Formulating the perfect marketing plan

By jessicacoenen

Relief Health Services


A marketing plan is one of the most powerful strategic plans a business owner can possess. Your marketing plan should be a simple (in some cases, one-page) document that specifically answers who you are, what you do, who needs what you do and how you plan to attract their attention. It's a combination of the planning process and the completed action plan.

Follow these simple steps to build the perfect marketing plan:

Identify your client base. Think of your product and the purpose it serves. Then decide who needs this service the most, realizing that anyone who needs your product is a potential client.

Position your business. Figure out what you do best and what your target market wants. Maybe it's the way you serve a niche or package your products. Craft a core marketing message that allows you to quickly differentiate your business.

Know your products. Study your products well to reduce the chance a prospect will ask you a question that you can't answer.

Contact all of your potential clients. Do not judge a book by its cover or a potential sale by the enthusiasm or number of questions asked by the client. If you have 40 leads, don't assume that the best 20 are the only ones to call. The least likely 20 can also result in sales. Follow up all of your leads and you'll be pleasantly surprised where you will find sales.

Educate. Recreate all your marketing materials, including your website, to focus on education. Make certain every word in your marketing material speaks of your core messages and to your target market.

Grab interest. Make sure all your advertising is geared toward creating prospects, not customers. You must find ways to educate before you sell. Your target market needs to see how you provide value in a way that makes them want to pay a premium for your services or products. You simply can't do this in a three-inch by four-inch advertisement; your ad must get viewers to ask for more information, then you can proceed to selling. Determine all the ways you can get your education-based messages in front of your narrowly defined target market.

Earn media attention. Create a list of journalists who cover your industry or community and build relationships with each by becoming a reliable source of information. Plan out an entire year of new items you can promote by season or event.

Expect referrals. Create a referral marketing engine that systematically turns each client and referral network into a kind of unpaid sales pro. You must instill a referral marketing mind-set into your business's culture. Do this by making every customer a marketing and referral contact. Map every contact and build processes that focus on referrals.

Ask the right questions at the right times. The questions you ask during a presentation will build the answer to your last question -- is it a deal?

Here are some questions you should avoid:
    1) How's business? This is a lazy question, especially given the economy. What you really want to know is, "In what areas has the economy impacted you the most?" That question shows you already understand their situation and want to find out where you can help with your company's product or solution.

    2) Is there anyone else I should see? Yes, but you're not going to do so. You have to get the person you're speaking with on board as your partner first. Then you can ask, "In addition to you, who else makes up the decision team?"

    3) Should I leave this information with you? Never ask this question. Declare the value of the information you have prepared and demonstrate how it addresses a solution to their problems. Present it as a gift for your potential client, something you know they need and don't have already. "These three sheets outline our conversation and pinpoint the true value of our partnership as we maneuver through these tough times together."

    4) Who should I follow up with? You're kidding, right? Why give up control? Always recommend the next step in the process, even if the client rejects it. Present who you believe the next meeting ought to be with and why this is important, reinforcing the primary goal your client articulated at your meeting in the process.
Know when to follow up. Calling and or e-mailing daily to follow-up with a potential customer probably will put you on their "avoid" list, and waiting a few months to contact will likely have them scratching their heads to remember who you are. You need to strike while the iron is hot and then time your continued follow-ups appropriately. Good sales follow-ups mean a happy medium where you are neither annoying nor invisible.

Keep your leads, even if they seem uninterested. After making the contact and establishing an initial relationship, you should do your own follow-up. Handing your leads over to someone else means establishing the relationship all over again and losing any rapport a customer may have established with you. Since making a sale often results from building a relationship, shifting that relationship to someone else typically sours the deal.

Listen to your client. When you call a prospect and ask about her husband, forgetting that she's recently widowed, you can write off that sale immediately. Listening during your first meeting and again during follow-ups helps to establish a relationship with a client that can lead to a sale. Far too often, sales are lost because the salesperson keeps on selling without acknowledging the specific needs of the potential buyer. Listen and learn. Does a prospect respond more favorably to e-mail or phone calls? Then plan accordingly.

Live by a calendar. Determine what you need to do to put your goals into action. Then create an annual marketing calendar, noting the required monthly, weekly and daily appointments necessary to move your plan forward.

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