Eight Secrets from a Serial Blogger

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Have you been thinking about blogging, but are concerned whether your writing skills will translate into effective online communications?

Increase your chances of success in getting your message to the right audience by avoiding the mistakes of others. This article offers eight simple suggestions its authors learned in the preverbal “school of hard knocks”.

Here they are:

1. Stick to a schedule. The correct blogging frequency is whatever connects with your audience. For some blogs that might be daily. For others, once a month is sufficient. The optimal blogging frequency is not critical. What is critical is to decide on a schedule, communicate it to your readers and stick to it! Avoid the temptation to over-commit. While most bloggers enjoy writing, it can be grueling.

2. Expand and enhance. Supplement your usual content by periodically sharing relevant quotes, articles and tips from others. You can also try using guest writers, treating your readers to different areas of expertise and points of view. A generous introduction to your guest author may result in them reciprocating on their blog, further expanding your following.

3. Keep posts short. Readers are looking for tidbits of actionable information, not detailed research. Keep posts short, preferably under 600 words. The average American reads less than 300 words per minute. Studies suggest 65% of visitors spend less than 2 minutes on a website. Therefore, an entry longer than 600 words will not be read in its entirety, if at all.

  • A better alternative to lengthy articles is to split them into multiple parts, posting them in consecutive entries. Begin each post with a review of what was discussed in the previous entry, and end with what to expect in your next post and when it will be shared.

4. Promote your blog. Add your blog’s web address to business cards, print media ads, letterheads, email signatures and so on. Adding a Quick Response Code to business cards and other medium is gaining popularity. A QR code allows Smartphone users to find your blog easily.

5. Use social media. Post summaries of blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Exercise care to comply with each platform’s unique character limitations.

  • Since you will always end with a hyperlink to your blog, use a free URL shortener like https://bitly.com/ if pressed for space.
  • Post blog entries on SlideShare or other article marketing sites by uploading a pdf file. The last paragraph should be a brief “About the author” with a hyperlink to your blog.
  • Blog posts can be featured in your monthly newsletter to customers and friends.

6. Support online sharing. Add plug-ins or widgets on your blog to promote article sharing through Facebook, Twitter and other social media vehicles you believe are likely to help capture your target market. Allow readers to bookmark your URL to their list of favorite sites with the click of a button.

7. Encourage feedback. Always thank readers who post comments. Be respectful of opinions and suggestions, even if you disagree with them. While it is perfectly appropriate to delete spam (an inevitable byproduct of successful blogging) or comments with inappropriate language, deleting reader comments simply because you disagree discourages feedback. Periodically end posts by asking readers for comments, suggestions and ideas for future articles.

8. Don’t give up too quickly. Some experts believe it takes about 100 posts before you begin to build a following. Most bloggers become discouraged and give up before reaching that milestone.

© 2013 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

Lessons from Cool Hand Luke: Failures in Business Communications (Part 2)

Last week, I discussed the potentially dire consequences of using the wrong channels when communicating with customers. Paul Newman’s famous line from Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate” served as my theme.

I outlined nine milestones in communications, from the printing press to the Internet. Today, I conclude with a follow-up on how each of those communications channels has fared over the years.

More recent developments in the nine communication mediums include the following:

1. The days of printed books and newspapers may be numbered. Consider the following:

  • Although Amazon keeps its sales figures close to its corporate vest, reports by Bloomberg and other sources suggest it likely sold over eight million Kindles in 2010. Amazon’s January 27, 2011 press release reported, “Amazon.com is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books. Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books. Additionally, during this same time period the Company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books.” Those sales were achieved in spite of stiff competition from the Apple iPad and other eReaders.
  • In an industry financed by advertisers, newspapers now cost more to reach a similar audience than radio, magazines, or websites. The Newspaper Association of America expected ad revenue to drop 9.7% in 2009 after falling 16.5% in 2008.

2. In a press release issued November 12, 2010, the U.S. Postal Service reported a loss of $8.5 billion in fiscal year 2010. They delivered 6.1 billion fewer pieces of mail than the previous year. Labeled advertising mail, 273 million pieces of daily junk mail make up 47% of Postal Service volume, but only 25% of its revenue.

3. Struggling from its failure to win a federal contract to deliver mail, the Pony Express announced its closure on October 26, 1861, two days after the transcontinental telegraph connected Omaha to Sacramento. During an 18-month existence, it succeeded in reducing the cost of a 1/2 ounce letter by 80%.

4. Home phones are being replaced by cell phones and other mobile devices. Smartphone users can now perform virtually any function available on a computer. They can also scan product bar codes for instant price comparisons and download directions to local competitors. In October 2010, CTIA-The Wireless Association reported in their 50 Wireless Quick Facts that over 89% of handsets operating on wireless networks are capable of browsing the web.

5. With its market steadily evaporating since the 1975 invention of digital cameras, Kodak ended a 74-year run when it discontinued production of Kodachrome film in 2009. SEC filings reported a $210 million loss that year. Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2012. They will no longer manufacture cameras, and will sell its film division. The digital camera was invented by a Kodak engineer.

6. A July 2008 report by Borrell Associates titled Say Goodbye to Yellow Pages estimated the industry would lose 39% of its revenue over the next five years as small businesses focus more on online advertising. It was forecast that 2008 print revenue of $12.7 billion would decrease to $7.8 billion by 2013. In an age of instant information, an increasing number of businesses are obviously questioning the wisdom of spending scarce marketing resources on a medium that will not be distributed until months after incurring the expense. Some estimates suggest that up to 20% of small businesses do not survive to see their Yellow Pages ad in print. Meanwhile, concerns over the environmental impact of discarded books are causing cities to explore advanced recovery fee ordinances that will add millions of dollars to industry costs.

7. The marketing impact of satellite radio remains to be seen. Sirius FM Radio reports almost 22 million subscribers in some highly desirable demographics. Yet, the public company has not traded above $3 a share in over four years.

8. A four-decade oligopoly by ABC, CBS and NBC began to crack by the 1980s. Having once controlled 99% of all broadcasts, their market share dropped to 32% by 2005 according to the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. The Fox Network now produces the highest rated show on TV (American Idol) and the longest running primetime show (The Simpsons). The increased popularity of cable TV, Internet access to programming and digital recording devices threaten to redefine television’s role as the “high end” communications media. Fortunately, the ability to embrace technological changes has allowed television to hold the average American’s attention for 4.7 hours a day (according to a 2008 Nielsen report) over 60 years after its introduction. Finally, NBC’s owner Comcast announced in January 2011 they were dropping the iconic peacock from their corporate logo. This announcement ended a 56-year television tradition that first trumpeted the arrival of color programming to an entire generation of mesmerized children. Curse you, Comcast!

9. Lastly, the traditional model of text dominated static communications on a free World Wide Web navigated via a handful of search engines is being challenged. New paradigms including pay per click advertising, video and yes, social media are quickly redefining it.

As I reflect on this timeline, it occurs to me that few people can anticipate, let alone shape communications in this accelerating stream of consumer driven changes. Names like Gates, Bezos, Zuckerberg and a handful of other young billionaires come to mind.

The rest of us do well just to keep up with it.

The goal of today’s successful small businesses should be to meet customers in whatever communication channels they choose at that moment and to educate and influence (never dictate) consumer behavior as best they can.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” magic formula for success, no one thing that will permanently solve marketing challenges or slow the pace of change. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow because as Tony Robbins and others have said, “The past does not equal the future!” That much is clear from the timeline. There is simply no substitute for hard work, vision and continuous planning and experimentation.

However, there is also much cause for hope.

Don Bradley and Chris Cowdery’s exhaustive study Small Business: Causes of Bankruptcy had this conclusion: “Evidence suggests that failure rates of small businesses in the United States are related to the nature of a capitalistic market in relying on competition where only the strongest survive. The causes for small business failure and ultimately bankruptcy are many. A successful entrepreneur is, no doubt, the consummate businessperson who must be a jack-of-all-trades. It is evident that nearly all entrepreneurs have the opportunity to control their own destiny. Success is obviously not a guarantee, but nor is failure. A well-rounded businessperson who has carefully planned and prepared with a clear vision of who and what the company is will have an excellent opportunity for success.”

I also point out that many of the marketing ideas discussed in this blog would not have been possible just a few short years ago. Many more have been made easier and more cost efficient by recent technological developments and increased Internet-based competition.

I therefore challenge and encourage you to seize the opportunity to control your own destiny, to embrace change, to experiment with new ideas, and to learn from your triumphs and your disappointments in these exciting times. Your business will grow in the process.

I wish you great success in your efforts and I hope you have fun in your journey.

© 2012 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

You Can Have Any Color You Want, As Long As You Want Black (Part 1)

This week, I get to incorporate two of my favorite topics, history and old cars, into a two-part article. My title is one of Henry Ford’s most quoted statements. He actually said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”.

He said it in 1909, ironically at a time when black was not available. The Model T originally came in grey, green, blue and red. He did not implement his all black policy until 1914. However, He could have accurately said customers can have any model they want so long as it is a 2-door. But his quote sounds better, so I’m throwing journalistic accuracy to the wind and going with it!

I use it to introduce my real subject, product driven versus market driven companies. Henry obviously believed in a product driven strategy.

My first goal is simply to understand the difference between the two strategies and the corporate cultures that define them at the most basic level.

If you were involved in Ford’s marketing efforts back then, your job was to convince potential buyers they needed a black Model T, period! Your marketing approach was something like, “Here is what I have to sell, and this is why you need it.”

Contrast that to a market driven strategy that asks, “What do you need, and how can I best meet that need?”

The cultural differences between product and market driven companies run deep. Product driven companies will spend relatively more resources on product development. Their primary goal is to achieve and maintain technical superiority. In extreme examples, they believe their products are so good they simply sell themselves. Engineers will always outrank marketing in the corporate pecking order.

Market driven companies will devote more resources to brand their company and products, and on customer communications. Technical superiority is secondary to understanding customer needs and anticipating market changes. Product development is less mission critical than advertising, since the marketing department rules the roost.

My second point is that if you are going to sell a limited product or service line, you need to be very good at it. Ford was fanatical about producing cheap, dependable cars. He managed to reduce the original $850 sticker price to $290 by the 1920s. At that price, he owned the working family automotive market. He was so confident that the cars’ features and low cost could generate sufficient sales that he did no corporate advertising from 1917 to 1923.

Unfortunately, being first to market with a technically superior product offered at an affordable price is no guarantee of long-term success. As Ford Motor Company subsequently learned, competitors (increasingly on a global basis) have a long history of unseating early market leaders who grow complacent about ever-changing customer needs and wants.

Being a product driven company is certainly easier if you exercise some degree of control in your relevant market, and if consumer tastes are stable and predictable. Perhaps Ford was lulled into a false sense of security by assuming past market conditions, under which they flourished for decades, would continue indefinitely.

Car buyers in the 1920s were unsophisticated by today’s standards. They could not have imaged, let alone demanded the range of choices, options and features currently available. Ford was not the first company to replace dangerous hand cranks with electric starters. Cadillac beat them to market by seven years. However, when the world’s largest car manufacturer finally made the change in 1919, consumers and the rest of the industry fell in line. Ford defined the new standard, not Cadillac.

I will conclude this article on Friday, when I write about how companies sometimes attempt to adapt their strategies to changing market conditions.

Until then, best wishes for a joyous Thanksgiving holiday.

 

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

SLIDESHARE, HOW DO I LOVE THEE? (PART 3)

Earlier this week, I began a three-part series on SlideShare, a free online slide hosting service. Part 1 discussed the first three of ten important things you should know about SlideShare, its demographics and norms. Part 2 explained how to embed YouTube videos and how to access SlideShare remotely. As promised, I have saved the best for last.

Here are today’s suggestions.

9. SlideShare provides truly excellent support through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I have promoted several files through my LinkedIn groups. I have twice received emails saying, “XYZ file is being talked about on LinkedIn more than anything else on SlideShare right now. So we’ve put it on the homepage of SlideShare.net (in the “Hot on LinkedIn” section).” In both cases, view counts increased dramatically, if briefly.

Another benefit of tweeting SlideShare files is the potential of promoting your brand on a worldwide basis through Paper.li. It takes Twitter streams and extracts links to news stories and videos. It then determines which stories are relevant based on criteria the user establishes. It creates themed pages based on specific topics using hashtags. Paper.li subscribers distribute their daily or weekly publication as a unique newspaper, written from a perspective of what is of interest on the Web that day. Every Twitter user is therefore a potential editor. Their followers (including CFO America on several occasions) serve as unpaid journalists. To view a sample of Paper.li, read The CFO America Daily at http://paper.li/CFOAmerica/1300800014.

10. Finally, the number one reason for my love affair with SlideShare is what I call the “60 minute Twitter boost” phenomena. To experience it for yourself, open your file on the “My Uploads” tab and click on the Twitter icon. The following tweet will appear, “Check out this SlideShare document: The Title of Your SlideShare Document” along with a shortened URL. Modify the tweet with a few appropriate hash tags. Without fail, the file experiences a marked increase in views and downloads for about an hour. In my experience, views have jumped up to 35 times their daily average. I have tweeted friends’ documents with identical results. The boost trails off quickly, and totally evaporates within 24 hours. However, it can be extended with multiple tweets over the course of a day. Use different hash tags for each tweet.

In closing, I offer my apologies to Victorian era poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning for the shameless exploitation of her classic poem. Imagine how quickly it would have gone “viral” if only Ms. Browning had the same access to SlideShare.net that you and I now enjoy.

Go forth and share!

Can You Offer Free Lunches?

There is an old adage that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The same is true of free shipping. It is a variable cost of doing business. It ultimately must be passed on to customers, directly or through increased prices.

So why did Wal-Mart, America’s largest retailer, announce in early November 2010 that it was offering free shipping through December 20? Furthermore, why did competitors like Target and JCPenney quickly announce similar plans?

The answer is they all read the same market research. Consumers love “free” shipping. It is as close to a guaranteed way of increasing customer satisfaction as you will find. Conversely, an online shopper survey by Compete.com reported that high shipping costs were the number-one reason online shoppers were not satisfied with their orders. It is also why 65% of respondents indicated they prefer the “in store pick up” option, when available.

This tendency to avoid explicit shipping costs can present marketing opportunities to a creative businessperson. For example, a few years ago, one of the national pizza chains decided to offer a home delivered pizza that was larger than the in-store version. Customers willingly paid extra for the super-sized pizza, especially since it came with free delivery. Customers did not know (or did not care) that there was no incremental cost for the larger product. The extra price was in reality a hidden delivery charge.

The moral of this example is simply that customer perceptions and opinions define value in every transaction. If they are reluctant or unwilling to pay for one service, perhaps they will perceive value in some other feature that can fund the cost of the first service.

Finally, if you decide to offer free shipping, test the bottom line impact by initially setting a minimum threshold (for example, only available on orders over $50) on sales.

Accountability is a key to every successful marketing campaign, and this is no exception.

 

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

 

Do you really need to be on Facebook?

A friend recently asked me why a small business needs a social media presence. The first question is whether a small business needs a social media presence. The short answer is: it depends! More specifically, it depends on your marketing objectives and target audience. Let’s discuss both.

The ultimate purpose of a marketing initiative is to influence consumer behavior in ways that accomplish your business goals. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Define your goals by listing the results you hope to accomplish. Desired results may include multiple objectives, including:

  • Business production
  • Brand awareness
  • Reduce marketing costs
  • Consumer education
  • Lead generation
  • Establish expertise
  • Specific promotions

New business production is often difficult to achieve using any strategy. I have spoken with many professionals who do not view social media as a source of new customers. That mirrors my experience. To be fair, I have not found the traditional web a meaningful source new business either. I believe that having a website is now a prerequisite for credibility. I suspect it is often true of Facebook and other social media sites as well. On the other hand, I know insurance agents, tax specialists and social media vendors who generate significant business through social media.

Again, business production is only one of many marketing goals. I recently spoke with an account executive at a major brokerage. He wants to increase his Internet footprint. His assumption is that the odds of a prospect becoming a client are proportional to the number of hits when they search his name. The broker wanted to know how many hits “CFO America” generates. The answer was 7.7 million. While nine of the first 10 were my company, many were not. However, if only 1% is, it far exceeds several regional and national competitors. That exposure results from an extensive social media effort. It is also consistent with an April 2010 survey by Michael Stelzner of SocialMediaExaminer.com. He found 85% of participants reported social media generated exposure for their business.

Two other marketing goals supported by social media are search engine results and cost reduction. I spent $10,000 developing a traditional website. I was promised a “top 3” ranking for the phrase “fractional CFO.” While it accomplished its goal, I am still waiting for the phone to ring! Very few people search that phrase, largely because they do not know what it means.

Could I have used social media to boost search rankings and save money? The Stelzner survey found 54% of participants thought social media marketing improved their search rankings. It also found 48% experienced marketing expense reductions. I am now using blogging, Facebook, Twitter and other sites to educate the small business community on what a fractional CFO is and how it can benefit them. Since I cannot afford a national print media campaign, this is the only way I know of to accomplish my goal.

The second area to explore in evaluating the need for a social media presence is your target market. The question to ask is where potential customers turn (Internet, newspaper, Yellow Pages, etc.) to learn about your products or services, and businesses that offer them. The answer is largely dependent on customer demographics like age, education, income level, gender and so on. The statistics are easily summarized. If your marketing “sweet spot” lies in young, educated, and/or high-income consumers, you need social media. Using Facebook’s active U.S. users as a proxy for all of social media, 80% are under age 45, 66% have at least some college education, and 67% have incomes over $50,000. U.S. active Facebook users (like many social media sites) exhibit a bias in favor of women. However, on a worldwide basis, Facebook has slightly more men than women. Visit www.alexa.com to find matches for your target market.

Does your business need a social media presence?

That is a key marketing question, one you must ultimately decide on your own. I hope you will base your decision on an objective analysis of your marketing goals and target audience. I now end by confessing the obvious. I love social media marketing! I am excited about the possibilities it offers small and medium-sized businesses to communicate their message across a wide spectrum of prospects. Having said that, it is difficult to conceive of goals and audience demographics that are not supported by social media marketing. It is impossible to conceive of a more cost-effective strategy.

Do You Like Me?

Sally Field’s acceptance of the 1984 Oscar for Places in the Heart is a classic among awards ceremony speeches. It included the emotional proclamation, “You like me, right now, you like me!” In a nutshell, all-grownup Gidget was bemoaning that she “didn’t feel the love” when she won her previous Oscar in 1979. Had Ms. Field given that speech today, at least 750 million of us would immediately assume she was somehow referring to her Facebook Fan page.

A Facebook “like” immediately reflects on that person’s page and exposes your product or service to their contacts. Your Facebook fans are essentially providing free advertising and their personal endorsement.

The  simple act of clicking a button also allows fans to post comments on your site unless blocked by your security settings.

Social media experts pay a lot of attention to Facebook likes and the characteristics of typical Facebook fans. For example, studies show that while the average Facebook user has about 130 friends, “likers” average closer to 300. They are 5 times more likely to click on external links. A study by media consultant Syncapse found that Facebook fans spend $71.84 more per year on brands than non-fans. Additionally, they are 28% more likely to continue using that brand.

The net result of all this is that an entire cottage industry has sprung up around helping small businesses increase their Facebook likes. As an internationally recognized champion of low-cost marketing alternatives (a slight exaggeration, but I sure hate spending money unnecessarily), regular readers know how I feel about that!

Therefore, I thought I would share a simple way of generating likes and page views without spending scarce marketing resources. Here it is:

Using your Facebook business account, like popular national or local Fan pages. Then post supportive comments about their product or service. A little light humor will probably attract additional attention. However, avoid posting a blatant advertisement for your Facebook page.

Let me give you a specific example of this tactic in action. This morning I posted, “We’ll be opening our first Diet Cokes long before Dallas thermometers top 100 for the 26th straight day today!” on Coke-Cola’s Fan page.

For a brief period (until pushed off-screen by newer comments), any of Coke’s 32.9 million fans who visited their site saw my innocuous comment, along with CFO America’s logo. Curious viewers could then click the logo to go to http://www.facebook.com/CFOAmerica, exactly where I want them!

You can find a list of the top Facebook Fan pages at http://statistics.allfacebook.com/pages. There are currently 27 sites with over 25 million fans each. There are almost 2,900 pages with 1 million or more fans. Most will allow you to comment on their posts. Some will allow you to post your own comment. Those Fan pages are marketing gold mines!

Over the past month, I have posted similar comments on Fan pages of local amusement parks, restaurants, hotels and so on. Since I began this tactic, new likes have increased 420% and active users (defined as the number of people who have viewed or interacted with my page) 43%. The following graph shows user activity over a two-week period. Notice the activity on July 19, a day when I was especially active in my posting efforts.

As the 17th century proverb said, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Have a great weekend, and we’ll meet again on Monday.

What to do When Life Hands You Lemmings

Apple introduced the Macintosh personal computer in a third quarter television commercial during Super Bowl XLIII in January 1984. Playing off a George Orwell 1984 theme, it featured rows of uniformed, colorless drones. They sat mesmerized, watching as Big Brother dribbled propaganda on a large movie screen. Suddenly, a female runner chased by storm troopers entered the room. She hurled a sledgehammer against the screen, which explodes. The commercial ended with the statement, “You’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

That commercial has been voted the best Super Bowl commercial of all time. Always stick with what works, right?

The following year, Apple decided to use Super Bowl XIX to introduce Macintosh Office. This commercial featured a long line of blindfolded business people marching across a dusty, forbidding terrain. Their only source of guidance is their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them. One-by-one, they walk off a cliff. It has been dubbed the “Lemmings commercial” and is widely considered the worse commercial in Super Bowl history. Apple did not advertise during the Super Bowl for the next 14 years.

Have you ever had a Lemmings-like marketing experience, one whose cost was exceeded only by its complete failure to accomplish its intended purpose? Sadly, I have! I spent $10,000 developing a traditional website in the hope it would soon have my phone “ringing off the hook” with eager prospects. The vendor guaranteed a “top 3” ranking for the phrase “fractional CFO.” While it accomplished that goal, I am still waiting for the phone to ring! Very few people search that phrase, largely because they do not know what it means.

I gained three things from my personal Lemmings experience. Allow me to now swallow my pride and share the lessons learned.

1. Cut your losses!

Ego has no place in rational business decisions. Admit your mistakes, save what is left of your limited marketing budget and move on! I compounded my mistake by continuing to pay the vendor $60 a month to host the site. They provided no marketing support, no analytical data or anything to justify an additional fee. I eventually moved the site to JustHost.com, a vendor that for a low annual fee provides unlimited email and website hosting. Since I already had an account, I saved $720 per year.

2. Reevaluate your marketing goals and the tactics to achieve them.

My initial hope (it was far too naive to qualify as a goal) was that if I simply created a website, my target market would flock to it and contact me. I now realize it is unlikely businesses will retain executive management consultants solely from online relationships. That is not to say that the website cannot serve a valuable role in my marketing strategy. However, it cannot serve as the primary strategy for new business production. One of my goals is now to move promising online relationships offline. In other words, to make personal connections over a cup of coffee or phone calls. I also learned the need to help educate the business community on the existence, purpose and value of fractional CFOs. My tactics include extensive networking and event-based marketing.

3. Salvage some value from your missteps.

I grew up playing in my family’s auto recycling business (o.k., junkyard if my brother is reading this). I learned the importance of salvaging maximum value from every opportunity. In the case of my misspent marketing funds, I have uploaded the site’s video (half of its cost) to YouTube, where it may increase my Internet footprint and contribute toward my goal of consumer education. As previously mentioned, I also transferred the website to another hosting service. While this may or may not help increase brand awareness and establish my expertise, it is now essentially free!

Let me close with some simple but very practical advice. To err is human. To learn from your mistakes is good business!

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

The Horse Comes Before the Cart, Part 2

This week I am discussing the important topic of determining your marketing strategies within the context of a comprehensive plan. Launching a marketing campaign (even if it does not involve any hard costs) without a plan is “putting the cart before the horse.” On Monday, I presented a framework for constructing your marketing plan. It begins with defining your goals. Today I will share additional thoughts on clarifying your goals and the tactics to accomplish them.

3. Consider financial and non-monetary objectives. Examples of non-monetary objectives include things like closing percentages, page hits and customer traffic patterns. Be specific! A goal of increasing sales is neither constructive nor measurable. A goal of increasing sales 5% per month for the next six months through a combination of a 4% increase in customer count and a $17 increase in average dollars per sale is.

4. Business goals are rarely accomplished in a straight linear fashion. For example, a 24% annual sales increase is not going to come in equal increments of 2% every month. Your marketing strategies are going to take time to produce results. They are affected by existing sales patterns and seasonality that every business experiences. Establish a realistic timeframe for each goal, with appropriate interim benchmarks to measure short-term progress toward long-term goals. That allows you to take timely corrective action or adjust goals as needed.

5. As you define goals and timeframes and the strategies and tactics to accomplish them, be aware of conflicting goals. Here is a simple example. What is the first thing most retailers do when they want to increase revenue? They hold a sale. In other words, they cut prices! Obviously, the hope is that increased customer traffic will more than offset the lower prices. However, it is still a conflict. Here is another example. Assume you want to increase the average customer purchase in your shoe store from $58 to $75. You therefore introduce a new line with a higher price point. Most customers are only going to buy one or two pairs of shoes. Therefore, while revenue from the new line will go up, sales of cheaper lines will probably go down. Conflicts are not necessary bad, and are often unavoidable. My only point is you need to look at the whole picture. Recognize and manage conflicting goals in your market plan.

6. Specify the purpose or desired result of every marketing tactic. In other words, what action do you hope clients or prospects will take because of a marketing initiative? Your definition of purpose establishes the basis of measurement and encourages accountability. The desired result may include multiple objectives, including the following:

  • Business production
  • Generate new leads
  • Brand awareness
  • Introduce a new product or service
  • Advertise a specific sale or promotion
  • Establish your expertise
  • Increase customer traffic
  • Consumer education

7. Tactics rarely operate in a vacuum. You can sometimes leverage one against another. For example, relationships developed online can be taken offline. A social media connection is a far better sales prospect if you subsequently call or meet face-to-face. Similarly, you might precede a direct mail campaign with a subject matter media blitz via article marketing, blogging, email newsletters, press releases and so on.

I will conclude this topic on Friday, when I will discuss step 4 of your market planning process, monitoring costs and results.

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

The Horse Comes Before the Cart

 

 

 

 

 

 

I advocate a simple twelve-word marketing strategy. Communicate one message, promoting one brand, touching multiple audiences at no cost. It is made possible by an abundance of free and low-cost tools that afford simultaneous experimentation in multiple channels. However, successful implementation presupposes you first established a comprehensive marketing plan.

Your marketing plan will be our subject matter for the entire week. Today I will present a planning framework and discuss the importance of goal setting.

Diving into a marketing campaign without first having a plan is analogous to the old phrase “putting the cart before the horse.” You are vulnerable to what Gordon Andrew of Highlander Consulting calls tactical soup. He defines the phrase as “getting bogged down in a flurry of marketing activity without placing enough emphasis on how it will generate revenue and profitability.”

Describing a complete marking plan is beyond the scope of this document. However, I will discuss some basic elements of your plan. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind.

  1. Constructing a marketing plan is not a “once and done” task. It is a continuous process, as illustrated by the 5-step diagram at the top of today’s article.
  2. The first requirement of a plan is to define your goals, preferably in writing. Let me return to my horse analogy for a moment. Can you image a race where the jockeys did not know where the finish line was? The situation would quickly become chaotic. Horses would run into each other as jockeys individually decided which direction was best. It may sound like a ridiculous example, but it is no different than running a business without a clear direction. Just like a race, knowing where the finish line is and staying focused on it is critical to success. Goals provide us with that direction. As Zig Ziglar says, “A goal, properly set is halfway reached.”

The ultimate purpose of marketing is to influence consumer behavior in ways that accomplish your goals. What exactly do you want to accomplish? A logical place to start defining your goals is by answering a series of questions. They include areas like:

  • How many new clients do you need; how many can you currently accommodate?
  • How will increased sales affect your cost structure? For example, will you need to hire more sales associates or increase inventory levels?
  • What is your target revenue per new client?
  • What is the minimum revenue per client that you can profitably accommodate?
  • How would you describe your target customers in terms of key demographics like age, gender, location, education, income level, professional profile and so on?
  • Who is the ultimate decision maker in target organizations?
  • Where are potential customers likely to turn (Internet, newspaper, Yellow Pages, etc.) to learn about your products or services and to find businesses that provide them?

Finally, today’s picture features my wife Shelley and me standing next to a horse in Central Park. Send me your favorite horse pictures and I will select one for Wednesday and Friday’s blog posts. Email your pictures to support@CFOAmerica.net.

On Wednesday, I will continue this topic with some suggestions to help you establish interim goals and the tactics to accomplish them.

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

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