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Ken Keller: Moving the needle on your marketing meter

Brain Food for Business People

Posted: March 30, 2010 9:05 p.m.
Updated: March 31, 2010 4:30 a.m.
Observational research suggests that most small and midsize businesses to do not possess a marketing plan to retain or gain clients. The concept of a marketing plan is foreign to what most owners know.

A marketing plan does not need to be long or elaborate. The easiest plan is a short document that captures what the company is trying to do (goals related to client retention and attraction) along with a list of activities or programs to accomplish the few goals that have been established (tactics).

The second hardest part of a plan is determining the tactics to accomplish the goals within the budget and in the time frame needed.

The most difficult part of the plan is getting started by actually taking the time to think about marketing and putting it on paper.

To make it easy to create and manage, an entire marketing plan can be written on a single 12-month calendar.

When it comes to tactics, what has worked in the past might not work in the present; what worked for others in the same industry might not work for your company; what didn’t work before may or may not work now.

Marketing is more art than science; much of it is trial-and-error. However, one thing is certain: If you keep doing what you do when it comes to marketing, you will keep getting what you are getting.

If you are unhappy with the results current marketing efforts are bringing, there is no better time to change how things are than now.

For every company in every industry, there is a spectrum of marketing tactics that range from the reactive to the proactive. Most businesses do a fair job on the reactive side of marketing; failing on the proactive side.

In the retail industry, as an example, the most reactive marketing tactic is to simply open the doors and expect people to find the store, buy and return time and again. Many small businesses that serve the public at large fail as they rely on this sole tactic as their entire marketing program.

Many other businesses in other industries make the same kinds of mistakes. Other examples of reactive marketing include Web sites, billboards, electronic signs, business cards, blogs, networking organizations or any activity that requires the customer to wait for the buyer to come to the seller. This includes news releases, radio interviews and writing books.

The activities listed above can be valuable and can sometimes work to achieve the goal of client retention or attraction. However, in a difficult economy, more needs to be done by the seller to not just attract the attention of the customer but to cause the customer to take action. Most marketing fails to provide a call to action by the customer.

What does it take to move to the proactive side of the marketing spectrum? Three things: It starts with a willingness to be proactive and move out of the comfort zone; the second is that it takes time to strategize how to best sync the tactical parts of the entire marketing plan; and the third is that it takes a commitment of resources, specifically time and money.

Without the will to move from the present to a better future, nothing positive will happen. People do things for one of two reasons: to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. Of the two, the avoidance of pain wins out. When the willingness to avoid significant pain by creating a better business becomes apparent, the owner will take action. Until that tipping point is reached, anything provided in the way of advice by anyone will fall on deaf ears.

The best plans are conceived in a quiet place, without interruption and away from the place of business. This is working “on” versus “in” the business.

What is the best way to implement a plan? To move marketing from the reactive side to the proactive side means figuring out a distribution system of marketing messages that will reach the current and potential customer base with minimum cost and maximum impact.

That effort takes time, it takes research and it takes strategy. But most of all, it takes courage.

That word is sometimes the difference between those that are successful and those that permit the marketing status quo to control the destiny of the business.

 Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Brain Food for Business People” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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