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

Bull Horns in Cyberspace, Part 1

Last Friday CFO America’s blog began with the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a noise?” It concluded by assuring readers that falling tress always make noise. That got me thinking about things we can do to make noise, or rather what we can do to attract attention to our blogs. It also caused me to reflect on some of the mistakes I have made over the past six months (listen to me, the battle-hardened veteran) as a blogger.

Today I will present Part 1 of a two-part article on this topic. Here are my thoughts for today:

1. Pick a schedule and stick to it! The correct blogging frequency is whatever best helps you connect with your target audience. For some blogs that may be daily, for others once a month. Unfortunately, this is not a variable that invites experimentation. Fortunately, it is not so much a question of having the optimal blogging frequency. Simply commit to a schedule and tell your readers when to expect new posts. While most bloggers enjoy writing, too great a frequency can be grueling. I blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, something I have done faithfully except for a handful of holidays. As you gain followers, do not confuse or disappoint them by not keeping your commitment. Here are a few thoughts to help ease the burden of your commitment.

  • Consider using guest writers periodically. That way your readers are treated to different areas of expertise and points of view. It is also a great way to support your friends and network contacts. Hopefully, they will reciprocate and share some of your articles on their website, further extending your reach through cyberspace.
  • Instead of your usual topics or content, occasionally supplement your original writing by sharing (with appropriate attribution) relevant quotes, historical notes, articles and tips written by others. You might also ask readers to suggest topics.
  • Do not give up too quickly. As I said on Friday, Fred Campos of FunCitySocialMedia believes it takes about 100 posts before you begin to build a following. Many bloggers become discouraged and give up before reaching that milestone.

2. Keep posts short, preferably under 600 words. I say this for three reasons.

  • First, readers are looking for “McNuggets” of actionable information, not the English translation of War and Peace.
  • Secondly, the average American adult reads 250 to 300 words per minute. Numerous studies suggest that over 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. I should add that the average time spent on CFO America’s blog is three minutes and nine seconds, an unusually long time, but one for which I am grateful!
  • I began blogging by posting excerpts from my book, Highly Visible Marketing, 115 Low-cost Ways to Avoid Market Obscurity. By making blog entries too long, I undoubtedly lost readers before the end of long articles. More importantly, I also ran through my previously written material too quickly. Save some your creative material for another day! A better alternative to lengthy articles is to split them into multiple parts, posting them in consecutive entries. I begin with a brief review of what was discussed in the previous blog, and end by telling readers what to expect in the next entry.

Let me now practice what I preach by ending for today. On Friday, I will present Part 2 of On Bull Horns in Cyberspace. It will discuss suggestions for defining your style and promoting your blog through other social media tools.

Until Friday, please continue to provide valuable feedback and share this information with your friends, coworkers and other associates. Why not add a comment below before leaving today?

 

 

You Are Not Alone!

There’s an old saying that asks, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a noise?” Bloggers might ask a similar question. “If I post something on my blog and no one responds, did anyone read it?”

I am reminded of a story I’ve previously shared. The 2009 movie Julie and Julia recounts the real life story of Julie Powell as portrayed by actress Amy Adams. It tells of Powell’s 2002 experience writing a daily blog of recipes from Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Powell’s personal commitment was to prepare and discuss 524 recipes in 365 days, all in her tiny apartment. Early on, the only feedback her blog received were critical comments from her mother. She had no idea whether anyone else was reading her content. After a few months, the blog slowly caught on. It eventually became a great American success story. Her posts were later compiled into her book, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. The book went become a best seller and the first of several books she has authored.

Fred Campos of FunCitySocialMedia assures me it takes about 100 posts before you begin to build a following for your blog. In his experience, the average blogger becomes discouraged and gives up long before their 100th post. While I have been unable to find any authoritative source to support Fred, Powell’s experience certainly seems to support him. So does mine.

I posted my first entry on http://www.CFOAmerica.biz December 31, 2010. As of today, I have made 89 entries to my blog, 76 of which have been extracts from my book Highly Visible Marketing – 115 Low-cost Ways to Avoid Market Obscurity. I received my first comment on January 9. It was in response to the December 31 post. At that moment, I knew exactly how Sally Fields felt as she walked up to accept her 1979 Oscar for Norma Rea screaming, “You like me! You Like me!”

Since then, I have received 82 other comments, an average of slightly less than 1 every other day. But I’ve noticed several interesting trends lurking just below the surface of the raw data. First, comments do not come evenly. Far from it! I’ve had two days, both in June, when I’ve received over 20 comments in a single day. In between, there have been weeks of deafening, ego-shattering silence.

Secondly, we lose sight of the fact that once launched into cyberspace, blog posts are “out there” forever. I am often surprised to see comments on blog entries posted weeks early. For example, just yesterday I received a comment on something I wrote on February 28, seventeen weeks ago.

So let me end with three final comments:

  1. First, falling trees always make noise, even if no one hears them. They are too powerful a force of nature to do otherwise.
  2. Therefore, STAY THE COURSE! If you believe in your message, then believe that people will benefit when (not if) they read it. Don’t give up when success might be just around the next bend in the road.
  3. Last and most important, to everyone who has been kind enough to share their thoughts and encouragement through comments on CFO America’s blog over the past six months, THANK YOU! Please continue to support us through your comments and by sharing our content with your friends and associates.

Have a safe and joyous Fourth of July holiday, as we celebrate our great nation’s independence from the tyranny of that was the crown. I am going to take the day off, but I’ll be back bright and early on Wednesday, July 6.

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