Monday, August 15, 2011

Startup Marketing

Marketing needs you to plan. Winging it will only get you so far. You will hobble your success more than you can imagine if you don't commit time to create a marketing plan and make yourself adhere to it. Of course, you need flexibility to vary plans as situations change, and you will still need to know how to get where you are aiming to go.

Marketing builds on itself. It's the life blood of your business and brand. Immediate success is uncommon when you start to market. Committing to a long-term marketing plan, you will not only see your success emerge, you will see the success become stronger over time. It's an amazing thing to have to re-evaluate your goals because you are exceeding them ahead of your planned schedule.

Your existing knowledge will only take you so far. If you are in business for the long haul, you have to build into your marketing plan the time and resources to increase your knowledge. Things change in every industry. By staying stagnant, you risk being left behind. Dinosaurs are easy to find and, sadly, will eventually become extinct. Continue to change with the needs of clients, by feeding yourself a steady educational diet – be on the cutting edge of the equine consulting industry.

Are you intimidated by the thought of marketing your business? Does a do-it-yourself marketing effort appear daunting? In your day to day business, focus on what your clients need and how you can meet those needs. Build your marketing strategies and materials with the client at the forefront of your mind. Good marketing messages focus on what clients need.

Customer Service

Effective customer service is a good asset, and great in providing for repeat customers.
Create customers who are as excited about your products and service as you are. These customers will possibly become your best sales people. You won‘t need to pay commission.
It is important not to forget the valuable strategy of profit maximisation through repeat sales.

Poor customer service is seen in businesses that argue over a few dollars mistake with a customer who contributes $250 per annum in sales revenue. If you are aware a customer is manipulating you, endeavour to appease their complaint to avoid the risk of ten others bad mouthing you. Having done your best, you can refuse to do business again with chronically-whinging customers.

Good marketing will see an increase in communications traffic which might catch you by surprise. You, as a small business owner, may not have employees. You will be the person customers come to. Under the pressure of a schedule, will you have time to listen to their need or complaint, and, supply a reasonable response? Will you be able to follow up quickly?

Have little plans in place help you

Quality Plan – details the definition of your service and products, factoring in customer need, expenses, competition – these are the aspects that define quality for your clients. Here you will need to define the breadth of assortment your service and product offering. Are you able to customise your offerings to meet the need of clients. When selling products is it easy for customers to buy from you? Are these products durable and easy to use?

Communications Plan – How will clients be able to let you know they want extra? What plans have you got to ensure they get it swiftly? How do customers place orders or make bookings? Is voicemail enough? Do you need a fax machine? Have you reached the growth stage where a live answering service and pager will be valuable?

Supplier Plan – Design this relying upon the information in the Quality Plan and Communications Plan. You will need to locate suppliers of products and services who you know will be able to deliver the level of quality you are assuring. Be fully informed of their services so that you can tell a customer on the phone whether or not you can deliver what they want.

Personnel Plan – How well can you cope with sales/client prospecting, sales/client support and customer service by yourself? Does your business require written contracts? Proposals? Bids/tendering? Are you able to prepare these swiftly and professionally? How much travel will you be doing? Who, if anyone will be filling in whilst you are out and about? Will a laptop and broadband be useful here?

Service/Product Development Plan - Are you able to design a system for developing new products/services in a systematic manner. Will you need external advisors to help this along? Think of how you will evaluate likely expenses and sales revenue?

Commit to writing you customer service philosophy, the helpful little plans, and your operational details. Remember, in the future you will have employees and casuals. They need to see it, in order to facilitate consistent level of customer service. Stay true to your customer service plans; it will become clearly obvious that employees will be required to satisfy your customers

The Dream

Your business is an endeavour to make a dream come true. Many clients want to know you care when you exchange services and products for their hard earned cash. ―Thank you brings smiles. Try calling new clients after their first lesson to see if it was to their satisfaction. Let them know you appreciate their business. Keep your promises.

Your clients are also sources of new product ideas. Needs change over time. If your clients are comfortable with you, then they will free to discuss these changing needs with you, including their new wants. Clients want to feel they are receiving value for their money, and the sense that they are appreciated for dealing with you.

What to consider when creating good Customer Service Strategy:

Is it easy for clients to contact you personally?
How many people do clients need to speak with to receive customer service?
Do you have clearly explained pricing policies?
Have you designed Credit, Returns, Custom Order policies to please clients or your bookkeeping system?
In all honesty, do your services and products match benefits offered in your advertising?
Is it easy for your customers to order? Pay?
Do you supply an easy way for clients to voice complaints?
Is everyone dealing with your clients trained in the features and benefits of your service/product offerings?
Does your business have Yellow Pages Listing?
Do your business details and BN appear on sales literature, letterheads and receipts?
Do you inform clients of delays in service or product delivery?
If you answered ‘no‘ to any of these questions, then how can you correct this?

The Brand

Do you think having a logo and a brief description of your services is all you need to establish your brand? Branding is the perception you create in the minds of others. It goes before you and tells people much of what you want to say, when introducing your business to a new client.
Your brand will define and describe your horse consultancy. Good branding will set you apart from your competitors. Your brand covers everything your consultancy does, from the first contact with a prospective client to how your services/products are defined and sold. You can make yourself so positively memorable that clients and prospects will look for your business or pick you over your competitors. Take a look at two car manufacturers, BMW and Holden. Both manufacturers sell cars for different reasons. BMW is perceived as selling luxurious sporty vehicles with the comfort of a limousine, the budget conscious would not approach BMW. Regardless, they both sell cars based upon reliability.

The primary reason you create and build a brand, is to set yourself apart from your competitors in the marketplace. Promotion of your business and development of services and products is much easier. They are much easier to define and design when focussed around your well defined brand.

How to Create Your Own Brand

Your brand must reveal

Who you are

What you do

How you do it

What benefits folk will receive using your business.

Your brand has to establish your equine consultancy and credibility in the perception of prospective clients. For this to occur you have to describe what you want your business, services, and products tell others.

Begin with the Mission Statement

Mission Statement – This is an overarching realistic and focused statement of what you want your business to be and do as it operates. It communicates values, vision, and purpose. In fact it is your business‘ reason for being. The mission statement is created with different uses and forms in mind. For example, some businesses use their mission statement as a publicity tool. Others have an inside-use only mission statement that acts as a guide for leadership decisions, and still others publish their mission statements in annual reports meant to be read by investors and potential clients.

Try this:

Our mission is to provide each client a safe, supportive learning environment coupled with challenging natural equine education that promotes responsibility and excellence in horse handling

When taking business decisions, check to see if they align with the Mission, reinforce your business‘ values, and also if their outcomes result in progression towards your Vision.You may wonder about a Vision Statement. It is the image of the future you wish to create in the minds of prospective clients. A Vision statement can be incorporated into the Mission Statement. They can be difficult to write. They need to be short, clear, and concise.memorable and engagin. Vision statement is desirable.

Have a look at McDonald‘s Vision Statement:

`"McDonald's vision is to be the world's best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile."

Notice how it cleverly sits inside its Mission Statement.

What about creating a short pitch‘? This is a few sentences that you would use to describe your business in the time it takes to travel in an elevator or a few minutes. You can use this to respond to new individuals who want to know what you do‘. You can also use it as an introduction whilst networking. Describing what your business, services, and products say is integral to successful branding. Imagine you are a client.

What things would you seek from this business‘s products and services?

Product/service features
Availability / Scarcity
How and when delivered.

You will be able to identify more which relate to your business. Using these terms you can define who, what, and where you are. You might design something like this:

‘We provide some of the best accredited natural horsemanship training in Queensland. Our services are of the highest quality as we continue to learn and improve upon our skills from the masters. At Soul Horse, we want to ensure that our training will be useful and deliver good value to you.’

This paragraph might serve as a Mission Statement of an equine consultancy. It defines what You are selling, to whom, and established credibility. Soul Horse is an easy-to-remember catchy brand name. You need to be recognised by your clients and prospects. This is where you logo and tag line play an essential part. Your logo reflects your brand. It should be simple and recognisable. Your logo needs to appear on all communications, website, products, marketing materials and advertising.
Your tag line describes what you do. It serves to differentiate you from inferior firms in your Industry.

Nike has this tag line – ―Just do it.
Soul Horse has –―A Magical bond between Horse and Human.

Finally, be consistent with all of your brand promotions. Don‘t make the mistake of changing it. People are better able to remember your brand the more they see it. Regular marketing will facilitate the building of your credibility, and your relevance to you targeted prospective clients and existing clients in your market. Your brand says who you are and permits you to pre-sell your services and products . As your business becomes more established, the brand will make it easy to get new services and products accepted.

The Promotion

Tips for improving your online presence:

Your website is your 24 hours a day, 7 days a week shop front.

Is it simple and easy to navigate?
Do your contact details appear on every webpage?
Make sure your offerings are clear.
Is it easy for your clients or just satisfying for the web designer?
Update it regularly.
Does it generate traffic?
Include useful content.
Publish articles on your website.
Publish articles in other peoples newsletters and include your web address.
Write about things which are commonly asked questions from your target market. Make it available on your website.
Capture contact information of leads and prospects.
Supply Tips.
Write blogs. Make useful comments on other peoples blogs which are relevant to your target market and include your website address.
Email Newsletter – you will have a direct line of communication with people who have chosen to receive them. Depending on the amount of information you have to share with readers, you may want to make it weekly, fortnightly, and at a minimum monthly. It can
consist of two thirds of rich information, and the remainder being promotional material.
Make good use of social and professional online networks. Eg LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Here you can showcase your expertise, supply announcements of your business, and share interesting sites.
Share videos and podcasts which are regular and relevant, directly communicating with your target market who will be expecting to hear from you.

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