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Seven Ways to Energize Sales
When revenue hits a rut, consider these tips to help you jump-start your sales.

In this high...
via your website and the press. You'll provide help where it's needed most and earn appreciation
from customers that leads...
2. Optimize your feedback channels.
Feedback comes in many forms, but chances are you're getting customer responses you ar...
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  1. 1. Seven Ways to Energize Sales When revenue hits a rut, consider these tips to help you jump-start your sales. In this highly competitive marketplace, it's vital to keep your marketing campaigns fresh, new and on target. This fall, kick your marketing into high gear with this seven-point checklist. 1. Reestablish Listening Posts Smart marketing relies entirely on understanding your customer. You need to know not only who they are and what they buy, but why they buy -- and why they choose to buy from you. Redouble your efforts at dialogue through social media, message boards and blogs. And get direct feedback from customers or clients, or via your front-line salespeople. 2. Announce Special Promotions Use special incentives to draw customers to short-term promotions. This fall (much like the last), cost-conscious consumers are looking for good prices and great value, and promotions are a winner with most all economic groups. Coupons are increasingly vital, and there is a major rise in the desirability of online coupons. 3. Polish Lead Management Over the summer, lead tracking and follow up may have become a bit haphazard. Be certain everyone who takes inbound calls asks every new lead where they heard about your company. Make the leads generated by your online, print and broadcast advertising trackable. And where possible follow up all leads within 24 hours. Today's sales are built on trusting relationships that grow from excellent customer service. 4. Focus On Fresh Ideas Don't rely exclusively on a small team or just your marketing staff to produce fresh ideas. Make innovation everyone's responsibility this fall with brainstorming sessions, company retreats or by giving special recognition to individuals with the smartest suggestions. If your business has few employees, assemble a seasoned advisory board or form an online advisory group made up of members of your target audience to give input in exchange for sales perks. 5. Renew Retention Campaigns Do you have regular e-mail or direct mail promotions that go out to your entire customer base? This fall, use e-mail to crank up your retention campaign by putting it on a consistent weekly or biweekly schedule. Soon you'll have discovered which incentives and messages work best to retain and upsell current customers and convert prospects, and yield the highest return on investment. 6. Enhance Your Giving In this era of rising social responsibility, customers and prospects want to know you're a good corporate citizen, and this is a great time to align with a nonprofit. Businesses that rely on local customers benefit from helping community-based causes. You can provide pro bono services or undertake a promotional campaign to raise charitable funds. Just be sure to promote the undertaking
  2. 2. via your website and the press. You'll provide help where it's needed most and earn appreciation from customers that leads to sales. 7. Freshen Your Content When was the last time you updated the content of your website and your family of sales and marketing tools? Since your website is generally the first place prospects go to learn more about your business, it's crucial the site's appearance and themes are current. Imagine someone following a logical path from your website through each step in your sales process, and make sure all materials and messages they encounter flow seamlessly from one to the next. With more shoppers than ever browsing the Web this fall, it's a great way to jumpstart sales. 5 Ways to Take Customer Loyalty to the Next Level New customers are the lifeblood of companies. Or are they? Lately, marketers have been spending more time on current customers -- revamping whatcustomer service means, investing more in customer relationship management (CRM) systems and building teams to improve communication with customers. In this age of social connectivity, customer loyaltyhas become more valuable than ever. Consumers share stories of their interactions with businesses on social media, meaning that word-of-mouth marketing is more valuable than ever. Since customer loyalty can be critical to making a sale, ask yourself what you're doing to cultivate it. When was the last time you spent money or resources on making your customers feel appreciated? Many might argue that a focus on customer appreciation isn't just a best practice -- it could mean the difference between failure and survival in today's word-of-mouth driven economy. Here are five ways you can take customer loyalty up a notch: 1. Improve your 'Thank You.' Most of us have a Web page or email that thanks our customers for converting, whether that means joining the community, purchasing a product or signing up for a newsletter. But chances are good that the "thank you" could use some work. Because the thank you page or email is seen by every single one of your customers, you should ask: Does it put your best foot forward? Rather than merely using that page to confirm an action, why not add some useful resources, follow- up steps or company contact information? Other ideas for improvement include lacing in a promotion to instigate immediate action or simply making the message more visually enticing. Related: Richard Branson on the Secret to Exceeding Customer Expectations
  3. 3. 2. Optimize your feedback channels. Feedback comes in many forms, but chances are you're getting customer responses you aren't even using. While many companies tap into what their customer service department is hearing, they are less likely to proactively survey their website visitors or to analyze their cancelation and return forms. That's a shame because these are all opportunities to get more information on what customers need. When you take the time to improve your feedback channels, you are telling your audience, "We care about what you think." This reminder can help build loyalty and help you answer concerns in a timelier manner, reducing customer loss and building trust. 3. Go beyond cancellations as a performance indicator. While you need to know how many of your customers are cancelling, it is a reactive performance indicator. In addition to monitoring your customers loss, you can gauge loyalty by watching your company's "net promoter score," frequency of customer interactions with your business and the length of time between customer visits. By tracking how engaged customers are and how likely they are to recommend your company, you can get a more complete measure of their loyalty. Related: How to Get Customers Using Your Online Rewards (Video) 4. Assign someone to manage it. Tracking and improving customer loyalty can be a challenge if no one specific is managing it. Good candidates for this responsibility often come from customer service, marketing, operations or product teams. The key qualifications are the ability to work well with others and a belief in the value of both qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Whoever you choose should understand that customer loyalty may touch a number of departments at your company, but it deserves its own champion for maximum success. 5. Evangelize the gains and losses. While customer loyalty should have a dedicated advocate, it is a company-wide effort. Unfortunately, customer loyalty scores rarely get touted as much as revenue and profits. Why is that? Many companies see customer loyalty as something beyond their control, that it is the natural result of the websites they build and products and services they sell. But companies have a number of opportunities to build trust and loyalty by making their interactions with customers the best they can be. To show the importance of these interactions to customer retention, you can share with the rest of the company the results of your loyalty measurements, whether good or bad. This makes it a company-wide priority, and only then are you really taking customer loyalty to the next level.
  4. 4. 5 Steps to Creating Effective Customer Surveys In the wake of Google's Penguin update, the quality of your online content should be one of your top priorities. Not only can packing your pages full of high-value posts improve your presence in the natural search results, it also can go a long way toward improving customers' experience on your website. One way you can determine which types of content you should focus on is through customer surveys. Follow these five steps to conduct effective surveys that turn up the most insightful results: 1. Do preliminary research. To create an effective survey, you want to be as targeted as possible. Simply asking readers, "What topics do you want me to write about?" may not turn up as many good ideas as asking them about specific subjects. To decide on your topics, first go to your Google Analytics account and look at your Top 10 content pages. If you see any similarities between these articles in terms of their topics, ask your readers which ones they're most interested in. Related: How to Create a Search-Friendly Website 2. Draft your questions. For best results, include no more than five to 10 questions in your surveys. Consumers generally have short attention spans, so if you bombard them with dozens of rapid-fire questions, your completion rates can drop significantly. As you're writing your survey questions, try to let participants expand on their thoughts. "Yes or no" questions won't give you as much information as free-form text responses. 3. Offer an incentive for completing the survey. While your survey is still in the planning stages, you may want to come up with an incentive to encourage readers to answer all of the questions. Many websites offer a small discount or a downloadable white paper to motivate people to participate. If you do decide to offer an incentive, think through how you'll distribute it to readers. Sending incentives to participants can be time consuming, so look for a survey program likeSurveyMonkey that lets you automate the follow-up process. 4. Set up your survey. Now, it's time to set up the program that will record your answers. If you're a skilled programmer, you may be able to code your own survey response form and embed it in your website. Alternatively, you can check out data collection programs such as SurveyMonkey or KwikSurveysif you'd rather use an
  5. 5. automated approach or you'd like to take advantage of features you may not be able to code yourself. Both of these tools enable you to set up simple customer feedback forms for free. SurveyMonkey also offers paid plans if you're interested in more advanced features, such as the automated follow- up described above. SurveyMonkey's plans start at $17 a month for a "Select" membership. Related: 5 Tips for Making Your Website More Social 5. Publicize your survey to readers. Once your survey is ready to go, get the word out to your readers by advertising it on: • Your website • At the end of your blog posts • Within your email marketing messages • On your social media profiles • In your email signature Remember that readers may not have time to take your survey when they first see it mentioned. It's important to advertise it in multiple places to ensure the highest possible completion rates. As responses come in, evaluate them and where appropriate, make changes to your website or your digital marketing plan. Responding to this feedback will show your readers that you value their insights, and it will go a long way toward achieving your search engine optimization goals.
  6. 6. 3 Olympian Strategies to Get Gold-Medal Tough in Business Just like elite athletes competing in the Olympics, you need to have your head in the game when you're trying to grow your business and your brand. Becoming mentally tough is as critical to your success as regular training, says former tennis pro and performance coach Steve Siebold, who has worked with top athletes like Andre Agassi. Siebold says the same psychological strategies that help elite athletes power through tough times can help 'treps persevere and become great. Here are three you should adopt now. Remember the 'why.' Elite athletes don't shed blood, sweat and tears because of the money, fame or glory. They do it for thOlympic Great Greg Louganis on Refocusing Fast After Failuree love of the game, says Siebold in his book, 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class(London House, 2010). Similarly, most entrepreneurs don't launch their businesses to get rich: They do it because they believe in their business idea and themselves. When the rigors of being an entrepreneur seem like too much, refocus on why you started your business in the first place. Visualize the rush that you felt as it began to grow, like when you landed your first big client. "When I was losing all the time in tennis, what kept me going wasn't winning or losing. It was about playing the game," Siebold says. "Truly successful entrepreneurs are the ones who keep going--the ones who are up at 3 a.m. thinking about how to make their business better or get over that obstacle." Related: Olympic Great Greg Louganis on Refocusing Fast After Failure Become a learning machine. From watching tapes of their own and competitors' performances to reading books about how to improve their technique, Olympians are hungry for that bit of knowledge that will help them get better. Business owners need that same voracious appetite for information
  7. 7. that will give them a competitive edge, he says. That might mean studying your competitors' actions, reading about breakthrough marketing or management techniques, or keeping abreast of new technology developments in your industry. "When I was coaching Agassi [in mental toughness], I suggested a three-inch change in his stance even though I wasn't his tennis coach. We spent weeks talking about it, but he made the change and improved his game," Siebold says. "If entrepreneurs paid that kind of attention to detail and improvement, making those tiny changes, the overall results could be dramatic." Stay clear-headed in conflict. Competition is, by nature, a form of conflict. Every Olympian wants the gold medal, but only one can win it. Coaches and their athletes might not always see eye to eye. But those conflicts drive the elite athlete to the highest levels of achievement. Siebold says it's important not to sidestep conflict in business, assuming you're invincible. Instead, focus on your ability to work through it, without letting your ego or emotions get the best of you. "Once you start believing you're the best and you're a genius -- the best that's ever been -- you're probably not accurate," he says. Instead, stay alert and nimble, he cautions, because there is always a competitor waiting to take your spot. 5 Tips to Help Your Marketing Messages Sing With attention spans short and competition intense, clear language is essential to help marketing messages sing and spark interest in your business. As in all relationships, people connect with straightforward and honest communications. In fact, 84% of consumers are inclined to trust companies using jargon-free language, according to Joseph Kimble in Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law (Carolina Academic Press, 2012). Drawing on my business-writing experience, here are some guidelines for effective marketing descriptions to build your reputation and business: 1. Clarify thoughts. The first step toward understandable language is clear thinking. Before writing any business message, take the time to distill key points about your company. Can you describe your product or service clearly and succinctly? What qualities differentiate your offerings from others in the industry? How will customers benefit? If you can't reply to these questions without hesitation, focus on developing clear explanations. Related: How to Start Conversations That Make Instant Connections 2. Energize descriptions. Through your words, you can convey action. To create promotions with impact, for example, delete strings of adjectives. Also, try to avoid overused descriptions like "hot"
  8. 8. and "best," which have lost their meaning. Instead, rely on verbs full of energy, such as "sparkle," "zip" and "zoom." Pinpoint the specific advantages of products and services, and convey a sense of urgency: "Save time and money now!" 3. Create snapshots. Clear words and messages have the ability to paint word pictures. Vivid images leave impressions in customers' minds, giving them a sense of your business and the people behind your operation. A slick description often sends clients running to a competitor, whereas sincerity can build your reputation and inspire long-term loyalty. Phrases like "family owned and operated" or "dedicated to giving back to the community" will help clients connect with your humanity and commitment. Then, back up your words and show that your business is genuine. Related: A Small Talk Survival Guide for the Schmooze-Averse 4. Simplify sentences. Through simple language, you can help readers understand your business. Complexity and clutter make processing information difficult, so don't pack multiple ideas into sentences. Make your thoughts easy to digest by using words that readers recognize, like "giant," rather than chasing them to a dictionary to define "behemoth." Many don't have the time and will stop reading at the first stumbling block. Shorten each group of words—and know the importance of a period. 5. Refine drafts. After drafting your promotion, review the wording with objectivity. Process the information as if you were a customer just learning about your business. Slash every word that is confusing or unnecessary. Simplify and polish every word to help the essence of your company, identity and message rise to the top.
  9. 9. How to Compete with the Big Chains? Think Locally What do you do as a small, independent retailer when a major food chain, big-box store or national franchise becomes a direct competitor? All along you've been specializing in items that aren't in the mainstream but sell well, and then some big outfit like Sears or Walmart decides they're going to horn in on your action. A perfect example is Kroger, the Ohio-based supermarket chain that recently began offering natural foods inside half of its 2,500 stores, setting aside aisles now designated as Nature's Markets. When this happens, what can you as a specialty retailer do to remain in business and retain your dominance in any niche market? Your first reaction might be to lower prices in order to compete with the big stores. But that's like bringing a knife to a gunfight. There's no way you'll ever compete on price. Yet there are steps that specialty merchants can take in order to maintain position. Here's a list of things your business can do to maintain the customers you already have and win even more business when being forced to compete with a national chain: Connect with locals using social media. Large chains and franchises typically do a terrible job of maintaining social media profiles in the local communities where they have stores. Set yourself apart by ramping up local engagement via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. Blog locally. If the big boys even have a blog, they're not likely spending time focusing on local issues. By frequently blogging about topics that your local customers actually care about, you increase your store's odds of generating positive local search results online. And you're telling your customers they should have more -- not less -- information about the
  10. 10. products and services you sell. Support local causes. National chains move slowly, especially when it comes to sponsoring or supporting local events. As a local yourself, pay attention to what's coming up on the local events calendar and join up with civic-minded organizations that are targeting the same people who might like to buy your products or services. Supporting local causes endears your brand among your target demographic. State your differences as positives. Don't bash the competition -- either in front of your staff or with customers. Instead, point out the clear differences between your offerings by speaking in positives, not negatives. For example, "Featuring locally-sourced ingredients that are healthy for you and your family since 1997" is a better message than "Buy local!" or "You call that organic?" Use size to your advantage. In most cases, everything you see on the shelves of a big box or chain store, or being sold or offered by a franchise, is there because one person -- a national buyer or category manager -- approved it. You, however, can start selling a new item on a moment's notice. By specializing in the niche items that helped you build your enterprise, you'll continue to drive business in your direction.
  11. 11. How a Lean Startup Can Keep Customers This is the second of three excerpts from The Startup Owner's Manual, a recently published step-by- step guide for building companies. The first installment is How to 'Get' Customers. Keeping customers in the web or mobile channels has the same goal as retention efforts in the physical world: to minimize churn by providing great products and services, and interacting with customers often. Retention is done more easily online, where companies have the incredible power and ability to track and monitor every customer's individual behavior (without violating their privacy). Loyalty programs and other tactics borrowed from the physical channel can play a significant role here, as can elegant personalized (and often digital) customer service. FAQs, user blogs, clubs, and newsletters help with retention as well. As you come up with a strategy, remember that retention programs live or die by a close monitoring of customer behavior. You want to learn who's staying, who's leaving and why. It's especially critical to follow the behaviors you most want to improve. Related: Starting Lean: Selling a Vision (Video) Here are a few examples of what to monitor: Each customer's start date and sources (such as referrals by a blogger or another site). Customers' individual activity level. How often do they come? How long is each visit? What's the time span between visits? Customers' decision to abandon. What were they doing that caused them to do so? Customers' behavior onsite: what do they click on, and what don't they click on? Keep the following guidelines in mind as you test customer-retention programs:
  12. 12. E-mail is easy to ignore and at times feels like spam, so be careful about overly relying on it. At least four of five e-mails are never opened, and consumers often unsubscribe. Consumers often resent "faux" personalization. People appreciate legitimate, helpful personalization ("Here are the sneakers we have in your size, 11D" is far better than "Great buys for Bob"). Don't get lazy and make automated marketing programs your only customer- retention efforts. Embrace social networks as points of retention. Use them to keep visibility high and to invite customers and friends back often. Remember, the data that customers give you make personalized retention efforts easy. But you need to collect it. As you observe and track customers' behavior, use that data to create personal one-to-one relationships that guide them to the next steps. (But always respect personal-data privacy.) Related: Seven Ways to Keep Angry Customers (Like Me) Happy Some simple retention tests to consider: Outreach programs, including welcome e-mails, how-to guides, and phone calls thanking the user for coming aboard and offering simple tips on how to get more out of the product. Consider retention e-mails like these: "We haven't seen you visit in two weeks. Is everything OK?" or "I've noticed you've had a few problems. How can we help?" or "Have you seen some of the new features on our site?" Blogs, RSS and newsfeeds to further engage customers or users with the product or site. Loyalty programs (borrowed from the brick-and-mortar world) that encourage and reward repeat visits, purchases, or referrals. Contests and special events: webinars, special guests, new features, and other reasons for current customers to come back. Mobile app push notifications: iOS/Android, for instance, gives developers the ability to push messages to users even when the app is closed. Product updates, which always drive loyalty and retention. Live phone calls to users shortly before contract renewal is a good option if you have a subscription revenue model. Make them friendly, service-oriented calls, but always listen for signs of potential churn and be ready with a deal, discount or offer to save the customer. Tips-and-tricks newsletters, or time-triggered e-mails every week or two based on users' on- site behavior or lack of visits. Personalized customer service and support, conducted digitally as much as possible. Customer lock-in/high switching costs: If it's relatively easy for your customer to switch from your products to your competitors' (in an existing market) you'll probably have a higher churn rate. You may want to consider tactics to "lock in" your customer to your product or solution
  13. 13. (through unique technology, data that can't be transferred—think Facebook and LinkedIn—or high startup costs with a new vendor.) Lastly, you'll want to monitor and act on at least these basic retention metrics: Signs of dwindling visits, page views or time spent on the site or app. Increased time between visits. Average customer life (how long they stay active) and, if possible later, lifetime value. Increases in complaints, help or support tickets. Reduced response rates or open rates on company e-mails. Organize the metrics around "cohorts," or common groups of customers (like "those who joined in January"). Three-month customers may behave one way while 9-month customers may be much more or less active than their newer brethren. The Five Broad Strokes of Marketing A lot of marketing theory confuses people because it’s more complicated than it has to be. While wondrous new technologies can help you in your mission of raising your profits, marketers don’t let those technologies blur that mission. Keeping it simple is a powerful competitive advantage when it comes to speed and profitability. The seller is happy when the buyer is happy. So make as many buyers happy as you can. That requires quality and service, but that’s why you’re here -- and it’s not complicated. The entire process is made up of five broad strokes. Take those strokes and add as many bells, whistles, systems, technologies, apps and economic doodads as you want -- but be sure that all five broad strokes are taken. Do that and you’ll never think that marketing has to be anything that Simple Simon couldn’t handle with his right hand tied behind him.
  14. 14. 1. Listen to find a problem you can solve. The first broad stroke doesn’t require any of your hands -- only your ears. The first broad stroke is your ability to listen. Be alert for problems. Be alert in social situations and the social media. Be alert in the attention you pay to the mass media. Are people talking about problems they have, problems that need solving? Zero in on the problems that don’t yet have solutions. Pick a problem that you can solve. That’s how you respond to opportunity. Related: How to Make Your Marketing Work Together 2. Pricing the solution. The second broad stroke is determining how much it will cost you to solve that problem. Maybe you can solve it with information and with service. If not, how much will it cost you to make it or buy it? Be very careful with this step, as with all the broad strokes, to overlook nothing. Broad strokes tend to magnify errors, so you don’t want to make even the most minor mistake. 3. Marketing. When you tally the costs of producing your offering, don’t overlook the costs of marketing it. And don’t overlook the necessity to market it. If you build a better mousetrap, the world won’t beat a path to your door unless they know about that mousetrap. They learn about it from your marketing, especially if it’s marketing. If you’ve come up with a truly nifty solution, the marketing for it will catch wind and fan out to others who have long been searching for a solution. It’s nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you market. It is now well understood why people patronize the businesses that they do. It’s known that they favor products and services that they trust, a human characteristic that has given rise to a phenomenon called “branding.” Branding helps people trust you. One of the jobs of a marketer is to convince customers to trust his or her offering. Of course, quality is one of the factors that earn trust. And that’s why it’s part of the third broad stroke. Another factor that gains gobs of trust -- and gives the little guy an edge over the big guy -- is the ability to service what he sells. Don’t forget that one of your sacred goals is make your customers happy. Terrific service does just that. 4. Service what you sell. Terrific service is not necessarily free for you to provide. And yes, it does require effort. In particular, it requires a person who wants to deliver it and doesn’t do it just because he’s supposed to. Factor in the cost of service right along with the cost of marketing and cost of goods. Related: 5 Ways to Build a Solid Email Marketing List
  15. 15. 5. Earn profits. The fifth broad stroke is what marketing should be all about. Not sales. Not store traffic. Not turnover. Not responses to an offer. Not hits to a website. Not awards. Not sales records. Not any metric you can name. That fifth broad stroke is profits, what’s left over after you’ve deducted the cost of everything else in your business. No matter how glowing the other numbers in your business may be, it’s the profits that should glow, that keep you in business, that enable you to grow your business, that attract investors, that entice buyers of companies, and that ought to be the prime reason you went into business. It’s your job to grow healthy profits every year. You owe that to yourself, your employees, your family, and your future. That’s why profits best reflect your success. Profits are elusive. Profits are honest. Profits are hard-earned. But profits are not complicated. They are the fifth of the five broad strokes of success, and they are crucial to your company’s health. But earning them is not a winding road. Instead it is a straight road, possibly uphill, but always leading to exactly where you envision going. Apple's Simple Marketing Manifesto Editor's Note: This is the second part of a short series of posts as I read Steve Jobs, the new biography of the Apple co-founder written by Walter Isaacson. Read part one. The first glimmer of what was to become tech giant Apple Co. appeared in 1971 when electronics engineer Steve Wozniak developed the circuit board that would evolve into the Apple I computer. But in Walter Isaacson's new biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Wozniak says Apple probably never would have existed had it not been for Jobs' vision for selling the computers in consumer-focused packaging. In the book, Isaacson describes an encounter between Jobs, Wozniak and Wozniak's father, Jerry, a rocket scientist who usually discounted the merits of anyone who wasn't an engineer. During the exchange, Jerry told Jobs (in slightly more aggressive language) that he hadn't actually created anything and didn't deserve a 50 percent stake in the burgeoning business. To that, Jobs, still a teenager, began to cry, and said he'd walk away and let Wozniak run the operation himself. But Wozniak understood the harmony between himself and Jobs, and knew the company wouldn't exist without Jobs' entrepreneurial drive. "It was Jobs who had turned his [Wozniak's] ingenious designs into a budding business," Isaacson writes. Related: Steve Jobs' Surprising First Business Venture
  16. 16. Indeed, it was Jobs who pioneered Apple's customer first, a "computer for the rest of us" marketing plan. Instead of creating products they wanted to make, Jobs aimed to produce products that addressed consumers' needs, feelings and motivations. By 1977, as Jobs and Wozniak were frenzied, taking orders for the Apple I and looking for venture capital as they developed the Apple II, the men brought on investor Mike Markkula into the business. In addition to injecting $250,000 into the company and becoming a third partner, Markkula penned "The Apple Marketing Philosophy," a three-point call to action that has served the company well. It can also be an example for other startup businesses. Point No. 1: Empathy Apple should strive for an "intimate" connection with customers' feelings. "We will truly understand their needs better than any other company," Markkula wrote. Point No. 2: Focus To be successful, Apple should center its efforts on accomplishing its main goals, and eliminate all the "unimportant opportunities." Point No. 3: Impute Apple should be constantly aware that companies and their products will be judged by the signals they convey. "People DO judge a book by its cover," Markkula wrote. "We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities." Five Steps to Create a Marketing Plan How business owners can put together a detailed marketing guide for business growth. While your business plan generally outlines your entire business, a standalone marketing planfocuses specifically, and in more detail, on just that one function. When business owners want to dive deeper into their marketing strategy they will likely put together a detailed plan that outlines their marketing goals -- as well as the steps needed to accomplish them. The standard components of an effective marketing plan can vary depending on who you ask. Here is my recommended five-step process for developing a marketing plan that will help you achieve your goals for business growth.
  17. 17. Step One: Look inward. Think of your company as if it were a person with its own unique personality and identity. With that in mind, create separate lists that identify your business's strengths, weaknesses and goals. Put everything down and create big lists. Don't edit or reject anything. Then, find priorities among the bullet points. If you've done this right, you'll have more than you can use, and some more important than others. Kick some of the less important bullets off the list and move the ones that are important to the top. This sometimes requires input from your managers as well. For example, your management team thinks being conservative on spending is a weakness but you don't. That might be something to drop off the list. Step Two: Look outward. The next list you'll need to make outlines your business's opportunities and threats. Think of both as external to your business -- factors that you can't control but can try to predict. Opportunities can include new markets, new products and trends that favor your business. Threats include competition and advances in technology that put you at a disadvantage. Also make a list of invented people or organizations who serve as ideal buyers or your ideal target market. You can consider each one a persona, such as a grandmother discovering email or a college student getting his or her first credit card. These people are iconic and ideal, and stand for the best possible buyer. Put yourself in the place of each of these ideal buyers and then think about what media he or she uses and what message would communicate your offering most effectively. Keep your identity in the back of your mind as you flesh out your target markets.
  18. 18. Step Three: Focus on strategy. Now it's time to pull your lists together. Look for the intersection of your unique identity and your target market. In terms of your business offerings, what could you drop off the list because it's not strategic? Then think about dropping those who aren't in your target market. For example, a restaurant business focused on healthy, organic and fine dining would probably cater to people more in tune with green trends and with higher-than-average disposable income. So, it might rule out people who prefer eating fast-food like hamburgers and pizza, and who look for bargains. The result of step three is strategy: Narrow your focus to what's most in alignment with your identity and most attractive to your target market. In other words, focus on the area that is shared by all three lines in the diagram here. Step Four: Set measurable steps. Get down to the details that are concrete and measurable. Your marketing strategy should become a plan that includes monthly review, tracking and measurement, sales forecasts, expense budgets and non-monetary metrics for tracking progress. These can include leads, presentations, phone calls, links, blog posts, page views, conversion rates, proposals and trips, among others. Match important tasks to people on your team and hold them accountable for their successes and failures.
  19. 19. Step Five: Review often and revise. Just as with your business plan, your marketing plan should continue to evolve along with your business. Your assumptions will change, so adapt to the changing business landscape. Some parts of the plan also will work better than others, so review and revise to accommodate what you learn as you go.

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