Grow Smart BusinessUMDNetwork Solutions

Small Business Success Index 4

Index Score*   Grade
73 marginal
Capital Access 67
Marketing & Innovation 65
Workforce 76
Customer Service 88
Computer Technology 73
Compliance 92
*Index score is calculated on a 1-100 scale.

Search Articles

Posts Tagged ‘marketing plan’

Women in Business: Marketing Strategy For Everyone! Part 2

July 26th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

Emily RichardsBecause my friend Emily Richards of Drew Consulting, a full-service marketing consulting firm based in Falls Church, VA, had so much to say about marketing strategy and small businesses, I divided my interview with her into two parts.  You can read Part 1 here

Care to share a couple of success stories?

My client’s success is my success. I was brought in last summer to make recommendation on a project in Boston, MA for a residential construction client. The investors were ready to finalize the deal (and it goes without saying my client was as well). After we conducted our market research, the deal didn’t pencil. Our recommendation, while not popular, was to not pursue the deal. They reviewed our research and recommendation and killed the deal. It was a success for us in that while we didn’t provide our client with the information they were hoping to obtain, we contributed to ensuring they maintained a solid portfolio and didn’t compromise on a bad development decision.

Another was a strategy session for a start up client. They brought us in to conduct a session with their employees to ensure that everyone understood the purpose and direction of the company. At the time, the team was only about 10 people. As the session was conducted, you could see individuals making the connection of the business’s passion, their own individual purpose and how the two ‘fit together’. While this certainly didn’t have quantifiable results, the company has continued to grow successfully and is an incredibly close knit organization.

I’m always curious as to how other small business owners market their business. So, how do you market your’s?

Often, I find myself so entrenched in marketing other companies that I neglect the marketing of my own company. Most clients come by way of referral and word of mouth. We have begun branching out in traditional methods of marketing including, eblasts, social media campaigns and direct mail to companies in the area that are identified as growing/expanding companies that could potentially be in need of our services.

If you could give 3 pieces of advice to a small business owner putting together a marketing plan, what would they be?

1)      Don’t neglect the exercise

I’ve seen start up businesses and established businesses, alike, fail to place importance on creating a formal business plan and strategy. It is difficult to express your vision and purpose if you haven’t taken the time to sit down and think through high level goals and objectives for your business. In my opinion, it could make or break your entire vision. These goals and objectives are the premise upon which we build strategies.

2)      Be flexible (to the change and evolution of your original plan)

I had a client come to me last week and apologize. He wanted to make significant changes to a strategy he previously approved. While I certainly don’t encourage serial modifiers, you must be realistic that the strategy may (and will) change dependent on a myriad of factors within and out your of your control.

3)      Be thoughtful (both in current objectives and long term goals)

Don’t haphazardly select strategy initiatives. Just because your largest competitor launched a twitter contest, it doesn’t mean you should (necessarily) go out and implement the same. If you were to replicate their campaign, what outcome would you wish to achieve? If you say ‘just because my competitor has a twitter campaign’ is rarely sufficient to jump in head first without thoughtfully contemplating your desired outcome and overall results.

Marketing 101: Planning and Budgeting on a Shoestring

January 28th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

I have a confession to make.  I have only an unofficial (meaning, not written down) marketing plan, and I do not have a marketing budget.  I have put them together before, but, well, just not for myself.  Like you, I am busy doing what it is I do.  Lately “it” has involved a lot of writing and editing website content, press releases, a book chapter, a couple of brochures, and these blog posts and project managing a direct mail campaign.  I am totally lame, so (stop me if this sounds familiar) one of these days I will put a real one together that consists of more than “meet as many people as possible while not spending more than $45/networking event.”  For me, word of mouth is the best way to grow my business.  Plus, I’m on a shoestring budget, so I squeeze what I can out of what I got.

This post is for all of you who are also operating on a shoestring budget.  Sit down for an hour and write up a basic marketing plan and budget, no matter how modest.  You need to know how you are going to reach your customers and how much time and money you are going to spend on each aspect of your marketing efforts.  Think of it this way: having a road map to follow will get you to your destination quicker than just thinking you know where you’re going while randomly turning left and right in the process.  Big old waste of time.

I am breaking this process down into two short, very basic step-by-step tutorials to get you going.  To give you examples, I will pretend you are starting a dog walking business and your goal is to reach as many potential new customers as possible. 

Part I: Marketing Plan

  1. Who is your target market?  Be as specific as possible to make reaching those people easier.  If you are a dog walker, will you target urban professionals or over-scheduled suburbanites?   Will you specialize in larger breeds that are harder to handle?  Will you also offer to dog-sit while owners are away on business trips or vacation?
  2. How will you reach your market?  Word of mouth, print ads in the local paper, flyers on bulletin boards in local coffee houses, cafes, and shops, newsworthy press releases sent to local publications, zip code and demographic specific direct mail, Yelp, a website that is has been worked over by an SEO specialist, a pet care and training column in a local paper, attending networking events, free dog training events at the local dog run or park?  You cannot do everything, so you will have to pick and choose among these ideas and identify which outreach tool will reach the most people and also generate sales.  Many times, it’s trial and error.
  3. Can you partner with other businesses?  Dog groomers or locally owned pet shops or pet bakeries immediately spring to mind.

Part II: Marketing Budget

  1. Trying to figure out how much to spend on marketing is tough when you are new.  Depending on the industry, it is somewhere between 2% and 5% of gross sales.  If you are projecting $30,000 in gross sales for the year, your budget will be $600 to $1500. 
  2. Start with the free and low cost ways to advertise.  Email all of your friends and post news of your business to Facebook.  Create flyers yourself and tack them up on bulletin boards in the aforementioned local cafes and shops.  Write and distribute press releases.  Ask clients to post reviews to Yelp.  Call the local papers and offer to write a column. 
  3. The rest of your small budget should be used very carefully, and I would recommend using it for a basic website.  You won’t get found online, however, without SEO.  Ask around for recommendations to an SEO/search marketing specialist.  Find one willing to train you on how to integrate SEO into your website.

 Even on a shoestring budget, there is quite a bit you can do!  So stop procrastinating and start writing.  If you will, I will too.

15 Steps to Writing a Winning Marketing Plan – Grow Smart Business e-Book

October 16th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher
CLICK ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD: 15 Steps to Writing a Winning Marketing Plan

CLICK ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD: 15 Steps to Writing a Winning Marketing Plan

Much focus when starting a business is about putting together a great business plan. We have covered that and you can click here to download the e-book on that type of plan. However, most don’t talk about a critical component of every business – marketing.

The marketing plan is critical and I would almost do this first so you can flesh out your product value, understand the competition and price the product/service for profitability. The business plan takes components of this plan and really demonstrate the execution and operations to make the business work. But it is marketing that is the engine and analytic proof to demonstrate why your company should even exist in the first place.

You are either someone that has been doing marketing as a part of your professional career or you look at as that “thing you do to promote your business and attract customers to buy”. Regardless of where you are along that spectrum, you have arrived here because you have been charged by the CEO of the startup you work for to write a marketing plan for your business or you need to create one for your own business.

You need to not just write just any marketing plan. You need to write a Killer Marketing Plan.

One that your boss will say “awesome, let’s get started” and which will tell all those people who have been looking for a product or service like yours for a long time. This book is written for you.

Marketing plans are sexy mistresses that tempt you to include all of the coolest of campaign ideas without the sanity of budgetary constraints. While marketing is one of the more important functions of a small business, it is one that is limited by the budgets of that business and campaigns must demonstrate a return in order to justify their existence. Since I have written more marketing plans than I care to tell you, I can share with you my knowledge and experience of what has worked almost all the time, some of the time and none of the time.

While this is not the single tome on marketing plans, I hope that this helps you balance the unlimited creative ideas with the budget you have to work with and find a mix that is both innovative and results in sales.

I invite you to explore as many resources out there, some of which are mentioned at the end of this book. I don’t need to wish you luck. Just get started, get out there and crush it.