**The author of this guest blog post, Ally Piper is offering you a free gift, which you’ll find at the bottom of this post.
Guest Post by Ally Piper of Marketing in Bloom
With the New Year right around the corner, now is the perfect time to pause and dedicate some serious time to planning your business’ marketing strategies for 2011. Setting aside time at year-end is not optional for business owners, it’s critical to your success.
Don’t fall into this trap:
As a former marketing director for small businesses and nonprofits I’ve helped companies get noticed. The one element most of these companies were missing before we started working together was a marketing plan. They had a lot of great ideas, but no clear direction. They relied on the salesperson standing in front of them at the time for expert advice. The result was a yellow page ad here, an abandoned newsletter or blog there, and a website built by their nephew as a school project in the early 90s.
They lacked direction and goals but most importantly they lacked an understanding of what connects with their target market.
The key is to plan:
Your marketing plan is your roadmap to success. It is the foundation for good business. The marketing planning process forces business owners and their teams to critically review their business. As counterintuitive as this sounds, proper planning actually allows for increased flexibility. If you are in-tune with your business and how it is positioned in the marketplace, you’re much more likely to be able to change gears and make big changes because you have taken time to lay a foundation that will support it.
5 steps to build the plan that will get you noticed:
Through my experience working with small businesses and nonprofits, I’ve developed a 5-step system to help business owners build their marketing plan. In fact, I go into much further depth about the process during my Marketing Plan Bootcamp that launches January 11, 2011, but I’d like to share the fundamentals of these steps with you here:
Ground work: Set Your Direction and Goals
Building your marketing plan is all about diving into your business. The first exercise I complete during any marketing planning session is to brainstorm. I suggest scheduling time outside your office and away from distractions to get all your promotional ideas on paper. No self-editing during this process, so keep everything you think of regardless if the ideas are good, bad, or expensive. Also, set goals for your business that meet the S.M.A.R.T. test: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Prepping the Soil: Determine What Makes You Different
Understanding where your business stands in the marketplace is critical to identifying opportunities for growth. You must get to know your ideal customers and why they select you over your competition. Take time to get clear on what you offer and your unique selling proposition.
Package Your Seeds: Position Yourself (and Your Brand) for Success
Your marketing must compliment your branding. It’s extremely difficult to effectively market a business that does not have a strong brand identity. Consistency is key when you are branding your company and a brand style guide may be the best investment you ever make.
Your Marketing Garden: Build the Plan that Gets You Noticed
With your background work complete, it is time to start using the information you have gathered to make tough decisions about which marketing tactics are best for your business. Not every marketing tactic available works for every business. Think back to what you have learned about your target market. For example, if you are marketing to female gardeners you most likely will not see the best return on investment if you advertise on a radio station that plays hard rock. Don’t forget to add on- and off-line tactics to your marketing plan—an integrated marketing plan is always the best.
Watering & Weeding: Put Your Plan into Action
Once you have established your big picture plan and promotional activities, it is time to create an action plan that is workable so that you continue checking items off as you move down the task list. As I said before, the benefit of planning is flexibility. A marketer’s job is never finished; it is an ongoing and evolving process. Be flexible and allow things to change as opportunities arise.
There is never a bad time to start planning. But the New Year does afford a perfect opportunity to start fresh. With that in mind, I will be hosting a special, free week-long telesummit called Your Brand in Bloom January 3 – 7, 2011, and you are invited to attend. I’ve gathered nine experts including Sumèr’s Michelle Salater, to share their knowledge on how to create the life you want, the business that supports it, and thrive.
My special gift to YOU:
As a special treat for readers of Copy Doodle, I’d like to offer you a $50 discount off my Marketing Plan Bootcamp when you purchase the bootcamp before the end of the year using the following coupon code: EarlyBird10
If you don’t purchase before the end of the year you may purchase the bootcamp throughout January using the same coupon code, the only difference is that your discount will be smaller.
About Ally Piper and Marketing in Bloom:
Ally Piper works with small business owners and managers to turn napkin notes into marketing plans and bring big picture marketing into focus with achievable steps and results. She sharpened her integrated marketing skills and became an expert at doing more with less while working at nonprofit organizations in agriculture, the arts, and higher education. As the President of Brighteyes Creative, a boutique marketing communications firm, Ally has helped clients with all their marketing needs, from public relations to advertising, design to website development, and everything in between. With many clients, she’s acted as an in-house marketing director.
Now as a Marketing Advisor at Marketing in Bloom, Ally has found her true passion: to help the do-it-yourself marketer. She has watched too many small business owners rely on just one or two outdated or ineffective marketing techniques due to lack of guidance —they’ve never learned any other way. And out of this desire to help, she’s created a marketing company that actually listens to small business owners and offers practical solutions they can implement themselves. Learn more about how to cut through the information clutter and create successful business at https://www.marketinginbloom.com.
**Check out Ally’s guest post on The Branding Spot.