confused- marketing

Do you do a little of this and a little of that in social media, email marketing, print, direct mail, and blogging? Do you dabble and drift without a specific, written marketing plan?

You are not alone.

I meet many dabblers and drifters in the printing industry. In every industry, as a matter of fact.

Online technology makes marketing seem intimidating. We tell ourselves that it’s impossible to fit marketing into our business day. There are countless distractions, and endless voices telling us conflicting information. There are so many choices and so many tools.

In spite of all that, we CAN do it.

Marketing has been around for a long, long time. Even before the internet, busy companies carved out time and money to turn targets into customers. Yes, marketing has changed in some ways, and there are new tools. However…

Using a new tool or technology is no excuse to be random, vague, plan-less or goal-less.

Think about it. As you drift along, your competitors are working on their own marketing plans…and they are actually implementing them.

In fact, your competitors are probably making a plan right now to go after your customers!

But Sandy!” you might say. “It sounds too hard!”

It’s not hard, but it does take time, discipline and commitment.

Here are 11 steps that will get you on the right track:

  1. Think about what your want in terms of new customers. Who are they, where do they hang out, whom do they associate with?
  2. Pick a starting point (now, tomorrow, this month). Then pick a nearby end point (next week, next month, end of the quarter).
  3. Write your plan down. I like to put it into a shared document that the team can edit and comment. Once that’s done, we put the document into project management software, create a project, assign responsibilities and deadlines, and set notifications.
  4. Build a team. You’ll be more motivated and accountable if you work with a group that cares about the success of the project. If you don’t have a team to draw on from within your company, create one from colleagues, friends, advisors, association members, and online communities.
  5. Decide on the important things to measure. Money is always a good thing to monitor, such as: How much are we spending, how many paying customers did we get, what is the likelihood that interested prospects will become paying customers?
  6. Figure out what success will look like. You can’t aim for something unless you know what it is. Success might be defined as something like “meet 10 social media influencers who can introduce us to buyers.”
  7. Track your progress. To start out, you can use your sales or marketing tools to track projects. You can even use something like your email marketing program hooked up to your CRM. Don’t let technology be an impediment. Once you have some stats, extract that information and put it someplace where the team can interpret and evaluate it. That’s why I like using project management software.
  8. Give your plan a chance to work. I see people jump around, get distracted, follow some guru’s advice, and grab onto the newest trend. You need to let your idea work. Otherwise, you’ll never make any forward progress.
  9. Correct in small increments. Sometimes in a moment of panic, a good plan will get changed too much. Maybe the plan would have been fixed organically or maybe there would have been some notes at the end on what could be improved. But when you over correct, the team gets frustrated, the target audience gets confused, and the measurements are invalidated. Make small changes and get back on the road.
  10. Keep your sights on one single, achievable end point. One common mistake is when companies keep moving the end point while heading toward it. Not only is this inefficient, you lose the reliability of your data. You can end up really far off track before you know it.
  11. Hang in there. You may experience naysayers, pencil pushers, and fear-mongers who want you to abandon the project because they fear change or they doubt the outcome. True there will be days where you think “why bother?” On the other hand, there will be days when everything falls into place. Keep track of the ups and downs so you can anticipate them on the next round.

Once you get to your end point, do these things:

  • Celebrate!
  • Don’t rush into the next phase.
  • Congratulate those who helped you get there.
  • Get team member feedback.
  • Make notes on things to try next time.
  • Evaluate unintended consequences and correct any issues.
  • Pick a new end point.
  • Take a deep breath and begin again!

The time has come for print companies to do more than drift and dabble.

A deliberate, written marketing plan will propel you. In fact, a written plan, I find, is a catalyst for more strategic business planning throughout the company.

I know this process works. My clients, who range from printers to professional services companies, succeed by following these 11 steps.

Don’t be a dabbler and drifter. Let’s make an industry-wide commitment to better marketing in the coming year!

See more from Sandy

Photo from Michael Knapek

sandy_hubbard_printmediacentrSandy Hubbard is a marketing strategist for printing companies. She builds marketing programs that can be sustained over the long haul, with affordable tools and your own people…and without stress! Find Sandy @sandyhubbard on Twitter each Wednesday at 4 PM ET, assisting #PrintChat host Deborah Corn @PrintMediaCentr with a lively online discussion for printers and those who love print.

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