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A Marketing Cookbook for Entrepreneurs

A Marketing Cookbook for Entrepreneurs

If you answered ‘no’ to these, you’re not alone.

Experience tells me that most entrepreneurs simply don’t see marketing as a line item that needs to be taken as seriously as, say, their annual equipment or supply budget, and that’s a mistake. In over 20 years of working in this industry, I’ve confirmed that most entrepreneurs see marketing as an afterthought or a “necessary evil.” Worse, many haven’t mined the data right in front of them that could give them a blueprint for how to market to their best prospects.

For example, do you know how you’re getting new clients? If you do, do you track it? It could be as simple as your office manager asking a new client how they heard about you and entering that into a spreadsheet that you can monitor periodically. If they say they were referred by someone, put more energy and focus into developing your referral base, perhaps by sending a handwritten note thanking that person and asking for more. Did the client see an article on you? Increase your visibility in the community by volunteering for a non-profit or by sponsoring a charitable event. Did they see your ad in the newspaper? Consider increasing your frequency in print (but not the size!).

The bottom line is to find the marketing horse that’s winning and put more of your dollars there, because knowing is better than guessing. And how do you know? By testing. Put a plan and budget together that includes testing different media at different times of the year. Measure and track the response relentlessly. Cross media is best. In other words, do two or more media at the same time. That way, one reinforces the other.

Here’s a simple cookbook for establishing a marketing program:

1. Define your target market(s).
It’s the one thing that surprises me the most: how many companies don’t even know their target demographic. What’s the profile of your ideal client? What percentage are men? What percentage are women? … Over 40? Under 40? High net worth? Middle class? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? At minimum, use the internet to do some research. Study what your competitors are doing. In some cases, you’ll want to hire a professional research firm to do a study for you. Proper research done now can save you literally thousands down the road in dollars wasted on marketing to the wrong people.

2. Define your strategy.
Get out a big sheet of paper and do some “free association” of every thought you have about marketing your company. One word will inspire another word and so forth. Soon, you will have a collection of thoughts that can help you to frame a strategy for reaching your best prospects. A written strategy not only gives you a blueprint for success, it also helps you to measure how you’re doing as you begin to execute it. But don’t get stalled out by thinking that it has to be elaborate. Do a one-page summary.

3. Choose your tools.
Many of the best marketing tools are absolutely free (i.e., public relations). Then, there’s paid media: print, broadcast, direct mail, outdoor, the Web. Persistence and patience is where most have trouble. They quit marketing before they get traction, and there’s just too much to do. Though you can wear many hats, you can’t wear all of them. That’s where a professional can help. Hire a marketing communications firm that is willing to partner in your success. Focus on what you’re good at (taking care of your clients), and let them focus on what they’re good at (building your business using the right tools).

Far from being a necessary evil, marketing in its highest form is an opportunity to help your company connect with your ideal clients. If you do it correctly, including a bit of research and testing so you know how they want to receive your message, clients will indeed be grateful to you for leading them to your company through smart and strategic marketing.