How to write a marketing plan – In 28 days, an hour a day.

How to write a marketing plan - in 28 days

So it’s a new year for your business, or the business you’re charged with marketing. And you already know that every business needs a clear direction in which to head. Yet, if you’re honest, you’re not really sure where your next year of clients or sales will be coming from.

Let’s agree on two things first:

1. Hope is not a strategy.
2. A marketing plan shouldn’t sit on a shelf.

An annual marketing plan is truly critical element for success. Every business must ‘do marketing’. Yet many businesses – start-up and long established – don’t have a marketing plan.  They have vague goals, ad hoc promotional ideas and a desire to do well…but without a real definition of that looks like. They don’t know how to write a marketing plan.

And I completely understand why.

Putting together a plan can feel daunting, even when it’s what you do for a living (like I do!). It takes thinking, research, action, time and creativity. And that’s before you start the tough task of implementation!

So why don’t we break it down to something completely manageable. Something anyone can tackle.

One hour a day. For 28 days.

You can manage that, right, for something so worthwhile to your business?

And I promise what you’ll have, at the end of your 28 days, is the bones of a well considered, 12 month, action-oriented marketing plan…AND a head start on some of the implementation. Plus, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.

Follow this systematic approach –completing every step, every day – and you’ll be set for your best year yet!

PREPARATION & RESEARCH

Day 1. Start your plan & set your goals

Open a 2017 marketing plan folder on your computer. I recommend you start with both a spreadsheet (with each month across the top and activities down the side) and a word document (as your central planning document), which you’ll add to each day with each task. These two pieces will make up your final plan at the end of your 28 days – although much of the real value will be in the process itself.

Then, the first thing to write in your plan: 3-5 marketing goals for the coming year.

Why is this so important? Because how do you know where you’re going, and if you’ve succeeded, if you don’t have a destination?

Just remember, a goal isn’t “I want to make enough money to survive this year” or “I want everyone to know about my business”. A goal needs to be stated so that it is specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive.

What sort of goals should you be setting beyond financial? You could include size of database, size of prospect list, number of inbound enquiries, website visits, sale by channel, effectiveness of sales people, attendance at events, cost of acquisition.

If you’re new to your business, setting goals can be extra hard, because you don’t have previous years to compare to. But you should know what you need to make and what you need to spend – and how many customers/sales you need to get there. So voila, there’s your starter goals!

Day 2. Review three competitor website and three businesses that inspire you.

Write down three things each does well (their strengths) and three that each does poorly or could improve (their weaknesses). Consider if there’s an opportunity there for you to fill or a new direction to try?

Then subscribe to follow them via social/email. You don’t want to be obsessed with them, but it ensures you keep them on your radar for the coming months.

Day 3. Articulate – in writing – what’s great about your business offering.

Write down what it is that your business does better / differently / what’s a little bit unique about you.

If you are struggling to do this, consider what you could need to change to make yourself more distinct, more special, more marketable. Then write down some steps for how you’re going to change.

Day 4. Decide on your key marketing messages for the year.

This isn’t about a campaign or an email. It’s core to what you’re going to be saying for a year. That is, what are you going to be telling people, prospects, customers, suppliers partners – this year – about what your business can do for them – and why they should work with you.

Critically review what you’ve written – and take out any meaningless jargon or complete hyperbole.

GET TECHNICALLY READY & SET A BASELINE

Day 5. Install Google Analytics on your website. And schedule a monthly reminder to review.

If you already have it installed, spend an hour reviewing results – where you’re getting visitors from, what they’re doing when they get to your site, what sort of mechanism are they using to visit.

Why? If you run a website, it’s one of your important promotional or selling tools. It’s a key channel for almost all businesses, even if you sell nothing online. Yet most people build a site and then never look at it again or really understand how customers are using it.

Analytics is free, easy to install and powerful – but only if you look review the results, use them to track any changes or tests and then consider their implications.

Day 6. Install Google search console. And then schedule a monthly reminder to review.

If already installed, spend an hour reviewing it – particularly looking for opportunities you’re missing. By this I mean, what keywords aren’t you getting clicks for that you SHOULD be.

Again, your website is a key marketing asset – make sure you understand what search terms people are using to find you. If you understand this, and happen to be in a market where lot’s of people search for what you’re selling, this could be your most critical – and inexpensive – inbound marketing tool.

Day 7. Conduct a website tune up.

Review your website and look for any out of date information on static pages. Identify typos, broken links, anything the needs updating.

Make the changes as you go or compile the changes to pass onto your developer or action next month when your plan is complete. (And remember to schedule this in your plan!)

Day 8. Perform a website marketing refresh.

Review your website from a communications and persuasion perspective. Ensure your key messages are apparent in your copy.

Add in missing selling queues – testimonials, recent articles, recent customer comments, etc.

Ensure your call to action isn’t missing in action on any page.

Day 9. Build an email sign up form – or test and improve your existing one.

Why? Every business should have a database to market to, to communicate with, to engage with in some way. The best way to do this is still email.

If you don’t have a form, I’d recommend doing this in Mailchimp if you’re just starting out.

If you already have a form, consider if it’s asking what you really need to know and if you’ve got automations set up, such as confirmation and then welcome email.

You should also consider if you need more than one form or list (based on service/product).

Day 10. Put your email sign up form on the home page of your website.

Most people never get past page one of a website. Depressing, I know.

So whilst that says something about the quality of information on your site, it also means you should improve your chance of capturing their details with an email sign up form on the home page. If you have the technical support or know-how, seriously consider an email pop up.

And don’t forget to give people a reason to give you their details.

CONNECT & NETWORK

Day 11. Prepare a list of past clients / colleagues / people you could possibly work with as customers (or partners or referrers).

Ensure there’s at least ten names/emails on your list. Spend the time tracking down their key details, particularly their email address. Potentially add them to your email list or keep them aside in a worksheet.

Day 12. Construct and send a ‘happy new year / how have you been’ update email to your initial list.

This can be brief. It should be friendly, share some information or insight that will be interesting to THEM and ideally you’d include a soft call to action at the end – what you’d like them to do next, setting up a time to meet or what you’d like them to know.

Then…actually send the emails! Or make a call and set up a catch up!

Meet up with contacts

Day 13. Invest time improving your LinkedIn Profile.

Increasingly people check your profile before meeting you or doing business with you. So if your LinkedIn profile the best it can be? Is your picture professional. Is your expertise clear? Are key achievements apparent? Do you have recommendations?

Day 14. Put some thought into partnerships. Who should you be working with this year?

So many businesses have an inner focus. They forget there are many other organisations, that they don’t compete with, who want to reach the same market as their own.

When you have a name or two (I’ve never worked with a single company who didn’t come up with someone when they thought about it!), reach out to at least one potential partner via email – whether for marketing, collaboration or business. Outline who you are and why there’s value to both of your businesses in working together.

Day 15. Research relevant professional networking events, seminars, online groups or conferences that you should get involved in this year.

Then sign up to at least one physical networking event in the coming month….because f2f networking is still as valuable as digital networking.

DOCUMENT & CREATE

Day 16. Put together the skeleton of a marketing calendar in your worksheet for the next 12 months.

Add in any activities you should be undertaking, or are already committed to.

Consider giving each month or fortnight a marketing theme to help you with idea generation over the coming year. Be sure to include any key occasions or ‘days’ that you can work with, perhaps an ‘international day of’ or something more obvious, like Mother’s Day.

Ensure there’s at least one outbound email communication in each month and scheduled time to review your performance against goals.

Day 17. Go back to your marketing goals – and draft some initial steps to get you to your goals.

This is the beginning of the ‘action’ part of your marketing plan. See if you can develop 4-5 steps towards each goal. Include a timeline for each step. And then put these steps into a worksheet, by month and goal.

Day 18. Conduct a mini-brainstorming session – with yourself or with trusted colleagues or friends.

If you’re doing this alone, mind mapping is great tool. If you’re working with others, remember that it’s not about eliminating ideas – first it’s about generating them.

Your aim with this exercise is to develop some creative campaign ideas, engaging social posts or competition ideas that could work.

Then add your ‘ideas list’ to your plan, so you’ve got it to refer to – and refine – over the year.

brainstorm ideas

Day 19. Identify any bigger marketing projects or campaigns you’d like to tackle this year.

You’ve already likely got ideas kicking around, so this is your chance to capture them before they’re gone.

Add them to your plan with the thoughts fleshed out, then schedule them into a month and potentially add budget. Flesh them out a little.

Day 20. Decide which social media channel is worth starting OR continuing with. Do some research and be sure of your reasoning.

You can’t be everywhere. Justify why you’re on the channel to yourself, ensuring it makes business sense. Should you be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or …?

Once you’ve decided to start or continue a particular channel, ensure it’s correctly set up, from headers to notifications to complete ‘about’ information.

Day 21. Create a basic content plan for the next four weeks of what content you’ll be posting on the social media you’ve committed to.

If you’ve decided blogging is critical, aim for one post a week. If it’s more ‘short and sweet’ like Instagram, aim for 3-4 posts a week.

Think ‘themes’ to help you generate ideas for your content calendar for social media. And ensure any content you’re planning to create for social can also be shared with your email list – because that’s a list you actually own and have some control over.

(If you decide social media isn’t for you, spend this hour working on your marketing calendar.)

Day 22. Spend your hour creating your first piece/s of content.

If it’s a blog post, you’ll need longer, so sketch it out and take an additional hour tomorrow to finish it.

Again, if you’re not into social media, spend this hour writing an article for your own website that goes some way to demonstrating your expertise.

social media

Day 23. Sign up for any relevant online tools for social scheduling.

Should you be using something like Hootsuite or Schedugram or Tweetdeck to help ensure your social media channels have activity even when you might be distracted?

If you don’t need social schedule, spend your hour researching any other tools you should be using. Then sign up and begin set up – e.g.. Mailchimp, Salesforce, blogging platform.

Day 24. Post or schedule your first content pieces.

Also consider how you’re going to share and cross promote this piece of content. For example, should you be integrating your instagram feed onto your website, publishing new blog posts and them promoting via LinkedIn and Twitter, boosting a Facebook post?

Once you’ve thought through this, create a little checklist that you can refer to each time to remind yourself of this sharing practice.

Day 25. Schedule key marketing activity due dates.

This is so that you don’t miss your chance, over and over, to be effective and relevant with your marketing communications and sales.

Schedule in your calendar, or set reminders 7-28 days in advance – in your digital calendar. And if you have a written diary, do the same.

Day 26. Create a corresponding marketing budget line/series of lines for the next 12 months.

Marketing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money – but there are usually SOME costs. If nothing else, you should allocate some expected HOURS of your time, if only so you remember to allow for it as the year progresses.

ensuring you’re adding in any required spend, product/service donations, fees for services – and an estimate of your hours if you’re doing it yourself.

Day 27. Populate success metrics against your activities

In your monthly schedule, add key metrics that relate back to your initial goals you put together on day 1. This could be # leads, # people on base, # sales, $ sales, # speaking engagements – anything measurable for a month and year.

Go back and review results in Google Analytics and Webmaster tools to get an idea of your baseline starting point.

Day 28. Read, review, refine your marketing plan

Take the time to sit down and read and review your plan.

Fix any obvious errors, flesh out your ideas, identify holes to fix today – or tomorrow.

If you like the feel of a big, finished document, compile it all into ONE document (through cut and paste or starting something new).

Then…go forth and implement your marketing plan!

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Why there is value in being a specialist – staying niche

The value in being niche

One of the most oft-recurring conversations I have with small business- and even some larger businesses – is whether they should ‘do more’. That is: sell a wider array of goods or services. Diversify.

There is a true fear of missing an opportunity by being a specialist, being niche. And I completely understand this because when I’ve worked completely as a freelancer, there’s a tendency to say yes to everything to ensure you can keep paying the bills.

Yet there is some real value in staying niche – and that’s the opportunity to be positioned and perceived as a “specialist”. A true expert, with specialised knowledge, is what many people are seeking from either a service provide or a retailer.

I was recently reminded of this when I received this (unsolicited) email. Despite the fact it’s obviously quite ugly, mass-produced and inherently ‘spammy’ looking, the actual content is worse. Why? Because can one person, or one business, possibly be expert in all of those things? Of course not. They can likely DO all of these things, but that doesn’t mean I’d trust them to be “the best choice” for any one of them.

Value of specialisation

I’m not alone in the call to consider the benefits of staying niche. I watched a recent interview with Andrew McCutchen of Time & Tide (as part of a series of Officeworks videos). Andrew’s publication is one of the most niche media offerings out there: a publication focused only on watches. Yet it seems to be thriving at a time when much larger media vehicles are dropping like flies. He talked about not being afraid to delight in the detail of what you do, and “showing your passion for it” which, in turn, “will show authority in the space”.

At a time when Department stores are hitting truly hard times, specialist retail is also gaining traction. An impressive example of a niche retail business that’s thriving is store C.W. Pencils in New York. It is a store dedicated to – you guessed it – pencils. Yes, there’s some other stationery on offer, but this store has made itself a true retail destination by being perceived as a pencil specialist. Don’t think there could be anything in that? A hint that it’s working is not only all the media they’ve garnered, but their Instagram following that tipped to over 100,000 people in a year.

So if you’re considering your business and marketing planning for the coming year, it’s a good time to consider what it is you and your business really excel at: are true experts in. Then consider if there’s value is focusing more narrowly on this speciality and really building your authority in that arena. Some short term challenges may evolve into genuine, long-term, competitive advantage: being sought out by prospective customers as an expert in your field. The ultimate, zero budget marketing dream.

Think marketing first, not marketing last – Critical questions to ask

think-marketing-first

I had a call the other day from someone who’d done a lot of hard work to securing an international speaker she was bringing out here from the US. And after they’d negotiated it all and had dates and had committed herself to the significant costs…that’s when she called me. That’s when she really started to think about actually ‘marketing’ the speaker and thus doing what I like to call ‘the making money part’.

This isn’t unusual. I can’t actually count the number of times a client has come to me late in the process – in fact, when it feels like it’s a last resort. They’ve done all the work to set up a business – often a huge about of work – and then they discover the bad news: customers don’t magically appear or keep appearing.

That’s not to say you need a marketing expert to run a business – you just need to think marketing first, not marketing last. Trust me, it will save you a whole lot of pain later on.

Business don’t just fail to budget for marketing – they fail to even think about marketing until they ‘need’ it. Which is usually when it’s too late. Every business must ‘do’ marketing.

If you START with a marketing mindset, you’re 100% more likely to be successful in any business. Seriously.

Why? Because it means you will have considered and planned for critical elements to your business success like:

  • Who is my customer going to be?
  • What does my prospective customer want – in their life, their shopping, their work? What motivates them?
  • How do I want my business to appear visually? What tone of voice is right for my audience?
  • What problem can I (my business/product/service) solve for my customer?
  • What is it about my product or service that is special or different or worth choosing?
  • What is the best way to price my product or service?
  • Who are the important influencers I should get involved?
  • Who could I partner with to help spread the word about my business or event or promotion?
  • What should I budget to promote my business? (Because it is possible to marketing without money but it’s much smarter to allocate some budget if you can.)
  • Where does social media fit in (if at all)?
  • Is advertising going to be worthwhile? And if so, where and what deal can you negotiate?
  • Where does online fit in my business? What should be on my website? How will I get people to my website?
  • What about a referral marketing strategy? Is there a role for affiliate marketing?
  • How do I start building a marketing list?
  • How will I keep people buying from me? What will motivate repeat purchase?

I hope you see the value in thinking about these questions. It helps you put marketing first, not marketing last.

These questions help you plan for the success of your business or event. They help you create a marketing mindset, which in turn will help you have a successful business that’s built around your customer and market, not just around you.

Most of my work I pitched for

julia-green

 

It was so refreshing to hear Julia Green speak at a recent City of Stonnington business breakfast. She opened by saying she hadn’t spoken at a public event before about her business journey, and that she planned to be ‘real’ and ‘honest’.

She certainly lived up to this, sharing both the elements of talent, serendipity – but largely hard work and business creativity – that has seen her business (Greenhouse Interiors) become so successful in just five years.

The key statement from her presentation that stuck with me was this:

“Most of my work – the majority of it – I’ve pitched for.”

I have advised MANY small businesses on their marketing over the years and, honestly, most don’t get this: that being good at what they do isn’t enough. Work will not materialise. You will need to look for it, work for it, pitch for it, sometimes even come up with it yourself. There is almost never a marketing magic wand or marketing silver bullet. Every business must “do” marketing.

One anecdote shared by Julia was about watching her favourite show at the time, Offspring, and suddenly thinking she should pitch to STYLE the Offspring house. And include in it one (or more) artworks from one of the 14 artists she also represents. After all, she said, what better way to get huge exposure, on no budget, than by putting a picture above Nina and Patrick’s bed?

So she called to pitch it. And it took time. And multipe calls. And multiple contacts.

But she made it happen.

Julia pronounced “I’m not the best stylist. I’m an opportunist.”. In my opinion, she’s also extremely business-savvy. She is prepared to ‘put herself out there’ and come up with projects, or new elements to her business, that have helped drive her success in a relatively short period (after a career in pharmaceuticals before this). After all, she says, “I can’t just be a stylist. There will always be someone on your heels. So you need to thinking – what’s next? What can I evolve this into?”

It’s a marketing – and indeed, a zero budget marketing – lesson we all need to learn (or be reminded of if we’ve forgotten).

Work and clients don’t fall from the sky. And business constantly needs to evolve.

In a small business, especially in professional services, the best jobs will almost always come through your network, or through you pitching. Even after you’re established and well known. You will still need to always be selling. As long as you believe in what you’re selling, this doesn’t need to be daunting. But if you retain this focus on driving business, it will mean you’re far more likely to be successful than a competitor who’s largely waiting for their phone to ring.

artists-greenhouse

Images sourced from Greenhouse Interiors website.

 

Whatever you do, keep the originals!

keep-originals

There’s a situation that has come up over and over in dealing with businesses who sponsor events I’m involved with or that I want to feature in blogs or newsletters. It has happened so often it’s prompted this post. I urge you to take heed, particularly if you’re starting out in business.

When you get a logo designed, a product or professional head shot taken, or even a brochure designed – get the original files and file them somewhere safe and easy to access! It will save you a lot of money, and stress, down the line.

Why it matters with images and logos

Many people still don’t know the difference between a ‘high res’ (high resolution) and a  ‘low res’ (low resolution) file. I’ll ask for high res and someone will send me a 50 kb jpeg.

You always need to have the largest files possible. Why?

If you provide a low resolution file, it can’t be used for all applications – that is, it can’t be used in print and can’t be made larger in any way, or it will distort.

You can’t make a photo or image file larger without degrading it’s quality. Image files usually end in extensions like. .jpg or .png.

As a rough guide, a high resolution file is usually quite large – over 1 MG – and if it’s a logo, it will ideally end with a .eps (Adobe Photoshop) or .ai (Adobe Illustrator).

So make sure you don’t just file away small versions of images or logos – get the largest ones possibly upfront and file them somewhere handy. Otherwise you may find yourself having to get logos recreated or images re-shot, which costs you money!

Why it matters with design files

Designers and agencies prefer not to give you “working files” – but I’d encourage you to negotiate upfront to get these, even if you have to pay a little more.

There are some valid reasons for why they don’t want to give you working files – not wanting you to ‘ruin’ their work by tinkering, to have it go to another agency to change and that they want you to come back to them for future work and edits.

However, for many smaller businesses, you simply don’t change artwork very often. And relationships with designers can be transient – who you use one year is often different the following year, perhaps because someone was doing you a favour, or you have a disagreement, or because they’re no longer in business.

If you don’t have the original files, and you want to make changes and don’t have the original files, a new designer will need to start from scratch. And this costs you more money.

Want better results from marketing? Time for a zero budget marketing audit!

No matter how many times I talk to clients, prospective clients, an audience – I’m surprised by how often people think of marketing as starting something NEW. A new campaign. A new program. A new channel. A new product. A new release.

Perhaps it’s because there is a promise in ‘the new’, or perhaps it’s because it’s just more interesting to start something than it is to be in the midst of working on something.

Next time you’re tempted to start something NEW in your marketing, I’d suggest you take a ‘zero budget marketing’ approach and instead evaluate what you already have, or what you’re already doing, before spending a cent on something new.

Review your existing website – Are there enough opportunities to engage with you, how is your SEO performing, is the content in dire need of an update? Would a new ‘template’ make all the difference? Is it all looking as professional as it should? Are all your online properties linked to it?

Review your existing social media – What are you already doing? Are you doing it often enough, being engaging enough? Is it actually generating a return?

Review your existing and past customers – Have you been in touch with them lately? What other services could you be offering them? Have you asked them for referrals? Have you provided any additional value they haven’t had to pay for?

Review your pricing – Is it too low? Can your market bare a slight increase (it usually can, despite what you think), can you bundle what you’re selling to create a better value but higher value sale?

Review your email list – When was the last time you went out to them? Could you be emailing more? Have you made an effort to update the emails of those whose emails have ‘bounced’?

Review your existing lead generation activities – If you have online listings on Google or other platforms, have you checked they’re compelling, up to date and supported by positive reviews? If you have existing standing advertising, is it working as hard as it should be or does it need a refresh? Are you following up all the existing leads you’re getting promptly and regularly?

Review your marketing systems – Are the tools you’re using still the right ones? Could you automate more? Could you link them better? Do you need to rethink the way it’s all working?

Review your existing brochures – Is the content still relevant? Are the images still right? Is there enough call to action? Or valuable content? Are there any errors that need fixing?

Hopefully you’ll see there’s a lot of work – but a huge amount of opportunity – in the above audit. Most of this won’t cost you anything more than your time, attention and creativity. Yet the returns could be immediate.

So before you start something new, make sure everything you’re already doing, you’re doing as well as you possibly can. That’s the zero budget marketing way!

Every business must ‘do’ marketing

I was at an event last week and I met a small business person who told me she didn’t want to have to ‘do marketing’. She just wanted to focus on her doing her work (landscape gardening).

Saying you don’t want to do marketing is like saying you don’t want to do your tax: You still have to do it!

I told her she already was engaging in marketing, whether she realised it or not, by being at a business networking event. Doing an amazing job for her clients was also part of her marketing, so that they’ll refer her to other potential clients. When I suggested she ASK her clients for referrals though, she looked uncomfortable. And said “but the work just keeps appearing, so I don’t think I have to.”

My concern with this mindset is that business is never ALWAYS good. And if you’re doing nothing to fill your pipeline – it’s just somehow happening – then what will you do when one day it stops happening. You’ll have no database, no practice at trying to generate awareness and leads, nothing to fall back on.

As a marketing consultant, my job is hardest when people wait for business to be bad before looking for help. Smart business people are always “marketing” in some way – whether it’s building their reputation, telling their story, tweaking pricing, selling more to existing customers, growing their database, rearranging their physical or virtual store, finding new sales channels or through more traditional promotional programs.

I guarantee you’ll actually save money in the long run by always thinking about your marketing – the lead-generating and the non-lead generating activities – because you won’t be starting from scratch when you do have to ‘do’ marketing.

The elusive silver bullet in marketing

elusive-silver-bullet

When I get approached by new clients, what they really want is the silver bullet. The ‘one thing’ that will transform their business to an (almost) overnight success. Oh, and it can’t be too expensive (unless you can GUARANTEE it will work) and won’t take too much of their time or effort.

The fact is, the “silver bullet” in marketing is as elusive as a unicorn. Much as we’d all love it to exist, it doesn’t.

Yet people get rich on promising the silver bullet. “Do X and you’ll make a million Ys”. People want to believe in it, even when it seems too good to be true. And they get burned. They put all their hope and effort on the next big thing (SEO, social media, a ‘big ad’, an app) and ignore the host of other things they need to be doing.

To top it off, many businesses wait till sales are slow to really start focusing on marketing, making their jobs harder than ever.

Over twenty years of successful marketing programs, I’ve found ‘marketing that delivers’ is really about regular experimentation, consistency when you do find decent results, and an ability to go back to the beginning when something that’s always worked stops working.  It’s often about doing what’s uncomfortable (picking up the phone, following up), continually seeking inspiration (not just from your competitors), taking risks, trying to make your product or service remarkable and working just a little harder and longer than everyone else.

So instead of looking for the silver bullet, recognise upfront that successful marketing is a cumulative effect of a number of activities and factors, some of which you’ll never have control over. So maintain the focus on the elements that you can control, like: building and keeping in touch with your database, developing relevant and exciting content, consistent seeking referrals, serving your customers well, building a great reputation, maintaining a presence and staying committed to a quality product or service.

An ongoing and consistent and creative marketing program is the real silver bullet.

Why or why do people keep forgetting a CALL TO ACTION?!

We marketers work hard to get a campaign out. We need to come up with a concept, work with a designer, fit into a schedule, set up an email, test a million times, clean up the data, then finally hit send.

So why would you do all this work WITHOUT a call to action of some sort?

YOU WOULDN’T!

What has inspired me to write all this in shouty-capitals? This eDM I received from ING Direct yesterday (on 9 July).

I’m a customer and I was interested to learn a little more about these free seminars they say they’re starting. It says registration open on the 10 July – so the very next day. But you can’t pre-register your interest or click through to a page for more information.

I could have chalked that up to a ho-hum “teaser” and moved on, but it got worse.

It says to keep an eye on their Facebook page – but then you can’t click through to their Facebook page! So I’d have to be SO motivated to learn more that I’d head on over to Facebook, SEARCH for them and then like them to maybe learn about it (assuming Facebook deigns to feature it in my feed which it may very well not due to the way EdgeRank works.)

This eDM has missed TWO opportunities to inspire action at the exact moment it had my attention. I just see this as a massive waste of effort. And as we zero budget marketers know, “effort” is a huge part of your marketing “budget”.

So this serves as a great reminder to ALWAYS have a call to action – preferably multiple ones – in any outbound marketing communication. And on your website pages. And in your social media. And on your voicemail. And on your email signature.

You get the picture.

In summary: Don’t leave your “Call to Action” missing in action.

Niche businesses are easier to market

For anyone who’s been in business, you know the temptation of wanting to do anything to bring in the dollars. Yet there is real value in being “niche” – carving out a segment that’s just yours.

I saw a great example of this recently, with publisher “A Book Apart“. Their business produces “Brief books for people who make websites”. It’s very specific – but also very easy to market. It is PR friendly, it’s easy to find the target market, it ha got built in repeat business (if someone finds one book useful, they’ll buy more) and it’s easy to talk about and spread the word.

This last point is so critical. I’ve never been involved in marketing anything where word of mouth wasn’t critical. In fact, for most businesses, it’s the number one source of new business. So if your business is hard to describe, hard to pin down, it’s hard for others to spread the word about.

Niche is scary. But less that it used to be, thanks to the Internet. So if you’re pondering starting a business, and you’ve got a cool enough idea, there’s a lot to be said for finding your niche and sticking to it.