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Putting Together the Pieces To the Marketing Puzzle

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When I started in advertising…too many years go to admit to…I began to notice that most “do-it-yourselfers” were making the same mistakes. They were treating each aspect of marketing and advertising as a separate entity. Instead of creating a plan based on the marketing process, they were picking and choosing individual areas to concentrate on. Needless-to-say, they didn’t have much marketing success.

Marketing is the entire process from product conception to delivery. Most people mistakenly believe that the words “marketing” and “advertising” can be interchanged. In actuality, advertising is only one part of the entire marketing process.

The marketing process is like a puzzle. If you leave out any of the pieces, you’ll find a big hole that detracts from your end result. So what are the pieces and how do you put them all together? Here, I’ll show you the basics that must be included in your marketing plan.

Product Conception and Definition

The first step to marketing a product (or service) is deciding what the product is going to be. Before doing anything else, write down a clear definition of your product or service. What is it basically? What will it do/provide? What are the features? What are the benefits?

Your Customers

Next, and most importantly, you’ll need to decide if there are people who will have a need for your product. This group of people is called your target audience. They are the ones that you will advertise to in an effort to sell your wares. It does no good whatsoever to have the best product or service if no one will buy it. Who will have a need for your product or service? Why will they find it useful? What problems do they have that your product or service will solve? How often will they need to buy it? Are multiple purchases possible?

Reaching Your Target Audience Through Advertising

Step three is to determine a plan of action for reaching your target audience through advertising or publicity. Where does your target audience spend time? What magazines or newspapers do they read? What radio stations do they listen to? What TV shows do they watch? How do you plan to reach these people where they are? Can you reach them with ads, brochures, Web sites, mailings or how?

Your target audience will also give you what you need to know in order to package your product and design your advertising efforts. Follow their lead. If you are marketing professional services to corporations, you’ll need to stay with darker colors, professionally printed brochures and flyers (instead of homemade with templates) and above all, copy that speaks their language.

This is where advertising comes into play. Again, it does no good to have a super ad or the best-looking Web site on the ‘Net if you can’t get it seen by the right people. Spend a lot of time and consideration on this step of the process. It will make or break your business.

Packaging

Packaging is not only a step used for products. How you package your services plays a major role in your success, too.

Again, follow the lead of your target audience. What will appeal to them? Bright colors, dark colors, a hard plastic casing or a cardboard box?

For services, your packaging comes in the form of your Web site design, brochures, corporate profiles and other marketing materials. Make sure they fit with the profile of your customer – not necessarily with your personal tastes.

Distribution

For products, the distribution step involves things like inventory, shipping and returns. For services, it involves delivery time, follow-up and refunds. How will you handle this piece to the puzzle? Will you need to rent a warehouse? Have private trucks or use a freight carrier? Can you provide services in a timely manner? How will you handle returns and refunds? All these questions must be considered, and proper arrangements made, before planning to sell the first item.

Sales

Even if you’re a one-man show, you’ll need to have a sales strategy in place. Most small business owners wear several hats. One of yours might be that of “salesman”. Things to consider during this phase of your marketing plan will be: what sales methods can you employ that will appeal to your target audience? Can you use a sales letter for direct mail or your Web site? Will you have “live” salespeople who employ telemarketing to makes sales? Will you have a brick and mortar shop where customers visit you and meet a salesperson face-to-face? The process of selling can’t be overlooked as it is what takes over once advertising has done its job.

Customer Service

Finally, no basic marketing plan is complete without proper thought being given to customer service. “Customer service isn’t part of a marketing plan”, you say. It most certainly is! It is much easier (and cheaper) to sell to an existing customer than it is to sell to a brand new customer. Not to mention, without excellent customer service, your repeat sales will dwindle into nonexistence.

Create a plan for handling your customers properly and professionally. Will you have a frequent buyer program? What will you do when someone has a special situation that goes against normal company policy? How will you let your customers know you appreciate their business? How can you encourage repeat business?

As you see, each step is intertwined with all the others. Customer service issues relate back to sales and distribution. Sales questions make you think of advertising. Your target audience plays a major part in all areas of the plan.

Don’t sell yourself short. Leaving one or more pieces of the puzzle out will certainly cause problems. Putting all the pieces together will give you a definite plan-of-action and a much more positive result.

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Putting Together the Pieces To the Marketing Puzzle
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