Friday, June 19, 2009

The Simplest Marketing Plan Ever

Before we begin today's post, let me clarify one thing: This is not an original idea. I read about this type of marketing plan in one of the fabulous "Guerrilla Marketing" titles by Jay Conrad Levison. I thought this was so revolutionary, so incredibly simple, that it would never work. Much to my surprise, it not only works, but my small business clients LOVE it to pieces. What is it, you're asking? It's a 7 sentence marketing plan, followed by a 12 month calendar marketing map. You can whip one of these babies up in about a half hour. It's easy, simple and straightforward. Now, it won't do if you're applying for a grant or loan. You'll need a much more complicated plan than this. It can help to keep you and your employees, and therefore your company, on track with all your marketing ventures, so that you reach your marketing goals.

(My apologies to scruffy-looking nerfherders everywhere......)

Here's how it works:

Sentence 1: A brief description of the purpose of your marketing.

EXAMPLE: The purpose of XYZ's marketing program for the coming year is to take XYZ from $Q in sales to $R in sales and in the process, make XYZ the leader in selling nerherding informational resources and products.

Sentence 2: A brief description of how you plan to achieve that purpose by describing what you'll do for your customers.

EXAMPLE: This will be accomplished by positioning XYZ as the industry's expert in helping nerfherders increase their knowledge of nerfherding and nerfs in general, increase nerfherding capabilities through products and support, and boost nerfherding profitability through use of our products.

Sentence 3: Briefly describe your target audience.

EXAMPLE: XYZ"s target market is the senior executive nerfherders, trail boss nerfherders and apprentice nerfherders of the universe's 100 top nerf ranches.

Sentence 4: Briefly describe your niche, or corner, of the market.

EXAMPLE: XYZ's niche is to provide the highest quality nerfherding informational resources that will enable our customers to improve their nerfherding knowledge, capability and profitability.

Sentence 5: OK, not technically a "sentence" but rather a list of exactly what marketing tools you will use to execute your plan. You can make it neat and bulleted, if you like.

EXAMPLE: A web site catalog of all our products, a subscribers-only monthly ezine, direct mailings, appearances/booths at nerfherding rodeos, sponsoring a nerfherding rally or rodeo, publishing articles in industry-related publications at least four times throughout the year.

Sentence 6: A sentence that describes the focus of your business and how it will relate to the customer.

EXAMPLE: XYZ's representatives will be seen as knowledgeable of product, friendly, highly capable, approachable and easy-to-work with.

Sentence 7: A sentence giving your marketing budget for the outlined plan.

EXAMPLE: The total budget for the marketing plan outlined here is $P.


Now, Levison originally designed this 7 sentence plan for consultants, but I know of a florist who uses it, a construction contractor who keeps it pinned to the wall by his desk, and a salesman who created one for his own purposes, even though he is not self-employed. Several marketing/copy writing friends of mine use it, as well as yours truly. It really brings everything into focus, keeps it accessible and all in one place. Now, you'll need the marketing road map, or strategy calendar to really put this plan into action. We'll cover that next week.

See ya after!

Monday, June 15, 2009


Here's a freebie, an off-topic post that has nothing to do with our business plan posts (well, alright, just a little) that I thought some of you might enjoy. I'd like to make this a habit -a weekly or biweekly thing that you can look forward to. Something offtrack, but useful. A small bite to get you going, without filling you up.

This week's MMM is a list of things NOT to do when marketing your small business.

1.) Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't spend all your budget on just one ad, or on a series of ads, or on one type of marketing. I have a blog and a website. I'm on Twitter (and steadily gaining followers, too!) I utilize email marketing. I send out direct response sales letters. I network. I have flyers posted on community bulletin boards out and about in my area. I volunteer time to churches and non-profits. I'm creating a monthly newsletter. I have an account on I write and publish press releases and marketing articles, both in print locally and online. In short, I've diversified my marketing efforts about as much my time and resources will allow. And I get clients. Putting all your resources in one place just isn't smart, and it isn't very effective.

2.) Not taking stock. You'll notice that I don't run classified ads in my newspaper, or do much paid advertising, period. It just didn't have the Return on Investment I needed to continue. I knew this because I always take a look at the results of my marketing efforts, to see where I can improve, what's a waste of my time and effort, and what's simply not working at all. I can tell you that Guru isn't always the kindest place in the world, but it has brought a few projects and I keep bidding on proposals for that reason. The newspaper gets me more business through the press releases and articles I publish than it did through the expensive ad I bought. G o figure......

3.) Leaping before you look. (This is the part that has to do with business plans, BTW.) Marketing your business without a goal or end result in focus can lead to scattering instead of a direct hit. A marketing plan will help you know what to do and when. It will also help you know how much you can afford to spend when trying a new marketing venture. Without it, you may just find that you've jumped off a marketing cliff without a parachute.

4.) Keeping your feet on too-solid ground. On the other hand, if your marketing plan is too strict, too inflexible (or you are too fanatical about following it to the every letter) you can miss opportunities that you may not have known about or thought of when creating the plan. You can also keep walking in circles if you continue with a marketing venture that isn't producing. Marketing plans are just that - PLANS - they are there as guidelines, not regulations.

5.) If it ain't broke, don't fix it. All to often, small business owners will scrap something that's been producing results for something new, or something different. It's great to try new things, but not at the expense of something that's been proven tried and true. If your newspaper ad works for you, keep it up. If you want to try a website and join the Web community, do it when you afford the added expense and time. Don't toss the ad that's getting you results.

6.) Keep it simple, stupid. Or - don't let yourself get in the way of your success. Don't get all flashy and trendy just because you like the newest style. Don't place ads in markets that you like, but may not appeal to your customers. Don't forget that it's really all about your customers and not about you. A good example of this is a generations-old firm I know that was recently taken over by the newest young blood in the family. He wanted to take the firm's marketing in the high-tech direction - podcasts, video website, social media, you name it. Problem was, most of the firm's customers aren't that plugged in. They are mostly middle-aged business people with their own well-established companies. True, they do utilize the web, and some even order from the companies website. Most, if not all, have mobile phones of one variety or another. But, they just aren't into text messages about new inventory shipments. They aren't the kind of folks with MySpace pages. The young guy was all gung-ho to take his family's firm into the 21st century, but he forgot that most of his clients are still fairly grounded in the 20th.

7.) Leaping before you look - part 2. If you go forward with a new marketing venture without some sort of research, you may find another cliff passing quickly by on your way down. I placed a very nice ad in a newspaper in another town, only to find out that there were already 5 small marketing firms in business there. The market for marketing was pretty well tied up. A simple Internet search of the chamber of commerce would've told me it wasn't a good idea before I did it, but I didn't bother to take the time. Lesson learned.

8.) Quitting when things get tight. A lot of small business people see the marketing budget as expendable, especially when sales slow. BIG mistake. The very last thing you want to do when things start heading south is to quit trying to bring in new customers. There are so many free and inexpensive ways to market your firm that even if you don't have the money, you can still get your name out there. Want to know my marketing budget? $25 a month. And it works. I get clients. maybe not LOTS of clients, but then my business is still in its first year and I'm really just starting to grow, in both sales and client numbers. I spend a great deal of time on marketing efforts, but that's for the next tip.

9.) Not prioritizing marketing resources. Every business person should be spending 75 - 80% of their time, efforts and resources on marketing. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. It doesn't matter if you have an established firm, or are still wet behind the ears. Not allocating enough time, money and effort to marketing is short-changing yourself. NO business is so big, so well established, so profitable, that it doesn't have the need for marketing. Coco-Cola and McDonald's still run ads, don't they? 'Nuff said.

10.) Not knowing when to quit. Now, don't take this the wrong way, but if you aren't getting the results you want trying to do it yourself, maybe it's time to throw in the towel and get help. Hire a marketer. Find a freelance copywriter to write your next sales letter. It's what we do. And if you want to hire me, well.........go ahead. Say you saw it on Visions and I'll give you a discount. Honest. It's what I do.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why Every Business Needs a Marketing Plan

Every business, from multi-billion international conglomerates to the one-person show, needs a marketing plan. You know that. You've heard it, read it, seen it, but do you know why?

Marketing plans are like road maps:

  • Marketing plans give you a starting point
  • Marketing plans mark the route you plan to take to get there
  • Marketing plans pinpoint your destination

On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!

Marketing plans give you an opportunity to locate an accurate starting point - a read on where your business is right now, and how well it is doing. Creating goals implies knowing where you are, so you know how far it is to realize those goals. You'll have to have some idea of how your business is faring to know how much marketing you'll need to do. You'll also have to have some idea of how your business is doing before you can create your plan of how to reach the goals you set for your firm. In a finely detailed marketing plan, this starting point will be set out in its own section or in charts or both, when discussing your objectives for the coming marketing period. In less formal, less detailed marketing plans, your current situation might be described in one sentence - "In the coming year, we will grow our sales from $X to $Y, and expand our customer base from OurTown to YourTown." No matter how you phrase it, display it or put it on the paper - your marketing plan will provide a clear, accurate view of your business's success (or lack thereof) right from the start.

Are We There Yet?

The most important benefit of marketing plans is that they act as road maps on your path to achieving a higher (hopefully) level of success. In your marketing plan, you'll want to outline exactly what steps you'll be taking to increase, or at least maintain, your level of sales. Again, how nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty detailed you get will depend on the type of the marketing plan you need, and the purpose of the plan (how you plan to use the plan.) (We'll talk more about this in a later post, promise.) You usually needn't list every little baby step along the way, even in the most detailed plan, but some do call for more specifics than others. (One thing you'll want to be very specific about is your marketing budget, irregardless of the rest of the details. Your budget will determine the frequency, the type and the reach of any marketing you do.) A simple way to map out your marketing journey is to simply state your budget in one sentence, then list each month of the proposed marketing period after. On each line, after the name of the month, list what marketing efforts will be made, and how much, approximately, those efforts will cost. For example, if your business doesn't have a Web presence yet, your first month may look something like this:

Month 1:

set-up business blog (free)

set up Twitter page (free)

order new business cards with web address ($25)

press release for local newspaper announcing our new web presence (free)

Get the idea? Now, a finely detailed marketing, such as those required when applying for a government business loan, for example, will most likely include charts or spreadsheets, outlining expenses and projected returns on investment (ROIs.) The small, one-man show can get away with a simple outline as demonstrated above.

Your marketing plan can help keep you on the right road, too, whether you are a very busy one-person operation, or you have employees. You see, you can use the marketing pan to remind yourself, and explain to others, of just what needs to be done every month in the way of marketing your business. You can't forget to start that blog because it's right there on the paper, screaming at you, every time you turn around. Your employees will know that your big Christmas in July sale is probably not the best time to ask for a week off. Your employees will also know that new business cards will be necessary and when. They'll know that in September, you'll be kicking off a new customer acquisition campaign. They may even be inspired to come up with a few things for that campaign you hadn't thought of. A shared, public marketing plan keeps everyone in the loop, on the same page, and aiming for the same goal.

One word of caution - DO NOT treat your marketing plan as if it were set in stone. Especially when it would be to your advantage. If you get an advert from a local print shop or online graphic design house offering a special on business cards, go ahead and set up the blog account so you have the new web info, even if you aren't supposed to do that this month. If you get really swamped, or difficulties prevent you from following through on something, don't count it as a lost cause, either. Do what you can to get back on track. Maybe you can't offer a back-to-school special in October, but you can run an Autumn Harvest special. Maybe it takes you six weeks to learn how to really use a business blog. So what? Start it when you're ready. It's never too late to make a sincere marketing effort.

The Finish Line

Your marketing plan should have a definite goal, be it a dollar amount for sales, additions to available inventory, a new customer figure, or an increase in service area, or all of the above. And since you put it in writing and placed it somewhere for the whole world to see, you should be able to tell when you're going to reach that goal. Setting those goals may actually be the easiest, and yet the hardest, portion of the marketing plan to create. Set a goal that's too low and you'll make your marketing plan obsolete in a very short time. Set a goal that's too high and you'll face frustration, anxiety, and possible failure. Sometimes, in the midst of listing the steps, I'll realize that the goal is either too high or too low, and can then change it to reflect a more realistic objective. Sometimes, things go wrong, economies change, employees leave suddenly, environmental disasters strike, computer systems fail. You can't help it - it just happens. When those kinds of difficulties occur, rewrite the plan. Throw that puppy in the nearest trash bin and start over, from your new starting point. There's no shame in it. As long as you've given it your honest, true, best effort, you have nothing to hang your head about. Shooting for the stars can sometimes lead to moon landings, after all.

Marketing plans needn't be something scary or complicated. If you need a bigger plan than you think you can devise, get help. Most marketers (myself included) can help you create the type of plan you need. For those of you who would like to try your hand at creating your own marketing plan, in the next week's post, we'll cover the ins and outs of the simplest marketing plan I know of, suitable for the individual business owner, or the small firm with a handful of employees. It'll be so easy to do, promise!

Have a good week and see ya after!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

First REAL post!

Here we are again! It's been a over a month since my first post. I've read the course and I gotta tell you, it was helpful. Then I read "Blog Wild" by Andy Wibbels and I think I got a pretty good handle on how to do this whole "blogging for business" thing after finishing that one up. BTW, Andy has a great blog of his own. I encourage you to check it out sometime, especially if you need help blogging......I'm certianly no expert yet.

My vision for Provisions Visions is to help you, the small business owner or non-profit marketing coordinator, with ideas, tips, tricks, and whatnot on how to market or publicize your small business or small non-profit organization effectively, inexpensively and easily.

Now, you might be thinking that by doing so, I'm going to shoot myself in the foot, right? Isn't that what I do?? Marketing and publicity for small businesses and non-profits?? Yep. You betcha. The way I see it, by helping the little guy through the simple stuff, it'll save me the time and hassle of having to tell you "sorry, I'm just too busy for that right now." Also, some of the stuff I want to share with you will help you realize just what, exactly, you need as far as marketing and publicity is concerned. That helps me out, too. The first thing I have to do with any client is sit down and go through this whole checklist of stuff to determine where we need to start, where we need to focus our energies, what the goals are going to be, and how much money we're going to have to spend to get what we want. By helping you figure all that out on your own, when you do decide to give me a call to handle the heavy stuff, you'll be able to tell me exactly what you want. We'll all be on the same page at the same time and your marketing or publicity campaign will be that much further ahead!

So, for the month of June, I'll be doing a series of posts on creating a marketing plan - why you need one, how to create one, what to do with one when your done, and who needs to be in on it with you. I think that's enough to get you started, don't you?

See ya after!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Welcome to Provisions Visions!

Welcome to my brand new blog!

I've written blog posts for clients before, but I've never actually published them, so all of this is a bit new to me. I believe all of life is an educational journey, so I'll be learning as I go.

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.

  • How to get traffic to your blog.

  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.

It is my hope that through Provisions Visions, I can share some of what I know about small business marketing, help small businesses and non-profits gain insight, tips and tricks for their own marketing efforts, and learn how to do this blogging business all at the same time!