WHAT’S MORE EXPENSIVE than marketing? Not marketing! Companies that don’t market themselves miss out on prospective clients who don’t know about them and can lose current clients who think they’re paying more than a partner is worth, according to Herman Pool, president of Vertical Axion LLC, an internet marketing company in Brownsville, Texas.
Before you throw a pile of cash at a Google AdWords campaign or a website redesign and hope something sticks, though, experts advise creating a marketing plan.
Sound too daunting or time consuming? Don’t quit reading yet. Pool, author of One Hour Marketing: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Simple Effective Marketing, insists it takes less than an hour to answer some simple questions that form the foundation of a solid marketing plan.
Simply put, marketing plans are vehicles for acquiring new clients or new business, says Anthony Carrano, a principal at Dunamis Marketing, an Austin, Texas-based digital marketing and content agency that works with IT channel providers. They can serve any of multiple objectives, he adds, including lead generation, demand generation, retention and loyalty, advocacy, and upselling/cross-selling expansion.
To be effective, marketing plans should be process driven. According to Carrano, however, they rarely are when channel pros create them. “A lot of [IT] guys built up their business because they developed processes and systems around some of their core fulfillment and delivery of their offerings,” he says. “For some reason folks tend to do the opposite when it comes to marketing. They just start throwing things at the wall and see what does or doesn’t work after 30 days, 60 days, or what not.”
Partners who market without a plan are usually cruising toward failure, Pool says. “They haven’t defined what it is they want to accomplish. They haven’t clearly defined who it is they want to speak to. They haven’t clearly defined what message it is they want to get across.”
A successful marketing plan requires four basic elements, Pools says.
Purpose: Define what action you want to elicit from your target audience. Do you want them to call your phone number? Drop by your office? Fill out a form?
Target: Determine the customers you’re going after. Start by looking at your current customer base. Who typically buys from you and who does your offering help the most?
Message: Figure out your unique selling proposition, which explains how your product or service solves the problems of the target audience and gives them a reason to do business with you rather than someone else. Be sure you can back it up, though, Pool cautions. “If your IT company has a unique selling proposition of ‘On Time, All The Time,’ you should never be late.”
Tools: List the tools you’ll use to execute the marketing plan. This can include your website, white papers, postcards, or third-party services. “Until you know what tools you plan on using to get your message across, you’re not going to know what order things go in, or who you need to get in touch with to build that marketing out for you,” Pool says.
According to Rudy Rodriguez, Carrano’s business partner and fellow principal at Dunamis Marketing, it’s important to involve your sales team when developing a marketing plan, because they’re bound to play an instrumental role in executing it. Bringing in the support organization can be helpful as well, he adds. “Your support people are going to be very close and intimate with the customers.”