By: Michael Sim, Founder and CEO of Graphics.ms, LLC.
Whether your company uses business cards, a website, direct mail, newspaper ads, or any of the various options available for marketing, doing so without a strategic plan will result in an inefficient Return On Investment.
As the market goes into a recession, the value in specialty service companies is diminishing. As a result, many of those companies start to offer more services in order to fit the bill. For instance, web design companies start offering services such as Business Card Design, Logo Design, Brochure Design, and more. These are all services that fall outside of the specialty services they provide. This would be comparable to asking a plumber to take care of your electrical needs, or asking your Project Manager to do your taxes. Just because they say they can do it doesn’t always mean the end result will be what you expect. And don’t expect this type of company to tell you any different. They are not there to build your brand, but rather attempt to solve as many of your marketing needs as possible in order to survive. They are there to give you exactly what you think you need, and build upon that idea with as many extra add-ons as possible that you may not.
Developing a strategic marketing plan will ultimately maximize the efficiency of your marketing efforts and generate a higher ROI. In order to do so, several aspects must be considered.
- Develop 6 month marketing Goals
- Develop 1 year marketing goals
- Develop 3-5 year marketing goals
- Develop 5-10 year marketing goals
- Analyze marketing plan for strengths and weaknesses
- Revise and Improve your marketing plan
- Research your target market
- Identify Industry Trends
- Identify Target Audience and demographics
- Develop a brand identity
- Identify Competition
- Establish your marketing budget
- Invest in solutions that reflect your current budget.
Developing your Short-term and long-term marketing goals will help to create an effective strategy for your marketing plan. Be reasonable. The best marketing plan allows for growth, and takes an investment of time and money. Luckily, there are different solutions for all types of budgets, many of which are free.
Analyzing your current marketing plan for strengths and weaknesses will help to eliminate inefficient methods, and allow an investment in a solution that produces better results. So before you go out and buy a new website, create your business cards, and hire a salesperson, take a look behind you before you decide to move forward. Don’t jump head-first into popular marketing options without first considering how and when you plan on using them.
Identify Target Audience
After you have determined what variables that you will implement into your marketing plan, it is crucial to understand who you are marketing to.
Without targeting the right consumers, even the best marketing strategy will fall on deaf ears. That is why it is so crucial to identify your target audience, their demographics, and their specific demands. In doing so, you will serve to maximize the reception of your brand from your target audience.
Develop a Brand Identity
Ok, so now you’ve got your marketing strategy down, you know who you are targeting, but does your company have the look and feel of a reputable and quality company?
In order to answer that, first ask yourself three main questions:
1. Do I have a Logo?
2. Is my logo working for me, and my overall business identity?
3. Is my identity kept consistent through each and every piece of material that I present to the public and/or my clients?
4. Is my identity similar in genre, but better in quality than my best competition?
If you answered no to any of these questions:
1. You need one
2. Your logo must effectively tie into the application of design in your identity.
3. Consistency is a crucial key to strength in a brand.
4. Let’s test out #4 by going to Google, and enter: “Your City + Your Service Provided + Company” – for example, “Chicago Web Design Company”.
Take a look through each result on page 1-3. Notice the fluctuation in quality for each page? It is guaranteed the ones who stand out and look better have much better reception and retention from that market. Now, if you have a site, and it didn’t show up on page 1-3, then we can get into Search Engine Optimization, but I’ll save that for another column.
A Word of Caution
A lot of companies try to save some money and use a “friend in the family” designer scenario. We (at Graphics.ms) get a big kick out of it (no offense, honestly) when companies do that. The reason being is that they are by far incapable of fully considering every single aspect that plays into what Brand Identity and the marketing of your company truly demands. Granted, your “friend in the family” type of designer may produce quality work. The problem is, chances are they incapable of considering your brand outside the realm of a website, which is crucial to the success of a business identity.
The next type of company uses popular solutions as a quick fix to their short-term goals. The reason being, is that they have either not fully considered their short-term AND long-term goals (and are combining both into short-term) or that they think that “specialty service companies” can bring about their wildest dreams. It is this quick fix notion that is a long-term disaster in that while producing mediocre results now, it will eventually require much more expense than may have originally been required in order to achieve all of your goals.
From my experience, many companies go with the BCW (business card and website) syndrome. Yes, it’s a syndrome because of its popularity and long-term disastrous effects. The popularity of the BCW syndrome and its promise of quick-results in a generalized sense is why most specialty service companies such as small-business web design firms, logo design studios, website template resources, overnight business card companies (or even worse, the FREE business card companies),and so forth, have the ability to survive.
It’s staggering how many companies jump directly to these solutions without fully considering their brand from the start. In fact, it leads to a lot of money being unnecessarily spent on a medium that is not ready to receive you. Actually, no medium is “ready” to receive your brand until it is able to differentiate your company from the competition. Therefore, a website is like a woman who uses some form of cosmetic to look her best. Over-doing cosmetic application can make your site gaudy, distracting, and displeasing to the eye. Accenting the proper regions of the “face” will make its better characteristics stand-out and get noticed. However, what is an attractive woman without a personality? She can be an amazing sight to see, but nobody likes an empty shell (well, at least not me). Similarly, this “personality” is the strength of your brand. For more on Branding and Identity, take a look HERE.
Continuing with my “pretty lady analogy”: What is an attractive individual with a winning personality without the ability to communicate? Your brand must be able to communicate and introduce itself to others in order to develop relationships with your clients. On a psychological level, in a business relationship (and in a romantic relationship) the lack of communication between you and your clients can lead to inconsistency, build distrust, and results in a loss of credibility with the consumer. Therefore, you must be able to market your website, your services, your products, and your expertise with all aspects considered in order to effectively develop your brand.
After you have a solid Brand with which to approach your target audience, how does your “pretty lady” look next to the thousand others standing beside her? On a psychological level, women (and men – this is not sexist) tend to try and improve and enhance the superficial elements of their nature in an attempt to be MORE attractive. As much as visual media depicts a model of what is the standard for beauty, if you have a solid brand, there is no need to embellish. If you need to enhance and improve the superficial elements of your company in order to succeed, you are compensating for the lack of a well-developed brand identity and marketing plan. This will result in a loss of value in your brand, less traction with your target audience, and an inefficient return on investment.
This is where marketing comes into play. The manner and method of distribution in which the solid brand identity is presented will ultimately effect the ability for your audience to receive your brand.
Was all of this considered by the “friend in the family” or specialty service company designer? I doubt it. They sold you what you thought you needed, and put a wig and a dress on a mannequin while laughing their way to the bank.
So a word of caution: Don’t run out and start investing in random marketing solutions without considering how they will work together WITH your brand to achieve your goals.
Establish Your Marketing Budget
Understanding what is required to develop your brand, and then to market it, will give you a good idea of how much you’ll have left for your first round of marketing. Spend it wisely, and in the areas that will produce the necessary results in order to afford more marketing. Stop looking for overnight results. Understand that if you invest in different solutions based on your strategy, you will be able to afford more options as time goes on. In order to get there, you have to know where to start and how much to spend before you begin.
Understanding your short term and long term goals will help you to decide upon what to do now, and what to do later in regards to your marketing plan. Market Analysis and Identifying your Target Audience will help you to create a solid brand identity. Identifying your competition will help to understand the necessary approach to marketing your company. Establishing your current marketing budget will present your best options for marketing to maximize your return on investment.
Implementing this strategy into your marketing plan will ensure a step-by-step growth in your ROI, and open new possibilities for marketing as your profits soar.