Why Your Small Business Needs a Professional Marketing Plan

Many small business owners know that they need to promote their businesses – in other words, they know they need to be doing marketing activities of some sort. Yet choosing the right mix of activities seems like an impossible task. Should they focus on building a new website? Running ads in the local newspaper? Sending out direct mail or email, or perhaps posting to social media?

Even if a business owner chooses a few activities to try, often they’re not sure when or how often to run those ads, send out the emails, or mail postcards. Understanding small business marketing and developing an action plan often feels overwhelming for a small business owner. Combine that overwhelm with time pressures and the limited budget of a typical small business and you suddenly understand why few actually have a written marketing plan in place.

What’s so important about having a written marketing plan in place? Why can’t you just sit down with your staff and come up with a few ideas, then go out and use them to promote your business?

You can certainly sit around the table and brainstorm ideas, but without a written plan, how many of those ideas will actually be carried through to completion? And if you do have several ideas you need to choose among for your activities, how do you sort and weigh them to understand which promotional idea can potentially yield the best return on investment? Who is going to actually create the promotion, make sure it is placed or mailed on time, and then follow up to count the responses to see whether or not it was worth it?

As you can see, there’s a lot to know and remember when you’re planning your small business marketing. That’s where a marketing plan and a professional marketing consultant can help.

A marketing plan created by a professional marketing consultant who knows and understands the unique challenges that your small business faces may focus on several key areas. These areas may include goal setting for your business, understanding the business and competitive environment, defining the products you’re selling and the messages to share about them, and then creating a marketing strategy and action plan (tactical plan or marketing mix) to direct your activities in a focused and measurable way.

I’ve seen some great marketing plans that were detailed and creative, but they sat on a shelf and gathered dust. Why? Because they weren’t focused on action! A marketing plan without an action plan and clearly defined tactical steps is like a scientific research report; rich with information but offering little practical value. Small businesses don’t need a research report – they need a focused, clear action plan.

There’s a balance between the background information that informs the action steps a small business should take and a tactical-only plan that focuses solely on the promotional methods. As a business owner, you have to know and understand the marketplace forces, your customers, what you’re selling and the advantages you have before you roll out any promotional campaigns. Yet most business owners focus solely on the promotional aspect because it makes them feel like they’re finally taking action and getting some marketing steps accomplished. Action without strategy, planning and forethought, however, can lead to missed opportunities and wasteful spending as you put money into marketing activities that may not reach your customers nor communicate the messages that will resonate with them. And marketing activities without some sort of assessment or tracking can lead to wasteful spending. If you don’t know how many new customers you have reached or how many sales you achieved from your promotion, how do you know it was worthwhile?

Before spending more money on your current marketing activities, take a moment and consider what it would take to have a professional create a marketing plan for your business. With a professional marketing plan in place and someone to coach you through the activity steps, you may have a better chance at achieving your goals, attracting new customers, and selling more. And in the end, isn’t that the result you want from your marketing programs?

How to Double Your Stock Investments With Stock Picking Programs Overnight

Stock picking programs can effectively double your investments practically overnight. Here is a short article one what you should know about these stock picking programs and whether or not it is for you.

How these stock picking programs work to make you money essentially is that they make use of mathematical algorithms to take advantage of the way that the market moves in patterns and accurately predict exactly how certain stocks are poised to perform. They look at the factors in past market data which led to trends to form and compile a working database overtime which consequently is constantly being updated and improving upon itself, and it then applies this information when analyzing current real time market data. Once it identifies what it deems as being a profitable trade, it notifies you so that you can trade accordingly and get in and out of trends at peak times.

Critics laud the fact that these stock picking programs exclusively base their picks on algorithmically analyzed market data, and consequently no dangerous factors like human error, guesswork, or the very important emotions come into your trades. Not to mention that because all of the work is done for you, all you’ve got to do is enact the trades as they come to you so virtually anyone can make money from the stock market this way without needing any previous trading experience for once.

I mentioned doubling your investments early on, and what I was referring to specifically were stock picking programs which primarily deal in penny stocks. These are generally viewed as being lower risk trades but ones which still offer just as much profit potential as the best trades out there. Because of their lower values, it takes less influence to effect these stocks’ future values overall and these stocks are known for going on short bursts in which they can quickly rise in value before quickly dropping again. That’s not to say that they can’t go the other way, as well, so having a stock picking program which is specifically designed to identify penny stock trends will make you a lot of money in a short term.

First Person: Our Small Business Was Too Far Ahead of the Times

Years ago, long before it became a commodity service, my husband and I recognized the value of providing off-site data backup for home and small business users. We both worked in the technology field and had seen the cost of storage go way down, and recognized we could offer the service at a low cost. We incorporated our business, purchased hardware and started marketing. The business ultimately closed at a loss 2 years later, but the lessons we learned were well worth the cost, and proved invaluable to us in our other business ventures.

Have Enough Funding to Weather the Startup

Some small business owners make the mistake of only gathering the money necessary to open the doors of their business and count on sales revenue to cover operating expenses. It takes time to build up a client base or to gain exposure, even with aggressive sales and marketing.

For us, our issue was not so much capital start up costs; we didn’t require a store front, simply an internet site with back end hardware. However, we needed enough funding to gain market share and loyalty early on, so that we could fend off the competition a year and a half later when other competitors recognized what we had and started to gain entry into the marketplace.

Create a Business Plan

Business plans, even when they aren’t used to acquire funding, are a great tool to get you to think through all aspects of your future business, such as what will differentiate your product from others? What will the competition look like? Is your pricing model returning enough profit? Going through the process of documenting your intentions not only helps clarify them, but will also prepare you for such a time when you do want to speak to investors and get more funding.

Understand Your Break Even Point

Many small business owners don’t invest enough time to understand their costs and their break even points. Because of this they price the product improperly. My husband worked for a small business that sold software. Every time they made a sale they got an influx of large amounts of cash and thought that they were financially sound. When they finally got someone to document the business model, expenses and cash flow, they determined that they were actually losing money over time. The more software they sold the less money they made.

For us, the break even point for this type of service was too high because of our marketing costs. We we’re ultimately done in by companies that could offer the service at an extremely lost cost, one that was cost prohibitive to us.

Sometimes You Can be Too Ahead of Your Time

Time and time again I’ve seen fabulous ideas come out too soon for the public to understand why they need it, or for the infrastructure to be there to support it. I worked for an Internet Hosting Provider that had online shopping, at a time when people only had dial-up connections to the Internet. By the time DSL, Fios and Cable came into place for homes the company was long gone.

For our small business, trying to get people to believe they needed to backup their data at a time before people were really using digital cameras and doing all their bills and checking online, was too difficult a sell. You do want to be ahead of the curve in recognizing an upcoming need, but if we had spent more time on the bullet items above, we would have spent the time acquiring more money for marketing, and come into the marketplace in just the right time.

While shutting down a business you put your heart and soul into is gut wrenching, it provides you priceless business experience. I am a firm believer that you learn more from your failures than your successes, and this event definitely put us in shape to succeed in our next venture.