How are you Aiming Your Marketing Message to Consumers?

Marketing. Public Relations. Advertising. Branding.

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You’ve probably heard of all of these, but aren’t sure what the differences are. In truth, they overlap a lot. The lines are often blurred among them. Here is a spot-on illustration of how they differ!

I couldn’t say it better than that, but I’ll go ahead and ruin it by trying. Let’s order them in terms of blatancy to the most subtle.

1. Advertising (bang your message over someone’s head)
2. Marketing (consumers are aware you’re paying for the placement)
3. Public Relations (they don’t have to know you called the news station after rescuing that kitten from a tree)
4. Branding (word of mouth is a great example). Branding is usually seen as the most sophisticated because it involves associating the brand with a lifestyle or particular experience, therefore the advertising can be around the Brand rather than the product or service.

Are You a Man (or Woman) Without a Plan? 5 Steps to a Better Marketing Plan

Driving through my Orlando suburb, I see so many businesses that are destined to fail. It pains me, because I know with proper planning, these businesses would have been successful. That’s all it takes. Do you have a plan?

Many companies have business plans, primarily to secure financing. But marketing plans tend to get overlooked, maybe because a marketing plan is for you, not your investors. Businesses may not see them as necessary, but they absolutely are! A marketing plan will help you prioritize your actions and lay out a clear step-by-step map to help guide you to grow your business, and in conjunction with your budget, will help you determine the scope of what you will and will not be able to accomplish.
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Step 1: Marketing SWOT

For my fellow MBAs, SWOT is all too familiar. It stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Jot down what your company’s strong points are, as well as areas it could use a little work. Survey your industry and determine where there are opportunities for your business to grow, and where competitors may threaten to take some of your market share. If you want more in depth information on SWOT, click here

Step 2: Marketing Creativity

Now comes the fun part. You get creative. Think about all the forms of marketing that appeal to you or that are hot in your market. If you’re really savvy (or hire me) think of marketing ideas that aren’t yet abuzz, but soon will be. Riding the wave of Marketing 2.0 may be your key to success.

Research ROI and costs involved, and decide which aren’t worth the trouble. Mark them off your list. ROI on marketing is a dark art at best, so a gut check may be in order as well as tight status checking to ensure you don’t bet the bank on an inappropriate marketing mix.

What’s Your Square Plate? How Differentiation in Marketing Can Save Your Business

On a road trip recently, my family stopped at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant. I don’t have any particularly strong affiliation to the restaurant. To me, it’s a lot like Chili’s and Applebee’s. A good place to get a hot meal, nothing more, nothing less.

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I hadn’t been in a Ruby Tuesday in a few years, but right away I noticed a difference. The plates were square. And the tables were clear of the drink special clutter. The menu was basically the same, but there was a slight air of sophistication that I took note of, highlighted by fewer items on the menu, large colorful pictures, and elegant text. And now, that is what separates Ruby Tuesday from other restaurants for me.

Differences In Marketing

It doesn’t take much to differentiate yourself. In this example, you see that by changing the accessories (a very affordable expense, I imagine), Ruby Tuesday is shifting its image from an all-American hamburger joint to something more upscale. It’s subtleties that count.

Think about your business. Likely you’re not the only one of your kind. How do you set yourself apart from the competition? What makes you special? What are your competitive advantages? If you don’t have answers to these questions, you need to find them out.

Why You Can’t Afford NOT to Have a Marketing Budget

It eludes me why so many people put marketing last in their financial planning and budgeting. I understand that electricity and paying employees’ salaries is important, but marketing is just as important. Without it, you have no customers, so you don’t need electricity or employees!

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I think entrepreneurs assume they need a star-dazzling six-digit marketing budget. Nothing could be further from the truth. To get started, when income isn’t yet rolling in, I suggest my clients allot just 10% of their revenues to marketing. As revenues increase, you can increase the amount or set a dollar amount.

When I started Egg almost a year ago, I had ZERO funds for marketing or anything else. I was so afraid my company wouldn’t make it without marketing money. But as soon as I committed to setting aside just 10% of my revenue, I slowly created a marketing pile of money that afforded me networking opportunities, small website advertising, and print collateral. These channels helped me build up Egg, and now my marketing budget has grown to meet my company’s growing success.

10 Reasons Your Marketing Sucks

If you’re not getting the business you want, and you’re constantly discussing marketing to no avail, your marketing strategy sucks.

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Here are some clues to look for:

1. You don’t have a marketing budget.

Budget? What’s that? If you think setting aside money for marketing is a waste of time, you’ll soon be looking for employment.

2. You don’t have a marketing plan.

Flying by the seat of your pants is not an option when you’re an entrepreneur. Being flexible is, however. You need to have a marketing plan that lays out what activities you will engage in each year, quarter, and month, and how much will be allocated (see point 1).

5 Ways Small Business Can Use Internet Marketing

So you’ve heard of Web 2.0, but you’re not sure what it is. Do you need to install it? Nope. Web 2.0 is what you’re using right now to read this blog. It’s the interactive factor of today’s internet. (I…

Part 2: You Could Learn a Lot from a Fairy Godmother: How Disney Renewed my Faith in Loyalty and Marketing

I recently was fortunate enough to sit in on a Disney Institute session on loyalty. Not knowing what to expect, I was shocked and delighted when a fairy godmother descended on the room (or rather burst through the doors) and began spouting off interesting information about Disney.

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Of all the meetings I have ever attended, I have to say, this is the one that I will always remember.

But aside from all the wing and bling she spread around the room, I learned a lot about how Disney does marketing. My respect for the company has grown tenfold since the meeting.

Part 1: ATTN CEO: 4 Signs Your Customers Hate You, and How you could learn from a Fairy.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself when it comes to your relationship with your customers:

1. Are your most profitable customers those who have the most reason to be dissatisfied with you?

2. Do you have rules that you want customers to break because doing so generates profits?

3. Do you make it difficult for customers to understand or abide by your rules, and do you actually help customers break them?

4. DO you depend on contracts to prevent customers from defecting?
If you answered “yes” to any of the four questions, your company may be engaged in what an article, “Companies And The Customers Who Hate Them” in the Harvard Business Review calls “adversarial value-extracting strategies.”

Can Microsoft Bring the Love Back for Consumers?

You’ve likely already seen the clever movie put out by Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions that illustrates the divorce that is currently happening between consumers and traditional advertising. People have learned to hate it. Nothing could better illustrate the disconnect that…