Create a Profit-Building Marketing Plan -- Part 2

"…after a while your site becomes a popular 'must check' site."

by Michael Cooney

A carefully crafted marketing plan is the roadmap that will help you achieve your goal of steadily increasing sales. As mentioned in Part 1, over time it will show you if you're on target, or need to rethink your approach. It also is critical for minimizing advertising waste.

Last time we covered these three questions: Who is the best market for this product or service? What research is available on them? What do they read or listen to? Here are three more questions you’ll want to ask yourself, to help prepare a profit-boosting plan.

Which media are most appropriate for advertising to my market?

After learning what your target market reads or listens to, you can then begin the process of narrowing down the most appropriate media buys for your advertising.

Let's say you’re selling golf equipment. Obviously, golf magazines are a logical place to reach golfers. However, since golf enthusiasts tend to enjoy above-average incomes, travel magazines may also be appropriate. Especially those with articles on golf vacations, or the world’s most beautiful golf courses.

Last time we mentioned demographic categories. To over-simplify, if two travel magazines feature golfing vacation spots, but one is targeted to budget-minded golfers and the other to wealthy golfers, you would have a clearly defined focus telling you which of the two magazines is more appropriate for your product line.

Golfers also fly more than average. That means airline magazines may be a good match. Through your own careful research you will discover what kinds of publications and on-air programming best matches your demographic market.

There is another important consideration as well, and that is "reach." For example, if you own a restaurant and 90 percent of your customers come from within a five-mile radius, does it make sense to advertise on broadcast television? Or in the L.A. Times? Most probably not -- they have a market radius of 60 miles. You're paying huge amounts to reach an audience of which perhaps only one or two percent are potential customers.

If you own an RV center, on the other hand, where customers routinely will drive fifty or a hundred miles to look at your inventory, then mass market media like broadcast television and large newspapers may be a good fit. Reach, then, is a critical factor in making the best use of your advertising funds.

How can I use the Internet to gain new customers?

There are many ways to use the Internet to gain more prospective customers. Here are a few.

First, learn where you can advertise your website. Are there magazines or other publications catering to your market? See if advertising is available on their websites. Or ask if you can trade links.

Run key word tests on major search engines to learn what categories or search terms your market uses to get information on your type of product or service. Then, have your advertisement pop up when those search terms are entered for high visibility during those searches.

In many product categories, visitors are intrigued by sites that feature monthly or weekly specials. This can generate a substantial number of repeat visits, and after a while your site becomes a popular “must check” site. Don’t bury your special offer on some obscure sub- sub- sub-section of your website -- put in on your home page!

Education is important and appreciated. Enlighten your visitors about how your industry operates, or how your products are made, or what they should look for to receive a good value. Education helps build trust, and trust increases sales.

How much should I budget for marketing and advertising?

Here's the short answer: you'll want to plan for between 10 and 20 percent of your gross sales. This is a common range; certain industries require more, a few can get by with less. If you believe that marketing is an investment in future profits, then budget accordingly. If not, be prepared to struggle against competitors who do understand that.

Resist the temptation to cut marketing during economic downturns because once market share is lost, it's doubly hard to regain. Savvy companies actually increase marketing during downturns because they know that when others are cutting marketing budgets, that’s the easiest and cheapest time to grab large increases in share.

The data you'll gain by answering these six questions will help you build a strong marketing plan. The final step is to work the plan! It can’t build your sales sitting on a shelf gathering dust.