When I say you need a marketing plan for your business, do you feel immediately overwhelmed? Or do you roll your eyes in disgust, imagining sleazy marketing executives trying to manipulate people to spend their hard-earned dollars on stuff they don’t need?
I hear you. There are millions of examples of shady marketing tactics, and it can make you just throw up your hands in defeat, and simply wait for people to come upon your business by chance. Hopefully they’ll love it so much, they’ll tell all their friends about it and somehow you’ll make your fortune without ever having to put together an ad or a social media campaign. This is where I need to give you a big fat reality check: you will doom your business to failure.
The truth is, you can promote your business in all sorts of ways, and do it with integrity. Check out the latest episode of The New Entrepreneur to see what I mean:
- What does your brand stand for? I’ve talked before about building your brand with your values. I believe you need to do this from day one, when you’re writing your business plan, and you absolutely need to be clear about your values when you’re developing a marketing plan. People will make up their own minds about your business, but you should be doing your best to help them associate it with the words and phrases that represent your values–like eco-conscious, healthy, generous, hip or high-quality.
- Do a S.W.O.T. analysis. Sit down with your team, or trusted advisers, and do a thorough analysis of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Do it once, focusing internally on your business, then a second time shifting your focus to the external world surrounding your business. Use this information to guide your marketing strategy.
- Get friendly with the media. Always be thinking of new ways to get free, or partially free exposure for your business through the media. As I mentioned in the video, one of the ways I do this is by getting space for a column I write in a local magazine, where I also pay for ad space. I also like to come up with fun advertising campaigns that get the local DJs involved. And best of all, I get widespread media attention whenever I do something worthwhile through my business, like the 22 Days of Kindness Campaign. What can you do to make your local media sit up and take notice of you? Be unique and extraordinary, and you’ll get loads of invaluable PR.
- Create a plan for paid advertising. Determine your annual budget for advertising at the start of your fiscal year, and be strategic with it – buy ads in bulk. And always be thinking about how you can appeal to people’s senses with your advertising!
- Sponsor greatness. Consider local events, initiatives, athletes or sports teams you might want to sponsor. Who do you you want your business associated with? I focus on kids’ athletics in particular because my staff and I believe in supporting efforts that contribute to kids’ health and wellness.
- Strategic philanthropy: The benefit of making philanthropic contributions in a strategic way is that you can reduce turnover rate with staff, because they’re more satisfied with their jobs, you get valuable exposure through the media when you support worthwhile causes, and you attract value-driven customers. These are the people who will come back to your business even if they can find a cheaper option, and even when you mess up. They also refer other customers to you more often. Follow the P.R.O.F.I.T. model of philanthropy:
- Public Relations – make sure your contribution is of interest to the media, and send out well-written press releases about it.
- Related – choose causes that are relevant for your business. My store sells healthy food and beverages, so I sponsor events and causes that contribute to the health of my community.
- Obligation – Determine what you can afford to give. This can be a designated amount, or a percentage of gross sales.
- Fun – Choose a cause that’s inspiring for you, your team, and your customers. The more you enjoy supporting it, the more successful your initiatives will be, and the greater your (internal and external) rewards will be.
- Independence – It’s wonderful to support those in need of help, and it’s even better when you can help those people support themselves. Micro-financing organizations are great examples of this, providing small loans to entrepreneurs in third-world countries so they can start or improve their own businesses. And there are local and international organizations that help people get the education or skills they need to get better jobs.
- Time – Decide on a time-frame for your contribution and stick to it. Be clear about whether you are supporting this cause in an ongoing way indefinitely, or if it’s for a few months, or one campaign.