“Marketing your business is like sowing seeds,” says Arlene Schragger. “Some will grow and resonate with your customers. Others won’t.” Still, it’s not enough to toss seeds around at random. They have to be carefully placed — and of the right variety. Otherwise, the business owner is just wasting time and money.
Schragger, head of ads Public Relations and Marketing, discusses “Building a Marketing Plan” on Wednesday, June 7, at 10 a.m. at a free workshop offered by the Women’s Business Center of NJAWBO (New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners) at NJAWBO headquarters at 127 Route 206, Suite 28, Hamilton. For reservations call 609-581-2220.
Schragger, who founded her business in 1987, has offices at 600 Lawrenceville Road. She specializes in providing public relations and marketing communications to professionals, consultants, non-profit organizations, and small businesses.
A marketing plan should be more than just a plan for advertising, says Schragger. It needs to be a plan “for building your entire image. It is about the entire package. Looking professional gives you credibility in the marketplace.”
Start with a name. Your marketing plan needs to begin with the most basic element — your business name. “Pick a name that makes sense,” says Schragger. “Make sure it is descriptive, and tells people who you are and what you do.” For example, “Smith Family Dentistry” is self-explanatory. Schragger’s own business name, ads Public Relations and Marketing, is a play on her own initials. “I tell people that my initials explain what I do,” she says.
Most businesses don’t have such an obvious tie-in with the owner’s name. That’s okay. But what is not okay in most businesses is choosing a name that in no way describes the company’s product or service. If that is the case, though, it is essential to add a tagline — a descriptive sentence underneath the name that provides more information. John Smith and Associates, for example, might add a tagline such as “Landscape architects specializing in water features,” or “Financial advisors with your future in mind.” An example from a business with which Schragger recently worked is: “We know what you need since 1929.” The sentence points out the company’s expertise and longevity.
Tie it all together. Once you have a name the next step is a logo and an overall image for your business. “The logo should work with your name, and it should look good in both color and black and white,” says Schragger. “You don’t want it to fade to nothing if you send a fax or an invoice or use it in a black and white newspaper ad.”
Your logo and “look” should be tied together throughout all of your marketing tools, she adds. Your website, brochures, flyers, advertising, and even your physical space — your storefront or office — should all tie in.
Find your target market. If you have been in business for more than a few months you have heard the phrase, “target market.” Finding out who your potential customers really are is one of the most important principles in marketing, says Schragger. “You need to define your target market and then continually refine it. When you ask people who their target market is so many people say ‘everyone.’ You need to be much more defined than that.”
Schragger uses a dentist as an example. “A dentist might say he wants to advertise to every house in the community with children from birth through high school. But if his practice is in an established neighborhood not every house contains potential patients. Most people in that neighborhood have a dentist already, and they are not going to change. Instead, he needs to target new families who are moving into the area.”
Schragger suggests picking one group of potential clients and targeting your advertising to that group. “If someone comes along who is not in that group, of course you are going to work with them. But your target market is your starting place. Pick a niche and target your advertising to it.”
Stress your unique selling properties. What makes your business different from everyone else? What are the features and benefits of your business? Many business owners try to sell features, says Schragger, but what their clients are interested in is their benefits.
Using her dentist example, Schragger suggests one of his features might be “24 emergency service.” This is a huge benefit, providing peace of mind to anyone who has ever been hit by a tooth ache at 2 a.m. That is the selling point, says Schragger, the benefit that should be stressed. “Look at your features from a different point of view — the client’s,” she says.
Broaden your view of marketing. Marketing is more than advertising. “The average television viewer sees more than 200 television commercials every day,” says Schragger, and this number doesn’t include all the other types of advertising that registers on his consciousness. With all of the messages out there it is difficult to make an impression on a potential new client. “It takes 12 to 15 impressions before someone notices you,” she says. That means that advertising can’t just be a “one shot deal.”
Business owners should try a variety of different things to get their message out. Mix up the marketing package to make sure that the message is being heard. “You can’t just put an ad in the local newspaper and expect it to work. Try radio, cable, Internet advertising too,” says Schragger.
“People say to me, ‘I sent out a postcard and I never got any results.’” Sending out one marketing piece without any follow-up is a “sure way for it to fail,” says Schragger.
Other tools in marketing are press releases, seminars, and networking, she adds. “Networking is a give and take relationship. You need to learn to be a good listener to try to help out the other person as well as expect them to help you.” she says.
Sending press releases is another way to get publicity, but just sending a press release by itself will probably not be effective. “Warm up the editor by calling and talking with him,” says Schragger. “Then send the press release. Afterward call and follow-up, and make sure that article idea and press release have value for that publication’s readers.”
Schragger suggests that business owners come up with a plan for a six-month campaign. “Try something new every six weeks or so and see what works.” Make sure that you track your advertising to find out which methods are right for you. Ask customers how they heard about you and measure your success with various techniques. The most important part of building a marketing plan is to just do it.
No gardener has 100 percent success with his seeds. Some are duds, some get gobbled up by robins, and some show promise, but then wither. Invariably, though, a good number of seeds take hold and grow into healthy, productive plants. So it is with marketing. There is no reason to be discouraged if a website gets few hits or a coupon draws little response. There is a good chance that another marketing initiative — anything from a visit to a chamber of commerce meeting to a newspaper’s interest in doing a story based on a press release — will be just the thing to get a new company growing.