Do you ever feel like you’re constantly running around, trying to get your marketing materials put together and out the door? Are you frazzled by the marketing process, and driving your writer, designer, or printer absolutely nuts? Is your “plan” to just pick one new idea every now and then to implement? Or are you constantly hopping on the latest marketing idea, and throwing away your time and money with your efforts?
You’re not alone; most small businesses have the same approach to marketing. The result is marketing that’s not cohesive; it’s marketing using the “push-and-pray” method – you just create marketing pieces here and there, and then hope for new clients and sales to come rushing in. When you’re busy, you just forget or put off your marketing entirely; then, when you finish all of your client projects, you panic, push out some new marketing materials, and hope for the best.
The answer to push-and-pray marketing is to plan your marketing in advance: to sit down and create a Marketing Machine so that your marketing runs smoothly and effortlessly all year long. Creating a year-round plan for marketing can really improve the number of sales that you’ll be able to make, and keep a steady stream of clients and income coming in. There are several things to consider when creating your Marketing Machine:
Consistency and repetition are two of the most important things to planning your marketing. Experts say that you have to make 6 to 12 “first” impressions on a potential client before you’ll be remembered. So make sure to set up your Marketing Machine to include many marketing pieces per year, evenly distributed throughout the year (see “Timing,” below) and presented in many different ways (see “Format,” below).
You should also make sure to have consistent and repetitive copy and design elements throughout your materials. Using some of the same text selling points across all of your marketing materials helps increase memorability. And making sure the look-and-feel of your materials is also consistent, with a well-designed and well-established Visual Vocabulary, will make the pieces of your Marketing Machine look like a well-planned, professional, and unified set, instead of a disjointed mess, just slapped together.
Format is the way that you’re delivering your marketing materials. Marketing can be presented in many formats:
- Printed materials, like stationery, brochures, postcards, and datasheets
- Online materials, like your website
- Digital materials, like Word templates, email signatures, and PDF files
- Written materials, like articles and press release
- Meeting and presentation materials, like PowerPoint presentations, presentation folders, proposal covers, and leave-behind materials like brochures or other marketing pieces.
- Follow-up materials, like eZines or online newsletters, offline newsletters, sales letters, and thank-you cards.
It’s important to match the media that you’re marketing in to your target audience to get great results from your Marketing Machine. For example, if your audience is highly technical, marketing online is probably a good idea. But if you’re selling to people who rarely use computers, printed media would be a better direction to take.
Timing includes making sure that you market consistently throughout the year. But there are some other factors to consider when setting up your Marketing Machine.
Make sure that you set up your Marketing Machine so that you have plenty of time to create your materials and promotions. Consider working materials in “off times” for your business, such as the holiday season, or on slow days. Working on marketing when you’re not busy with other projects will allow you to make the best possible use of your time and to devote enough attention to each of your marketing efforts.
If you partner with vendors, such as designers, printers, copywriters, or others to create your marketing materials, make sure that they have enough time to do a good-quality job as well. Ask what their lead times are, and be sensitive to their busy times as well.
Another technique to cut down on time spent working on your Marketing Machine is to batch similar projects together; for example, writing several articles at once and then setting up those pages on your website so that they’re ready to send when it’s time to release them. Some newsletter services, such as Email Brain (www.emailbrain.com) even allow you to set up your newsletters to send at a scheduled time in the future – even months down the road, which automates your Marketing Machine even further.
Budget approximately 10% of your gross profit for marketing use, say the experts. Be sure that you include all aspects of creating your marketing materials, including:
- Design work
- Copywriting and copyediting
- Placement fees for advertising
- Public relations
- HTML newsletter service fees
- Website hosting and domain name fees
- Website maintenance and updates
- Search engine optimization
- Trade show fees
- Referral and affiliate fees
Some businesses also include networking fees, like meeting costs and membership dues, in their marketing budgets.
Batching several projects together not only helps with timing but also with staying within your marketing budget. For example, if you plan to send several postcards in a year, you can often save money by designing and printing them together. You can also save printing set-up fees by printing all of your materials for a year at once: that way, the printer only has to do the set-up work once. You might be able to get a discount on your web hosting or HTML newsletter fees by pre-paying an entire year at once.
And make sure to set a bit of your budget aside for unexpected marketing efforts: for that press release you’ll have to send when you win an award, or for advertising in the perfect new publication for your target market.
Evaluation of Success means asking your new leads how they found you, and tracking the resulting sales and conversion rates. Make sure that each of the components of your Marketing Machine is working for you and producing results. But be sure that you give those components a bit of time to begin working: it often takes a bit of consistent repetition in marketing to see some results.
Flexibility is important as well. If you begin a new type of marketing and you find that it isn’t working after a few months, you should be flexible in your plans for your Marketing Machine. Reevaluate whether the marketing tactic just needs a bit more time or if you should revise or replace it with some other type of marketing piece.
Maintaining the Machine involves reevaluating your Marketing Machine plans at least quarterly to make sure that they are in alignment with your business’s progress and goals for the year. See if you need to add any marketing tactics or revise your plans to fit with your business’s path.
If you create a Marketing Machine that addresses all of the topics above, you should be on your way to marketing your business in a successful, well-thought-out, and manageable way. And if you implement your Marketing Machine in a consistent and repetitive way throughout the year, you should have less stress and more sales in the coming year.