Why Plan Your Marketing?

By Jennifer Beever, Marketing Consultant
Copyright New Incite, All Rights Reserved

Do you find yourself halfway through your fiscal year having done little or no marketing at all? Do all your marketing activities convey different messages and project different images? Do your marketing efforts get poor results?

Marketing planning is important for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to create and implement marketing programs that are strategic in nature and intentionally tied back to your business objectives. Second, marketing planning results in a documented marketing approach that is easier to communicate to your employees and helps ensure that marketing is a company-wide function. Third, a marketing plan allows you to manage to a budget and better negotiate with outside providers. Fourth, a marketing plan helps you stay on track when day-to-day firefighting threatens to derail your intent.

Marketing plans help tie your actions back to strategic business objectives. Should we advertise our new product or spend more on our web site? Are we investing too much of our marketing budget in low margin products or services? How are we going to achieve our revenue goals? A marketing plan helps you answer these questions and more.

For example, if your sales or business plan calls for 25% growth or $20 million in revenue next year, you need to chart an aggressive course to get there. If you know your lead conversion rates, you can back into the number of leads that are required to generate the $20 million in sales. Such an increase in revenues may require a significant increase in leads that can only come from direct response marketing such as direct mail, email, or advertising.

Marketing plans help you communicate marketing to your entire company. Great companies make marketing a function of the entire organization. They make sure that each employee not only understands their marketing strategy, but they own it. A clear marketing plan gives your organization their marching orders so there is no confusion.

By sharing business objectives and marketing strategy and tactics with employees, you expand your marketing reach exponentially. Rather than having a handful of sales people selling, you can get your entire company telling your story. In many cases this pays off tremendously. Your customer service representatives know where the company is headed and can use their relationship with customers to convey the right messages. Other employees can sell too.

Marketing plans help you manage expenses and negotiate better deals. When you conduct your marketing in a piecemeal approach, you are not in a powerful negotiating position. Most marketing service providers, whether an ad agency or a service firm, will be much more interested in and do a better job on an entire marketing program rather than independent projects. Moreover, anyone that you ask to bid on an integrated marketing plan should give you a price break based on the amount of business. Your marketing plan can become a contract for partnership between your company and the service provider. A service provider who truly understands your objectives and indeed “owns” them will provide much more value-add for your company.

Marketing plans help you stay on track and manage to objectives. The biggest compliant I hear from business owners is that they get distracted by day-to-day activities and don’t take enough time to conduct planned marketing activities. Most companies are in reactive mode, resulting in an inability to grow in a significant, strategic manner. Don’t let this happen to you. Your marketing plan must include regularly scheduled meetings. If you don’t have a marketing staff, schedule the meetings with your marketing services partner. These meetings should be at least once a month on a tactical level: did we get the ad produced? Is the web site update done? Did the mailer go out? You should also include quarterly meetings to do strategic analysis of your marketing: has the marketplace changed? Are we getting results per our objectives?

Effective marketing plans are based on thorough research and strategic analysis of your marketplace and on resulting strategic objectives. If you haven’t done strategic analysis and business planning, your marketing plan could fail. In addition, marketing plans must be based on clearly stated vision, mission, and goals for your company. If you don’t have a clear vision, your marketing plan could take you in a direction different from your intent and will most certainly fail. The more time you spend on marketing planning and managing to your plan will result in greater growth, lower marketing expenditure, and a more proactive, healthier work environment.

This article may be reprinted with permission of the author. Please contact Jennifer Beever at 818-347-4248 or by email for permission. Proper acknowledgement of the author, including name, company, and contact information, must be made with use.

We hear from many of our clients that the trade shows they attend seem expensive and don’t yield results. When we investigate further, we usually find that trade shows are not being planned and managed adequately. Businesses are not researching the show prior to exhibiting, not promoting their exhibit in advance, not strategically planning their booth appearance and location, and not conducting the proper follow up on trade show leads. In fact, studies have shown that 79% of businesses fail to follow up on what leads they do get at a show.

If done properly, trade shows can yield some of the most highly qualified leads of any marketing activity. On average, it costs $233 to get in front of a prospect at a trade show, compared to $302 per prospect through a field sales call. Some studies have shown that buyers rank trade show information as a number one reason to buy, followed by articles and peer references.

The following are nine tips that will help you be more successful at trade shows.

  1. Be selective about the trade shows you attend. Survey your customers or potential customers about the shows they visit and the publications they read. Often, publications sponsor the trade shows in an industry. Investigate each show by visiting its web site, calling the management company, and getting reports about past show attendance. Call other exhibitors and attendees and ask how they liked the show. Ideally, you should visit the show the year before you exhibit.
  2. Plan for the trade show. Plan your promotion for before, during and after the show. Map out your exhibit and location ahead of time and note any changes that will have to be made to your booth. Create a budget for the show, and plan your staffing needs.
  3. Create or update your trade show booth. You have three seconds to get your point across to trade show visitors. Make sure the graphics on your booth get the attention of trade show visitors. Create a catchy tagline that explains what you do and place it with your logo. Remember that with trade show booth graphics, less is more. Furthermore, booths with interchangeable graphics provide the most flexibility if your company attends several different shows.
  4. Promote your exhibit before the show. Obtain a mailing list from the show management company or another source, and send an attention-getting mailer inviting people to visit your booth. If you sell high-ticket items, send an attention-getting package to highly qualified prospects. You can send the empty box for an expensive gift, telling the prospect to come to your booth to receive the gift (and then give it to them when they show up). You can send one of a pair or a part of a gift, and ask the prospect to come to the show to get the other part (one cuff link of the pair, the key to a briefcase). Post the show date and location on your web site so that visitors know you will be exhibiting.
  5. Train your staff. Most companies send their new employees to trade shows because they’re trying to avoid taking their top performers out of the field. What they don’t realize is that the right trade shows yield some of the most qualified buyers. Make sure your staff is knowledgeable, rested, presentable and friendly. Brief them on any new developments with competitors companies or products.
  6. Limit your spending on promotional items and handouts. 70% of promotional items and literature are thrown away by attendees after the show. Consider sending literature after the show as a follow-up instead of giving it away at the show. If you are going to give away promotional items, keep in mind that the most desired promo items are wearables (hats, t-shirts), followed by pens, mugs, calendars, and desk or office items. Ask visitors to leave their contact information before giving them one of your promo items.
  7. Disengage yourself quickly from unqualified prospects. One of the biggest problems is getting rid of unqualified prospects in your booth. You can offer to give them a promotional item as a close to the conversation. Or, end the conversation by holding out your hand to shake theirs as you thank them for stopping by.
  8. Follow up immediately on the trade show. If you know you’ll be busy when you get back to your office, stuff packets of information ahead of time to send out. Use the automated lead system that most shows now provide so that you receive electronic copies of all contacts. This allows you to get materials out faster than if you had to enter all contact information manually. Don’t stop with just one package of information in your follow up. Call, invite them to a seminar, webinar or demo of your product as well. Plan to send regular marketing updates to those who have visited your booth at a trade show: via email, snail mail and telephone.
  9. Track results, so you can better plan for the next show. You need to track the total number of leads generated at a show, the number of qualified leads, the conversion rate of leads to sales, the number of sales generated by the show, the dollar amount of those sales, the cost per lead, and the total return on investment (ROI) on the show. Without this information, your decision about whether to return to the show the next year will be subjective and could be misinformed.

In summary, trade shows can yield great marketing results. You just need to find the right show, create a great exhibit that is staffed by your best salespeople, and promote it adequately before, during, and after.

Sources: Data & Strategies Group Exhibit Surveys, Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Promotional Products Association International.

Author Jennifer Beever is a marketing consultant and founder of New Incite Marketing Analysis and Design. New Incite is the outsource marketing resource for growing businesses. The company provides marketing planning, implementation, results tracking and organizational development services for its clients. Contact Jennifer at 818-347-4248 or by email.

This article may be reprinted with permission of the author. Please contact Jennifer Beever at 818-347-4248 or by email for permission. Proper acknowledgement of the author, including name, company, and contact information, must be made with use.

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