New businesses need a marketing plan

marketing graphic

Every few days one hears about the closing of a fairly recently opened business. Recently, I heard one of the owners of a just closed business attribute her restaurant’s demise to “poor marketing, we weren’t able to sustain staying open.” Other problems cited were delayed opening in December rather than in a more robust time of the year (as far as restaurant patronage goes, opening during the Thanksgiving – Christmas period is a terrible mistake) and a poor choice of name which gave mis-cues to the customer as to the restaurant’s concept.

Low budgets often blamed for lack of marketing

Every new business needs a marketing plan. Your marketing must start prior to your opening. But many small business owners feel that they are on short financial leashes and so jettison any marketing plan. But, I think many confuse marketing with advertising.

What marketing is

Marketing is a systematic approach to understanding and communicating relevant information about your products with your potential customer. It includes a messaging strategy often called a communications plan that encompasses public relations, social media, paid advertising, community relations and events. It may or may not include paid ad placement. Every new business plan must allocate resources to marketing your business. These resources are time and money.

Be where your customers are

As you begin to develop your marketing plan you must comprehend where and how your customers seek information about the category of goods you sell. If you are selling a product primarily for women between the ages of 25 and 35, understand what influences these women, where they get their information and plan a strategy to have information in those channels.

You can create your own marketing plan

In the case of some businesses, you may find you have less time than money and so you pay a professional to assist with the development of your marketing and communications strategies. If you are a very small business, you can often create and implement your marketing plan yourself, however, in no instance can you choose to believe “If I build it, they will come.” Nor should you put all your eggs in the viral (e.g. “I’m going to create a new video and it’s going to go viral.”) myth basket. It’s great if an aspect of your business catches the attention of customers, but what will sustain actual paying customers?

Provided your services or products meet a need or create a new need and are well made, available to the market with a good distribution system, properly priced, provided with superior customer service and people know about you, and you consistently share interesting information, you will meet with success.

Public relations tactics that work

This evergreen post was first published on our blog in 2009. We’ve updated it and republished it.

Everybody loves to win!

When we were children, we may have avidly collected cereal box tops or points in order to enter a contest. We also may have colored a picture to send to the local weather broadcast hoping to be selected the “Weather Picture of the Week.” These days with ubiquitous cell phone cameras, many of us submit photos to our local news outlets for their weekly or daily Picture of the Day/Week. We buy lottery tickets and enter contests believing that our luck is great and we will win. We enjoy competing and being singled out as special. 

Each one of us believes that we have a specialness about some aspect of our lives. An entire generation of children have been raised believing that they are special. Psychologists call this Pseudo-exceptionalism. Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D., MPP writes in his post on Psychology Today, “Pseudo-exceptionalism — the unearned conviction that we are exceptional, superior to others because we were born…us.” 

When it comes to public relations for your company, you can use these traits of human nature to your advantage.

People love contests. We are competitive by nature and want to demonstrate our prowess. Look at the success of America’s Got Talent, American Idol and other competitive reality television shows. We get a vicarious thrill rooting for those we favor. Businesses love contests because through contests they are able to increase brand awareness, build their email marketing lists, gain new social media followers, and move the needle of those visiting the brand’s website. Contests can be synchronized to fit holiday schedules and seasonal business goals. They can help you boost sales. 

Contests are one of the oldest ways to bring attention to a company. They work well when piggybacked on current news or cultural trends making the news.  As an example, mother’s day and father’s day contests and sweepstakes giveaways are very popular.

We also like to share our opinions with others.  Whether use use social media comments, consumer surveys or Google Reviews, we crowd source referrals for auto repair, haircuts, new doctors and lawn care.

As noted on Marketing Charts, and from Kantar Media’s report Dimension 2019 “Just one-third (33%) of consumers who rely on advertising for brand information say they trust its messaging, making it the least credible source of information among the options given.”  Most of us rely on friends and family for recommendations. However, we also rely on review sites. “Some 44% of the respondents across 5 markets use reviews for brand information, with 7 in 10 of these trusting the information they find.”

What Brand Information Sources Do People Trust the Most?

Businesses regularly use Google Reviews to spotlight their superiority and Google uses them to help show us companies which are more successful their others. Here’s an example of how one company calls for their social media followers to rate their company on Google.

Survey says!

Conducting surveys to allow your company to announce the results and spotlight your firm’s knowledge of what customers think is a sound tactic. You make the news — especially if your survey is timed to fit the news cycle. BrandSpark is a company that issues brand trust awards which regularly surveys consumers to learn which brands are most trusted. In doing so, they make the news. 

As another example, YouGov and ACI Worldwide surveyed consumers to learn they are “concerned about the security of their financial data when they pay at gas pumps and convenience stores.” ACI Worldwide states that they “deliver electronic banking and payment solutions for more than 5000 financial institutions, merchants, billers and processors around the world.” By conducting this survey ACI signals to merchants their awareness of consumer issues, thus increasing the opportunity for trust from those needing payment and electronic banking services.

Surveys do not need to be national. They can be local. So can contests. Have you used contests, giveaways, surveys or research to help position and market your firm? Tell us about how you used them.

Remember, The most successful marketing tactics and strategies build on human nature and on current trends and seasonality.  

Do you make promises you can keep?

How true are your brand’s promises? 

This post was originally published on our blog in 2011 and has been updated and re-published.

Growing up in a small town in South Carolina meant that everybody knew everybody’s business. So, when a cheating spouse was spotted slipping around with someone other than their lawfully wedded partner, it was across town in fifteen minutes, tops. Some partners just can’t keep their promises.

Sometimes companies are like straying marriage partners; they can’t keep their promises. I mean brand promises. In marketing your brand’s promise is the inherent pact you create with consumers based on your marketing, your communications via e-mail, phone and face-to-face.

Promise Keeper or Promise Breaker?

If you can’t keep your promises, you might offer *quality products* and then break the implicit brand promise to the consumer by refusing to replace that quality product when it fails. Or you might say you care about your customers and have the world’s hardest to negotiate phone system, demonstrating how you don’t care. How about the oft read claims, “Worlds best food” or similar notations printed on menus and then never read the customer suggestions deposited in the “Suggestions” box.

Have you ever reviewed your actions and communications to determine if you are keeping the promises you state or imply? You may be startled to learn the truth, or then you may find out you are a faithful partner.

One of the most derided consumer facing brands is Comcast, now called Xfinity. Consumers regularly call out the poor customer service they have experienced. Yet, on their customer service website the leader of the division states that you — the customer — is priority number one and that the company is there for you. Yet this doesn’t square with examples such as this tweet:

 

While there was an Xfinity response to this tweet, there is no method for the public to judge who is more truthful, especially since a search for the company name and customer service brings up hundreds of tweets about the lack of service . One of the most basic rules of branding is: The last interaction the consumer had with the brand is the brand’s promise, kept or broken. Faith is difficult to earn, hard to prove and very easy lose.

While national brands are always going to struggle in the face of consumers who may not comprehend, accept or understand your terms of service, limits of liability and other aspects of meeting their needs, your brand must always strive to provide evidence of care and concern. This begins with open, transparent help and support and demonstrations of sympathy. With regard to this, Comcast / Xfinity gets that right with their message 


Never forget, consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to your brand. 

How can you ensure you have demonstrated your caring?  

6 Points to Review to Determine if Yours is a Faithful Brand

  1. Is there congruence between your outward marketing messages and your corporate behavior?
  2. Do you take regular customer satisfaction surveys that allow anonymous responses?
  3. Do you publish the findings from your consumer surveys, at least as customer concerns slated for improvement?
  4. Do you regularly implement a series of steps to correct the negative findings from your surveys?
  5. Does your senior staff model all the brand promises?
  6. So you allow staff and employees to have an active hand in the company’s direction? AND Do you have a method of surveying your employees for their views on the company’s direction?