Review & Regroup for 2013

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As we approach the end of 2012, it is time to review the year’s business successes, challenges and (dare I say it?) failures. If we want to make a difference to the growth opportunities we have available in 2013, then it is critical that we evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and where we didn’t pursue opportunities that we should have. From that assessment, we can develop a more informed plan for the coming year that will be more likely to succeed than a plan made from hopes, dreams and wishes.

So, let’s get out the old 2012 business and marketing plans. Oh, oh…Never got around to putting those plans down on paper? Well, here’s your first lesson for 2013, put together a written business and marketing plan now for next year.

Or, did you develop those plans, print them out and then shove them in a file folder never to be looked at again? This is also a problem – your marketing plan, especially, is a living document that needs to be reviewed at least on a quarterly basis. You may need to make adjustments to it as you see how successfully you’ve put into action certain parts of it, or possibly tweak it to adjust for changes in the economic climate or an unexpected opportunity or threat to your business. Lesson learned for next year’s plan!

So, let’s assume that you have a written plan, that you’ve worked that plan over the course of the last year, made adjustments to it as necessary and are now ready to use that plan as a base for next year’s plan. Let’s go:

  1. Complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis to determine what may have changed within your business as well as with the  environment in which you conduct business.
  2. Confirm that your target market(s) remain the same.
  3. Look  at what new marketing tactics and tools are available that were not before, or that you didn’t have the resources to take advantage of in prior years.
  4. Review  your financials to see how where your marketing activities need to be strengthened to boost your bottom line.
  5. Based  on the results of 1 – 4 above, review this year’s plan to see if any of  the goals are still relevant for next year. If yes, then carry them over to the new marketing plan, making the necessary adjustments to the expectations, timeline and strategies.
  6. Determine what your new goals are for the coming year – remember to make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Yes, it is a somewhat simplified version of what is involved in putting together a successful marketing plan, but, if you complete the basic steps (as outlined above), then work the plan throughout the coming year, you will see positive business growth as a result.

Target Market vs. Referral Source

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This is the season for me to be developing marketing plans for many of my existing clients. What I have noticed over the many years I’ve been doing this is that there is often confusion between the terms “target market” and “referral source.” In order to market correctly, these two terms must be clearly understood, so here goes…

Target market: the group of current and potential customers that are/will be your “best” customers and on whom you should concentrate your marketing efforts. There are different ways to define what a “best” customer looks like. It can be based on: total revenues within a given period of time, how many times the customer returns, how many referrals that customer gives you that result in new business, how often a customer completes a desired call-to-action. Although usually defined by revenues, if you decide that your “best” customers are all 5′ 6″ women with pink hair who eat grapes every Tuesday, then that is your target market, strange as it may seem to other people. Target markets are generally defined by demographic and/or psychographic similarities that allow you to put seemingly disparate people into a cohesive group that makes sense to your business model.

Referral source: the type of people who are the link between you and your target market. Although marketing directly to your primary target market is the most efficient way to go, sometimes it is difficult to find the people who fit your target market profile. In these cases, it is imperative to determine what the best profile is for people who can refer you to your target market. For instance, mental health professionals can’t generally find a direct way to appeal to their target market – people in need of these services generally don’t fall into some type of specific demographic that can be found on a  mailing list provider. In order to reach these people, it is becomes necessary to develop relationships with (market to) the people who can make a referral when a need is seen. In the case of mental health professionals, their best marketing outreach is to physicians, the clergy, other mental health professionals with a different specialty, school counselors, human resource managers, etc…. These are the people who come into contact with individuals who are asking for help or show indications of needing help and then need qualified, reputable, trustworthy counselors to refer to.

You may find that you can effectively grow your business by identifying both your primary target market and your primary referral sources and then marketing to both. You will need to keep in mind that the message may need to be tweaked, or completely differentiated, for each of these groups.

Breaking My Own Rule

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So I’m looking over previous posts and it looks like I haven’t made a blog entry since the last week of August. OK, that’s the nice way of putting it – the reality is that I’ve fallen down on my rear-end and failed to do what I urge, encourage, coax, and harangue my clients to do: be consistent!

Yes, I’ve been very busy. Between getting the kids back to school (it doesn’t help that they go to two different schools that started two weeks apart), being sick, and going into our busiest time of the year (last four months are crazy with business holiday gift orders, marketing plan development for 2013, marketing audits for 2012, planning trade show exhibits, marketing seminars, Holiday Tastings and Gift Events,  and marketing for the first quarter of 2013 –  and that’s just for our clients; we still have to do all that for ourselves, too).

Still, a big part of marketing is consistency. And didn’t I write an entry a while back about walking the walk, not just talking the talk? Oh, boy…

Well, I’m back and, busy or not, going back to making my weekly blog entries a part of my regular routine.

I can’t promise that I won’t miss one here or there. Life does get in the way of your to-do list sometimes, but consistency is, after all, a key component to the marketing effort. Or so I keep telling people!