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Power Up Your Marketing Plan

Recessions are times when smart marketing can put you ahead of your competition.

C. Marie Swift, 09/10/2009

New technology tools are being introduced into the marketplace at a frenetic rate, each promising to be a magic bullet. While I do think that using Web 2.0 and social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Ning (or other online discussion groups), Twitter, blogs, and digital multimedia communications can help you build a following, it is easy to get distracted by all the hype about new social-media tools.

Are you abandoning the basics while trying to keep up with all the new bells and whistles? You are in a relationship-building business. Technology is a tool. It cannot replace human contact, so don't forget to include some of the old fashioned touches in your marketing plan.

The truth is, you need a well-synchronized plan with elements of PR, marketing, and sales integrated into the mix. Building your reputation by being visible in the right circles of people and publications is important, but that is a long-term public relations strategy that--especially in today's more challenging times--must be supplemented by several short-term direct-marketing and direct-sales tactics to maximize opportunities and create a strong public presence.

The trouble with trying to "do it all" is, of course, time and money.  The name of the game is maximizing your results with the least amount of marketing effort and expense.  As a planner, it should not surprise you to hear me say that one of the most effective things you can do with your time is to reflect and plan before taking action. Planning will also save you money.

I know you are all working longer and harder than ever, but don't neglect your planning time and your overall marketing plan. As we round the corner and cast an eye toward the new year, now is an ideal time to revisit your plan and make sure that you are optimizing ever success factor you can.

Here's how to start:
1: Make a list of your top 10 clients and jot down how you acquired their business. Are there any patterns? Is there one recurring referral source? Many referral sources?

2: Identify the ingredients to your success. Has there been a particular recipe you followed? Have there been shifts in any key ingredients, such as budget, that would require a change in strategy? Have you stopped doing something that has served you well in the past?

Hint: Maintain these notes, along with your formal marketing plan, in a three-ring binder designated specifically for this purpose. Replace the pages as new insights and opportunities arise. Add some lined "notes pages" to each tabbed section. When you have a new thought, add it to the notes page or jot it down in the margin of the printed plan.

3: Review and update your annual marketing plan quarterly. Planning quarterly marketing campaigns will give your prospecting efforts added focus. A disciplined approach will yield greater results. Instead of simply reacting to opportunities to sponsor an event or advertise a single time in a publication, planning will allow you to assign a certain budget and scope to your marketing efforts and yield greater results.

4: Notice what's working and continue doing it even after your pipeline is full. The best time to market is when you don't need the business. Recessions are times when smart marketing can put you ahead of your competition. Test and adjust your recipe as needed.

5: Make a habit of asking for referrals. This can be the purpose of your next communication to clients. Before you send another e-mail, pick up the phone and set an appointment to see a client and thank them for their business. While everyone else is overusing electronic communications, you can stand out by being more personally involved.

In a companion article, I will discuss Creating a five-touch marketing campaign. To be ready for that five-touch planning, I strongly encourage you to carve out the time needed to complete the exercises outlined above. Find a quiet morning to reflect and write down your thoughts.

Recessions are times when smart marketing can put you ahead of your competition. Now is the time to review and improve your marketing plan. Planning always pays off.

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