Winston Churchill said, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” Wise words. As most Financial Planners will tell you, most people plan more for their vacation than for their retirement. The same is true with businesses. It’s hard enough to find a small business with a business plan let alone a marketing plan. A good marketing plan can generate needed momentum to grow business. It also provides the opportunity to assess the past and forecast the future.
One aspect of this planning is to determine a budget. That process begins by looking at the last 3-5 years of revenue. This will form a solid base from which to forecast. This time frame will allow for variables, such as the worst winter in recorded history, which might affect the numbers. The forecast will begin to take its own form as other factors such as seasonality and other variables are taken into consideration.
Once the revenue forecast is arrived at, the next step is to apply a percentage to the forecast number to determine the amount to be dedicated to marketing. As an example, most furniture trade organizations suggest 6% of forecasted revenue. This is how the budget is set. The budget can now be broken down to specific types of marketing and advertising.
By arriving at a budget, buying power is created that can be used to obtain preferred rates with suppliers in exchange for monetary commitments. A budget is a guide. It may be adjusted as time unfolds, but having the plan and making minor changes is better than no plan at all. Just ask Winston.
Two interesting examples of the value of consistent advertising:
In 1920 Moxie outsold Coca-Cola and was the number one selling soft drink in America. It was so popular the name became part of pop-culture (in case you never knew where, “that took a lot of Moxie” came from). After the depression hit, Moxie decided to drastically reduce it’s advertising and we all know what happened. Coke became “The Real Thing” and Moxie became something you heard when watching a 1930’s gangster movie.
When World War II began, Wrigley’s was cut off from the raw materials needed to make chewing gum. They were only allowed to produce chewing gum that was provided to soldiers. Did Wrigley’s stop advertising because they had no product to sell? No, they kept advertising knowing that one day the war would end and there would be plenty of pent-up demand for their product.
One company kept their momentum and one didn’t. The results are dramatically different. It takes a great deal of effort to create marketing momentum and if you stop it can be expensive or impossible to get it back.
Summertime and the Networking is Not So Easy
Summer is here and while we are all looking forward to nicer weather and vacations, from a business perspective we are at the beginning of “Excuse Season”.
Yes, people go on vacation but let’s break down the numbers. This year, from 4th of July weekend to the Friday before Labor Day there are eight weeks. Most people at most take two weeks off (exception for school teachers noted) That means most people work six of the eight weeks. Well, they must be doing something. Why not networking or better yet, looking for business.
While there may not be as many networking events to go to, what better time to go through all those business cards you collected over the first six months of the year and contact people you’ve met? You could get a great networking contact or better yet, a client! Don’t get caught in side the big excuse machine. Happy Summer!
Small Details Can Make The Difference
I was walking the other day and passed a local health club. There was a sandwich board on the sidewalk promoting the cafe’s soft drink and smoothie offerings. Only one problem. The arrow on the sign was pointing to the hotel across the street. Wanting to help, I walked in and spoke to the woman at the front desk. Her reply, “We don’t run the café, you’ll have to like go over there.” Terrific I thought, I’m going to get to do a good deed. I walked into the café and told the person there that the sandwich board they had outside was pointing the wrong way. Her response, “We don’t sell sandwiches.” (I swear this is a true story, you just can’t make stuff like this up) After the third time of trying to explain my point I gave up, politely wished her a nice day and went on my way.
Moral of the story: Everyone in your business is a reflection of your brand. Entry-level employees may not be the most polished but they are on the front lines interacting with your customers. It’s a competitive world out there and any edge is important. It’s well worth the extra effort to teach your employees how to represent your business, or at least which way to point a sign.
Broadcasting, Narrowcasting & Microcasting
Radio began the age of Broadcasting in the 1920’s. Television added pictures in the 1940’s and the world has never been the same since. The 1970’s and 80’s introduced the wide expansion of Cable Television and with it in the 1990’s came the age of ‘Narrowcasting’ as cable systems were able to target advertisers’ messages into tighter geography.
The Internet, Social Media, Smart Phones and all the technology that comes with them have now ushered in the age of ‘Microcasting’. Never before have advertisers been able to target a message so specifically. This has opened doors for businesses of all sizes but has been particularly beneficial for smaller businesses that previously were shut out of a comprehensive media mix. Effective use of these technologies, while tricky, can be a game-changer for your business. And the world will never be the same again.
Chess, Checkers and Social Media
Social Media has many wonderful benefits. Immediacy, direct engagement and the ability to specifically target your message are but a few. In the hands of someone familiar with how all these platforms work your brand can take on a new luster. However, a funny thing happened on the way to Social Media Nirvana, many of our Social Media friends became public companies who have legions of shareholders and these shareholders have a funny habit of wanting to know about every dollar that comes in and goes out.
The point is that Social Media companies (just look at Facebook) have slowly been monetizing their offerings for businesses. Gone are the days when every person who ‘liked’ your company Facebook page sees every post. The good news is if you’re willing to pay for some ‘boost’ those who like your post and their friends will have a greater likelihood of seeing your message.
The bottom line is while you may have great Social Media content that doesn’t mean you’re reaching everyone you think you are reaching. To do that you need to fork over cash and that’s where it becomes important to know what works. Almost all Social Media platforms provide data on performance. It’s part of their sales strategy. What you need is to be able to interpret that data in order to make the best decisions about where to invest your resources. It’s like the difference between Chess and Checkers. With so many options and choices to be made you need to be two to three moves ahead at all times.
The Value of Regular Communication
It is better to communicate with business associates on a regular, consistent basis than to go on sporadic mass communication bursts. This seems a simple enough concept but I believe it falls into that infamous category “Simple but not Easy”. Think about it. When business is slow we work like crazy to develop contacts and stimulate business. Then, lo and behold, we get some business to work on and all of a sudden we have no time to cultivate and develop contacts.
When you do the math it’s not all that hard. Say your list has 100 names. Over 10 weeks you’d only need to send 10 emails per week or two per day. You can set the cycle for as long or as short a time frame as will work best for you. No more than once a month and no less than once a quarter is a good rule of thumb. Can you honestly say you can’t send two emails a day? Try this once and see what happens.
The Case for Networking
“I should do more networking but____”.
We’ve all said and heard this before but I submit that in the technology top-heavy world in which we live, in person networking is more important than ever. Email, voice mail, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other technological breakthroughs may have made it easier to reach new contacts but also made it harder to cultivate business relationships. The irony is the more we use technology to be efficient the more important an old fashioned face to face conversation becomes.
Yes, it takes time to network but break down the numbers and suddenly it’s not so daunting. In fact it’s quite productive. If you average just one networking event per week, that’s 50 in a year, allowing for two weeks’ vacation. If you make six good contacts per event, follow up and get a meeting with half of those contacts you’ll have three good meetings. If half those meetings result in great networking contacts you’ll average 1.5 long term networking contacts per week. You’ve just picked up 75 contacts a year that can either refer business to you or turn into business themselves. Do you think if you made 75 new solid business contacts per year your business would increase?
Take a few minutes today and look for networking events in your area.
Does your business suffer from ‘Cell Phone Syndrome’?
I don’t mean do your employees use their mobile phones at work. I mean does your business employ a strategy where new clients are given the world and your existing clients are taken for granted? Wireless companies will give you the moon and the stars to sign with them but after a few years do you get any consideration at all? Usually not. Unless you threaten to leave and sometimes not even then. Rough words, I know. But take a step back and look at your revenue streams and where the main thrust of your sales and marketing efforts are aimed. There is no doubt that every business must obtain new clients, customers, patients or whatever you call those who pay for your product or service, but every business loses at least some business every year.
Think of it like a cup with a hole in the bottom. Your goal is to increase the water level. The incoming business is the water poured into the cup. The outgoing business is coming out of the bottom. You need not be a rocket scientist to know that if you keep the water flow at the top the same but make the hole smaller the cup will fill faster. What if you were able to focus the same effort on new business while saving and growing business from existing accounts. When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks he responded, “Because that’s where the money is.” Your current clientele already know you and are doing business with you. Why not show them a little more love and watch your revenue grow?
Business School + Sales = Huh? (or, ‘what you don’t know about sales can be hazardous to your business)
An article in the July-August 2012 Harvard Business Review revealed that of the 479 accredited business programs at universities in the U.S., only 101 have a sales curriculum (21%), and a mere 15 offer either an MBA or some sort of sales-oriented graduate curriculum (3%).
Amazing and typical at the same time. The article goes on to explain that most business school curricula were created when the vast majority of students had been in the working world and were coming back to school to earn MBA’s to round out their professional skills. The boom in MBA programs led to more and more students going directly to graduate school. The rise of marketing as a discipline made an MBA in marketing much more attractive (and vague) than learning how to directly sell something. Talk about generals fighting the last war.
This translates into the real world in those who are excellent in their professions but have no expertise in developing business. The Accountant that strikes out on his or her own and the Attorney who worked 80 hours a week to become a partner only to realize they now have rainmaker responsibilities are but two examples.
Many years ago a company I was working for brought in a very successful college baseball coach who began his presentation by reminding us that everyone in the audience was the result of a sale. It made sense then and it makes more sense now.
Waverider Communciations Opens Boston Office
Announcing the opening of Waverider Communications’ new Boston office! The office is located in Suite 1702 at 265 Franklin Street. The new phone number is 617-963-5291. “Our relocation to Boston is the next logical step in Waverider’s development”, said President & CEO Robert J. Simpson, “The new office will help us to serve our clients better and we look forward to being a part of the Boston business community as we begin what I believe will be an outstanding year for the region.”
Waverider Announces Completion of Video Project
Waverider Communications is proud to announce completion of our latest project, a video production for Falcon Global Edge. This is a great way to utilize video for sales and marketing efforts. It is one part of a cohesive, multi-platform approach to marketing, promotion and advertising.
Know Thy Audience
Any time you try to communicate a thought to a person or group of people you should follow the first and most important commandment of communication: Know Thy Audience. Your kids don’t need to hear how brake pads need to be replaced. They need to know you took the time to get the car fixed so you can take them to the beach. The same applies to business communication. Don’t get caught up in jargon. People don’t need or want the technological process that produced your new widget. They want to know how this new widget will make their lives and/or jobs better. Always think of your audience and tell them what THEY want to know. If they want technical specifics believe me, they’ll ask.