note: This article is based on a month long series of marketing plan posts that can be found here.