Elaborate marketing plans can be intimidating, and when things seem too complex or intimidating many small businesses tend to either ignore or postpone putting the necessary effort into moving forward strategically with their marketing efforts. I’ve referred to this in the past as This and That Marketing, it’s what most businesses do – “I’ll cover my bases and do a little of this and that and hope things work out”. But, marketing doesn’t need to be complicated if you have a simple marketing outline plan and keep moving forward on it. Here’s a simple exercise that will get you more focused and moving on your marketing efforts.
1) Take a sheet of paper and write down these three headings (with plenty of room for lists underneath); Invite People In, Make Them Comfortable, and Send Them On Their Way With More Than Expected. These are the Three Stages of Marketing.
2) Now (alone or with a group) brainstorm a list of 5-10 actions or ideas to put under each heading. How do you invite people into your business? What are some other ideas on advertising or actions you could try or ways you could better entice someone to visit or contact you? Make a similar list of actions and ideas under the other two category headings of making people comfortable and sending them on their way happy and satisfied.
3) Next, look through your lists and circle three actions in each category to make a priority to improve or implement.
No, you’re not done yet – marketing is always a process. Marketing is about relationships and relationships will always be fluid and require ongoing work and attention. Your list of nine action items (3, 3, and 3) will need reviews and updates every month, quarter and year. Some items will be dropped if the value or effort is not proven. Some items will remain if they are working, need repetition, or can be improved on. Some actions will remain but not be circled as they become proven effective but without continued front of line attention and action. And, some action items will be added to your marketing outline plan as new options arise for testing or review.
You may also want to create a second list more focused on repeat customers. The three stages of marketing is cyclical in nature so you should always be considering inviting people back in and reinforcing why they like and trust you. Again, marketing is about relationships, the work is never finished, not all relationships are the same and ultimately the grand prize is your customers helping you invite people in and making them comfortable with their word of mouth endorsements.
One final note as you create your 3-3-3 lists is to remember you are unique. Businesses succeed because they do (or have) something better or more unique than the other guys. So, don’t put action items on your list just because everyone else is doing it. Newspaper ads, Facebook, huge discount sales… do them because you know they are working and you are putting the necessary effort into making them work – not because everyone else does it or you hear you should do it.
The 3-3-3 exercise outlined above is about communicating what makes you unique, where you should put your focus (at this moment), testing, improving and strengthening relationships. In other words, a simple marketing plan. Of course there are budget, time and resource constraints that will come into play, but the idea is to have a written outline and to-do-list of what you are working on and where you are heading.