‘Weird Al’ Takes on Marketing

A good parody makes the audience somewhat uncomfortable, even as they laugh. The humor has to hit close to home to be truly funny. As you watch “Weird Al” Yankovic’s music video for “Mission Statement,” which buzzwords are a little too familiar to you?

To avoid using jargon in your marketing messages, see my tips in “Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate.”

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?An editorial calendar helps answer the question, “What am I supposed to do next?” It’s a tactical element of your small business marketing plan that lays out the month, quarter or year. With only a few hours of work, you’ll boost marketing productivity and effectiveness.

Start with Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies

As a small business, it’s incredibly important you spend your marketing budget efficiently and effectively. You can’t afford to keep doing the same marketing tactics year after year unless you know they really work. Before implementing any marketing campaigns, make sure your strategy is solid and will help you meet your business goals.

Ensure Marketing Implementation with an Editorial Calendar

One of the toughest challenges for any small business is consistently deploying marketing campaigns on time. When you often spend your day “putting out fires,” it can be hard to remember to grow your audience on Facebook, communicate with customers via your email newsletter or schedule in-person meetings with prospects.

That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. This tool helps build discipline into the timing of your marketing and ensures no channel is neglected.

For each of my small business clients, I typically outline an entire year’s calendar, with goals set for each month. This document becomes our to-do list. It’s fairly simple– take a look at the sample below for 2016 Q1.

Sample Marketing Editorial Calendar

January 2016

  • Film two videos surrounding “Winter” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Winter” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Winter” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Winter” campaign January Email Newsletter
  • Manage “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Refresh website design template for 2016

February 2016

  • Stop “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Love” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Love” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Love” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Love” campaign February Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Design and print “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS mailer

March 2016

  • Stop “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Spring” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Spring” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Spring” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Spring” campaign March Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Spring” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Send “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS to target ZIP code

Are You a Strong Competitor?

Some small businesses are lucky enough to not have much direct competition. Maybe they’ve identified a previously-unknown niche. Or maybe they are so dominant in their market that others can’t squeeze in. But not even these small businesses are safe from a smart competitor who can sweep in and steal away large swaths of customers.

To be a strong competitor and grow market share, small businesses need to continually improve. Identify your top competitive weakness and fix them– before your competitors do! Give your customers reason to stay loyal to you, and you can reasonably insulate your business from competitive threats.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to find your small business’s competitive weak points.

Competitive Strength Analysis

  • Existing Customers: What do customers complain about? What steps have you taken to improve their experience?
  • New Customers: How many new customers did you get in the last year? The year before? Make sure you have a plan for new customer growth.
  • Product/Service Offerings: When was the last time you improved your product and service offerings? Lack of innovation leaves the door wide open to competitors.
  • Profit Margins: Do you have any “unexpected costs” that occur frequently? How do these affect your margins and what can you do to allay them?
  • Vendors and Partners: Are your partners helping you grow? Or do they promote more-of-the-same?

After answering these questions, you probably see several areas for improvement. Pick the most critical, and start working on them right away!

How to Plan Small Business Marketing Campaigns

Let’s say you have a great idea for marketing your small business– building a vibrant Twitter following, partnering with a local civic organization to host community events or offering a compelling referral program to customers.

Now what? How do you make sure your campaign is successful and meets your goals?

You need a small business marketing campaign brief.

A campaign brief helps you solidify your strategy, think through implementation and gives you an at-a-glance view of what needs to be accomplished. It’s an organizational tool that removes doubt and helps campaigns run smoothly and successfully.

Here’s a Sample Small Business Marketing Campaign Brief, similar to what I create for my clients:

How to Plan Small Business Marketing Campaigns

Have questions about how campaign briefs could work for your small business marketing? Send me an email, and let’s talk – amanda@zooinajungle.com

How’s Your 2016 Marketing Plan Coming Along?

Sometimes, small business marketing can feel rushed and put you under pressure. When business owners first talk to me about their marketing efforts, they usually express a sense of anxiety, asking question like:

  • How do I know I’m doing enough marketing?
  • How much should I be spending?
  • How do I know if my marketing is working?

Take time now to plan for 2016, and eliminate these worries. Here are some elements you should include in your small business marketing plan.

Components of a Small Business Marketing Plan

  • Measurable goals. These might include revenue growth, increases in profit margins, number of new customers or increases in purchase frequency.
  • Brand strategy. A comprehensive brand strategy will make it easier to craft marketing messages that resonate with customers. Great news– a great small business brand strategy will likely last many years and only require small tweaks as your business landscape changes.
  • Marketing budget. Everyone should know approximately how much will be spent over the year.
  • Media and channels. Identify the best places to reach your customers, and develop campaigns for each channel. You should know which channels are proven successes, which to eliminate and which you’re experimenting with.
  • Campaign calendar. Know when you should be doing what and give specific deadlines. A calendar also helps ensure all campaigns complement each other throughout the year.

Once you have your plan in place, share it with your team. Let everyone know what to expect in the upcoming year.

And here’s the most important part: Implement the plan! You don’t have to wait until 2016. Start today!

The Great Shrinking Business Model

As a business model, Redbox is on its way to completely replacing Blockbuster. And the company has accomplished this goal in a remarkably short time period. Examining the two business models reinforces the importance of creativity, flexibility and appealing to changing market demands in our own businesses.

Redbox wins this competitive fightLaunched in 2002, Redbox is the company placing movie and game rental kiosks in prominent places around the country (i.e., those ubiquitous red boxes). Blockbuster, of course, is the retail chain with a similar function founded in the 1980s and enjoying success through the early 2000s.

From Redbox’s about page, one learns there are 34,600 Redbox locations in the US, and 68% of the population lives within a 5-minute drive of one. Blockbuster, meanwhile, boasts of just 2,500 stores across the entire globe– down from 6,500 stores in 2010. Clearly, Redbox is on the ascendency.

I call this competition the great shrinking business model. For local movie and game rental, Redbox learned that a kiosk could take the place of an entire retail store. It was quite a revolutionary business decision to implement a strategy that relied entirely upon glorified vending machines.

But the model certainly makes business sense. In a convenience-driven market where almost all consumers own and use credit cards, renting a movie for about $1/day on the way home from the grocery store is easy to understand and simple to do. Selling through a kiosk also allows consumers to rent media 24-hours-a-day.

By taking advantage of evolving consumer behavior, Redbox benefits from a streamlined overhead– with fewer employees, drastically reduced leases and lower insurance rates than required to run a full-size retail store. These optimizations allow Redbox to offer the exact same product as Blockbuster more conveniently and for a cheaper price.

Blockbuster is the market loserSome might argue that the experience of interacting with a movie buff employee at a retail movie rental store makes the visit worthwhile. Perhaps, but it seems that the corporate nature of Blockbuster killed that experience along with the neighborhood video rental store  years ago. My last experience at a Blockbuster included an uninterested employee mumbling “hi” to me without even lifting his head out of box of movies he was sorting. Frankly, I feel the kiosk is more friendly.

By analyzing the business models, it comes as no surprise that Redbox is quickly eliminating the market need for Blockbuster. This rapidly shrinking business model should make you think about your industry– are you the clever innovator or the stodgy competitor about to be taken by surprise?

Marketing Podcast: 2012 Marketing Planning

For the first “Getting Down to Business” of 2012, Dave Weatherholt and I teamed up to talk small business planning. Dave covered some important financial steps every small business should take, while I focused on marketing tips to get your marketing plan in shape for the coming year. I’ve linked to the entire show, so enjoy an hour of Getting Down to Business!

Listen or download below:

Marketing Podcast: 2012 Marketing Planning

This segment first aired during “Getting Down to Business” on Alaska’s Fox News Talk 1020.


2012 Marketing Planning – It’s Not Too Late

Conventional wisdom says all businesses finished their 2012 marketing plan by November, wrapped it in a bow and are ready to implement come January 1.

I venture to guess that is an overly optimistic perspective for many businesses. In November, most small businesses are striving to finish up the current year in a good state.

In fact, January is a great time to plan for the rest of the year. The previous year’s results are final; holiday vacations are over, and employees are refreshed and ready to dive in.

As you start focusing on the new year, consider these tips in developing your 2012 marketing plan.

Your 2012 Marketing Plan

What do you hope your business will look like in 2012? Understanding your goals is key to developing your marketing plan. If you can answer the following questions, you can plan to succeed:

  • How do you want 2012 to be different from 2011?
  • How do you want it to be the same?
  • Will your market environment change in 2012?
  • Who should be your customers in 2012?
  • Should you offer any new products and services this year to meet those customers’ needs?
  • What are your revenue and profitability goals?

Evaluate your marketing activities from the previous year. Being a spreadsheet fanatic, I make a spreadsheet of all activities, including their cost, metrics and attributable revenue. For instance, with a pay-per-click advertising campaign, your metrics will include how many visits to your website or how many phone calls you received.

Using this information, determine which marketing activities you will stop doing this year. You should stop any activities that don’t help meet your goals or have no hope of being profitable this year. Easy, right?

Now, decide which marketing activities you will continue and if you need any new initiatives or strategies. If you expect 2012 to be quite different from 2011, your marketing activities will very likely change dramatically. Perhaps your goal is to connect more deeply with your local community, so you might change from a strategy of print and TV advertising to sponsoring and developing local events.

Next, consider your marketing “capital improvements”– investments you made last year whose benefits continue into this year. Perhaps you redesigned your website, invested in a CRM system or wrapped your service fleet in new graphics. Based on your goals, are there any large investments you need to make this year?

Taking a look at all the marketing activities that will help you reach your 2012 goals, create a budget and timeframe for implementing them. Determine if you need additional marketing partners or if your current resources are sufficient.

Finally, make sure you actually implement your marketing plan! Get started right away… after all, 2012 is already upon us.

Need help with your 2012 marketing plan? Sometimes an independent assessment can help you prioritize your goals and put things into perspective. I’d be glad to talk with you… just email me at amanda@zooinajungle.com or give me a call at 513.833.4203.

Marketing Tips: Naming a Business

When you start a new business or develop a new brand, one of the most important early steps is naming it. A good name tells customers who you are, what you do, and what you can do for them.

If the business name is too generic (think American Business Group or Unified Solutions), customers won’t know what they can buy from you. A generic name means your marketing has to work harder to tell your story, both creatively and monetarily.

Alternately, a too-specific name can limit your future potential. Apple’s iTunes Store was painfully out of date with a business model that evolved to sell so much more than music. The company had to go through the expense and consumer education efforts of rebranding the service as the App Store. Apple still hasn’t solved the naming problem of iTunes, the application a consumer counterintuitively must use to sync the data on her iPhone.

To name a business or brand, the goal is to craft a name that is descriptive without limiting the future- and has good domain name possibilities. Some of my favorites include Fast Company, the magazine for innovative businesses; POM Wonderful, the delicious pomegranate juice, and Chik-fil-a, the chicken sandwich fast-food chain.

Or take the example of the business forclosure.com, which filed for bankruptcy last year. Very descriptive of the path the business took, don’t you think?

Marketing Plans for Small Business

A marketing plan is the foundation of any small business’s marketing efforts. Your marketing plan should describe and justify big marketing strategies and inform your daily tactical decisions.

At first, completing a marketing plan for your business may seem daunting and time-consuming. In fact, developing and following an effective marketing plan will most likely save time in the long run. It focuses your efforts (and budget) on your business goals and helps you make smart marketing decisions. Without a plan, most business success is left to chance.

There are two variations on marketing plans, a start-up marketing plan and an ongoing marketing plan for established businesses. The Leadership Protocol Institute was kind enough to let me share the start-up marketing plan I developed for them a couple years ago. View or download it below:

Sample Marketing Plan

The sample marketing plan follows an outline that any business can use for their marketing plan, whether it’s for startup marketing or ongoing marketing. There are three basic steps:

  1. Business Goals
  2. Customers
  3. Marketing Activities

1. Business Goals

Before you can reach your goals, you have to define them. Articulating your business goals should be the first section of your marketing plan. Most businesses understand that they need to define their goals for outside audiences, like banks or other funding sources. But it is just as important to define your goals for your own understanding.

A business goal needs a financial component and time limit. Here are examples of clearly-defined business goals:

  • We will increase revenue 30% through increased referral efforts by 2013.
  • We will sell four major accounts and ten minor ones in our first year of business, totaling $1.2M in sales.
  • We will grow profits enough in our three existing stores to open a new one in 2012.
  • Over the next six months, we will increase online sales by 35%.

2. Customers

In the second step to your marketing plan, you learn all about your customers. Who are they? What do they think of you? What do they think of your competitors? Where do they go for information? Where do they shop?

The questions may seem endless, but the answers are crucial. We have arrived at the research and analysis step. You’ll need both quantitative and qualitative research to truly understand your customers. You may know that your ideal customer is a professional mom, aged 30-45, with a household income of $85+, but do you really know her? It’s easier to market to people you know, and you get to know people by talking to them. Your marketing plan definitely needs quantitative research, but it needs qualitative research just as much.

After completing the research and analysis, you may learn more about your business goals. Perhaps they need to be changed, or you learned about a new opportunity, or you simply can add more detail. Circle back to step one, re-evaluate, then move on to step three.

3. Marketing Activities

Finally, we have reached the action step! Marketing activities are simply how you reach customers to get results. This step should be straightforward, since you’ve already defined your business goals and learned about your customers. For best results, plan a marketing calendar, with due dates attached to each activity.

In the sample marketing plan, we learned about the educators who would be our customers. Our main marketing activities involved starting relationships with decision-makers at affluent elementary and middle schools. Once contact was established, we mapped out the content for sales calls, follow-up interactions and mailings.

Look to the Future

Marketing plans are living documents, meant to evolve and grow with your business. If your business goals change, your marketing activities need to as well.  I recommend re-evaluating your business goals, customer knowledge and marketing activities once a year. By tweaking the plan and your approach, you will be more likely to stay ahead of the competition, spot new opportunities and stay fresh in the eyes of your customers.