Waste Not, Want Not – Time for a Plan

Posted by on October 16, 2008 in Internet Marketing, Marketing [ 0 Comments ]

These are difficult economic times that send shivers down the most optimistic entrepreneur’s spine, but there is a silver lining. It is during difficult financial times that the smartest, forward thinking companies rise to the top. The biggest challenge is to survive and the best way to do so is with a good plan.

Often times as sales decrease, the first thing companies cut is their marketing budgets, but in order to maintain or increase sales, it is important to have a strong market presence – keeping your company’s product or service out there and top of mind. That said it is possible to cut back on costs and increase outreach by developing a smart marketing strategy. Just having a good plan can save time, design and printing costs and cut down on waste.

For many a marketing plan may seem overwhelming or unnecessary. For some, when sales really slow, they feel a need just to do something; an ad or a direct mail piece, or some other marketing opportunity – taking a shot gun approach and hoping to hit something. In the end, this approach can be costly and ineffective. So make a plan, it can always be changed if it is not working. Here are some steps to make the process simpler:

To begin, first determine a marketing budget for the year. Depending on the profit margin of your product and service 2% – 5% of gross forecasted sales should be a minimum budget. If you have a high profit margin, you could increase that percentage a bit. If you do not have forecasted sales numbers, focus on a sales goal for the year.

Next, once you have that budget number, begin to divide up the amount by your marketing tactics. I recommend the following tools – collateral, web site, electronic and print advertising, direct mail, events, etc. When looking at these options, also keep in mind your target market and the mediums they respond to the best. Be sure you have a mix of tactics to ensure a solid “cross-media” strategy. If you find your budget is too tight to do all the items you would like, shift more of your budget to areas that offer a higher return on investment or allocate more of your budget to specific times of year which historically have provided better response rates. Build in a mechanism to track response to your marketing efforts. Web and e-marketing will have analytics built in, but just always asking, “How Did You Hear About Us?” is valuable information.

One tactic that should be included as a component in your marketing plan is a loyalty program. During a time when everyone will be reviewing their spending, customer loyalty is very important. It is easier and less costly to keep a customer than to get a new one. Service is a big part of loyalty, but special programs, deals and communication to your “regulars” will go a long way in keeping them. Plus, they will be the best source of referrals and viral marketing.

Finally, remember to review your plan throughout the year. Re-evalutate, look at actual sales vs. forecasted sales and adjust your budget numbers appropriately. Also, you should check to make sure you are getting the greatest return on investment (ROI) for each tactic you use. When one tactic out performs another, than you should shift dollars to increase the effectiveness, cutting out what does not work. Marketing methods are always changing, new markets open up, and technology is playing a greater role every day so try some new things too! Good luck.

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