In the first article about writing your marketing plan for small business, you were introduced to the idea of marketing being like fishing.  That first step was all about choosing the kind of customers (fish) you want to land.

In Step 2, we’re going to make sure you offer them the tastiest bait in the water, so they can’t resist your advertising.

Remember, we want outstanding results, not just average, if we’re going to double your business…

We’ll start by looking at some reasons for the poor response to adverts.  Why don’t people respond by the thousand to your advertising?  There are a bunch of common sense reasons…

  1. We live in a time of information overload.  We don’t even notice 90% of the adverts we see – we simply don’t register that we’ve seen them.  Wherever you look, watch or listen (newspapers, TV, Internet, commercial radio, cinemas, magazines), you are overwhelmed by information and adverts for every product imaginable.
  2. Your customers are so busy just living their lives and trying to keep up, that reading and responding to your advert will fail unless it’s obvious, really obvious, that it will make their life better in some way.  Does your advertising do that, honestly?
  3. People think you’re lying.  We’ve all been conned by promises of amazing deals that crumbled into dust in our hands, making you a bit cynical about ads.  Nobody trusts the snake-oil salesmen in the adverts any more.  And if you’re in business, that means they don’t trust you!
  4. Your advert is all about the wrong people – it’s about you.  If you stand at a party and talk all about yourself, giving it the “me, me, me”, you’ll end up with a clear gap around you and people desperate to get away from you!  You’re the only person who’s got a real interest in hearing about you, you, you all the time.  So why does 99% of adverting do this?
  5. You’re following the wrong rules for advertising – Coca Cola don’t need to increase sales, but they sure as hell want to protect their brand because they own 50% of Cola drink sales.  Yet 99.9% of all adverts follow Coca Cola’s lead – if your ads have your business name or logo at the top in big letters, then it’s an ad for people who already know you, not for a new customer.  In your business you need to get people to respond for the first time, to make contact with you.  You need to employ direct response marketing.

Imagine a fish swimming in the see with hundreds and hundreds of fishing lines dangling in front of them.  They’re going to take a bite eventually, but with so much choice, how do you think they’ll choose?

That’s right – they’ll go for the tastiest looking worm of the lot – and ignore all the rest completely.

So you need to be a little cunning, like the smart fisherman who’s invented his own secret sauce to pour on his worms into before putting them on his hook.  A secret sauce that makes the fish hunt down his hook and tell their friends about it.

What you need is a big, fat, juicy worm of an offer to dangle on your hook, liberally soaked in your own secret sauce.   And to keep customers, you’ll need to make sure that your business satisfies your customers, too, so they’ll come back for more.

So, let’s build part 2 of your marketing plan – your differentiator – this is what makes your business, products and service simply the best for the customers you want to catch.

Core Marketing Plan Part 2 – Tasty Bait

So marketing is like a big fishing competition with lots of people all dangling their bait into the water and hoping to get the most bites.  We need to figure out, based on what your “fish” are hungry to eat, two key ingredients that together will make your marketing irresistable to the customers you want…

1 – Your Tasty Worm – Your Differentiator

Your business is the “main meal” and it needs to be something that makes it stand out, in some good way, from your competition.  To do this, your business can be one of three things – the cheapest, the best, or somehow different from your competition.

Forget being cheapest or best, because you can always be beaten on them by the big companies with money behind them.  Focus on being different (in a good way!).

If you offer the same products and don’t do anything different, your business will struggle to stand out in any way.  So you need to find some way of being different and standing out, so that you have something unique and worthwhile to offer.  This is often called the Unique Selling Proposition, but this is complicated marketing jargon for being a great company for your customers.

So, putting the customer to the front of our minds, what are the things that they would really value from you?  Don’t get caught up by saying “good service”, because that’s a cop-out.  Think through what an exceptional service experience would be and then figure out how much you can do to bring this to life.

Beyond this, you’ve also got the secrets of developing a brand identity.  This is a whole load cheaper and easier to do than you can imagine – in fact, I strongly recommend you don’t spend anything just to “get your name out there” or to “build the brand”.  People don’t buy from small businesses just by the name alone (not without a recommendation, anyway).

However, over time, if you’ve got advertising that’s bringing in customers, it should also be creating a sense of identity for your brand.  That’s why it’s really important to consciously create a Brand Essence.  You’ll use this to help put muscles on your marketing and make it perform even better over time.

The other thing you’ve got to think about is overcoming the fear of being ripped off.  This is what stops most people from buying from you – the fear that you’re a dodgy firm that’ll take their money and run.  How do you get past that?  Offer a guarantee – the best kind are 100% money back guarantees.  This puts all the risk on you, the firm, rather than the customer.  Fill your heart with dread?  Get over it!  People are generally honest and decent – only a tiny minority will claim their money back if you give the service you promise – perhaps 1-3% in total.

So, a quick recap – three things we need to work on for the “tasty worm” part of your marketing plan…

  1. Be different and special for your customers
  2. Identify your Brand Essence and cleverly garnish all of your marketing with it
  3. Offer a strong guarantee to take away their fear of buying from you

With these in place, we just need to liberally pour over your secret sauce in any adverts you do…

2 – Your Secret Sauce – A Powerful Offer

The thing with adverts is making them catch the attention of your customers.  You’ve got to give them what THEY want, not talk about yourself.  Why do you think that DFS, the furniture people, keep advertising with 50% off sales?  It’s because it’s so powerful as an offer that people can’t resist it.

Your marketing pieces need to have a drop of secret sauce – a powerful, compelling offer that you can imagine the Godfather saying, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse”.  Make it so exciting and easy for them to say “yes”, that they’d be mad not to take you up on it.

Here’s a few kinds of offers you can make that are exciting and compelling…

Free Gifts – my young daughter can’t resist the comic with the best gifts on front, even if she knows the only one that she wants to read is Hannah Montana…

Coupons – used extensively in the food industry, I know that we’ll always buy Dominoes pizza when their coupons come through the door with 2 for 1 offers and all sorts of other giveaways…

Free Information – used a lot on the Internet, you can produce a free guide to something that matters to your ideal customers, in exchange for their email addresses.  This way you can keep in touch with them (but more on this in step 4 of how to write your marketing plan).

In the next installment, we’re going to move into the next stage – 132 ways to get in front of the customers you want.  That’s what we call your Marketing Channels, and it’s part 3 of how to writing a marketing plan for small business.