Stock Market Strategies – 3 Great Ways to Get the Edge on the Market

When it comes to share market investing, many traders are only familiar with the old “Buy and Hold”‘ strategy. Little do they know that there are many Stock Market Strategies that can be easily learnt, that can increase their probability of success in the share market.

Whether you are an investor or a speculator of the share market, below are some handy stock market strategies that can improve your overall performance.

Market Timing Strategies

Timing the share market is a strategy that’s purpose is to identify ideal times to invest money in the share market, to buy stock and when to sell. It is true that if the overall share market is strongly trending, that your probability of successfully investing your capital in a stock which is also strongly trend is much greater.

By investing your money in the share market during conducive market conditions and preserving your capital when the market conditions are not, it stands to reason that you can side step some costly trading losses and greatly increase your overall profits.

Stock Option Strategies

One way that a stock trader can either increase or decrease the leverage and risk in his/her trading investments, is to use Stock Option Strategies. One misconception of options is that they are a risky investment because of the leverage they can provide. But the truth is stock options were originally created to remove some of the risk involve in holding stock, and if used correct, they certainly do provide that.

A trader can choose from a range of option combinations, or stock and option combinations, for a range of desired effects. Depending on which option strategy chosen, a trader has the ability profit when the asset rises in value, remains the same or declines in value. There are also stock option strategies to protected the value of your stock assets.

Successful Brand Marketing Strategies For Online Marketers

What are brand marketing strategies and how can utilizing brand marketing strategies help an online business? Just like a bricks and mortar business, an online business also needs to suggest a positive image to the customer. In spite of what many people believe, branding is much more than creating a company logo and using a specific color scheme. Brand marketing strategies should also include the purpose, focus and image of the business. Let’s discuss some of the benefits with regards to brand marketing strategies.

Benefits of Branding:

Having your own brand helps people to remember your company as opposed to companies using a common name. Brand marketing strategies are about helping the target market to distinguish your company focus and purpose. Consumers are more likely to turn to your business when they are aware of what you do and what you’re all about.
Brand marketing strategies also will help you to become well recognized. People who may not yet have done business with you should still be able to recognize who you are and what you do. If they see your advertisements on the internet, receive your newsletter, receive regular mailings from your company by email, etc. then you’ve established a brand identity. When the tine arrives that they require your product or service then your company will be the first that they think of.
Using brand marketing strategies will help get and retain customer loyalties. It is a fact that people bond closely with brand identities. The astute consumer wants a quality product or service from a company they know they can trust. In delivering great brand identity people tend to remember you and your company. Quite frequently they’ll refer family, friends and associates to you based on their level of satisfaction.
Buyers will pay for image, it’s that simple. Society is very “brand aware.” Commonly people associate certain brand names with superiority and only choose to purchase certain brands for that reason. Brand marketing strategies can reward a business well when done wisely. When a consumer only wants one certain brand of a product or service, they are willing to pay any price to get it. Establishing a great brand using brand marketing strategies will give your company a superior brand image and make the consumer forget about the competition.

Brand Marketing Strategies Initial Steps Of Branding Yourself

It’s worth repeating that branding is much more than a logo and color scheme or a catchy motto. When using brand marketing strategies there are some initial steps that should to be followed to create a successful brand image.

Step 1: Brand Marketing Strategies Focus On the Competition

A key factor in creating a successful brand image for the network marketer is to set yourself apart from the competition. It’s imperitive to find how the consumer sees the competition and to recognize how the competitor sets themselves apart from others. Identifying the competitors weaknesses and strengths is also important. When the competition’s weaknesses are learned it’s much easier to learn from their weaknesses and can be an asset in helping to portray your business in a more positive manner.

Step 2: Brand Marketing Strategies Recognize Your Strengths

Once the competition’s weaknesses are known the focus should move to defining your own company’s strengths. Running a target market analysis can be most advantageous when what is learned from it is used. The usefulness of this tool will be realized by confirming that your company strengths are actually important to your target market. In knowing your company strengths and what strengths are important to your customers, you now have the ability to market these successfully to the public involving them in your branding campaign. Branding marketing strategies have to be implemented properly to work.

Step 3: Brand Marketing Strategies Be familiar with Your Customer

Getting familiar with the consumer is another key branding marketing strategy not to be ignored. Find out about their buying behaviors, how frequently do they buy? Are their purchases a select few or a wider array of services and products. Asking these types of questions can help to better market to the consumer. Also finding out your target customer’s needs, standard of living, attitudes and mindsets. In discovering and working with these personality qualities another key to marketing success has been found.

Step 4: Brand Marketing Strategies Be Your Brand

Be your brand, live your brand by making certain that your company truly expresses the brand identity you’ve established. In other words if you’ve established quick response time to customer inquires as one of your brand marketing strategies, then you must give response time to your customers. Every member of the company should live your brand and be your brand for your brand marketing strategies to be useful.

How to Make Sales With Branding

After the brand marketing strategies are in place then what? When thinking of the McDonald’s brand what comes to mind? Do the golden arches come to mind or Ronald McDonald? Similarly it is important to choose a niche online and brand our business accordingly. Get recognized for doing well in I area before moving on to another. Here’re some of the things needed to sell online with branding after the brand marketing strategies have been implemented.

1) Your own company website. This shows that you’re in fact a serious entrepreneur. Nothing screams amateur more than somebody showing a replicated affiliate web page. Your own domain hosted website is a wise brand marketing strategy.

2) An auto responder service and opt in form are two “must haves” in brand marketing strategies. Very likely your site’s visitors won’t purchase or join on the first visit. So when they leave your site you may lose them for good unless you capture their name in an opt in form. In doing this you are able to follow up with a series of emails messages. The follow up email messages help to reinforce your brand name in your target consumers’ minds. Remembering to keep the follow up at a respectful level of persistence can win sales.

All serious entrepreneurs must have an auto responder service. In adding to this brand marketing strategy you can increase your chances of capturing visitor names by offering a free gift like a report or eBook.

3) A profile picture of yourself and online signature adds not only a personal touch to your brand marketing strategies but lets your readers see that you are a real person.

4) Sound, if your speaking voice is pleasant then put a voice recording together with your profile picture and signature to help humanize your company website and establish a relationship with your audience. This is a great brand marketing strategy that works well for many marketers.

5) Start a business blog. Your blog can be an add on to your primary domain or if you’re working on a tight budget you can use a free blog service at least until you start to realize some profits. Every brand marketing strategy discussed here can be used into a free blog. The blog should be updated often with fresh, unique content that is relevant to your niche. The message of the blog should remain a consistent one, so off topic content should not be added. The goal is to keep the theme and message consistent. Readers of your blog can be kept updated about your blog’s content by using RSS feeds.

6) A final brand marketing strategy that will be very important to the online marketer is a domain name. A domain name can be registered and forwarded to point to your blog if you don’t use an add on to your primary website domain. Showing your audience that you’ve registered your own domain will show them that you are serious about your business.

Brand marketing strategies should be an integral part of all online business as people do want to do business with people that they know, like and trust.

A Online Marketing Strategy Formula For New and Expert Network Marketers 101

Online Marketing Strategy With A Powerful Formula

The online marketing world can be very competitive at times when it comes to creating an audience.In the beginning all of us have struggled at some point to find the right online marketing strategies who were looking to build a business online. Everything we need to learn & implement is broken up into pieces then scattered for us to run wild to find. Hopefully this will put an end to your run around marathon, here are some key points we will be touching:

What type of online marketing strategy you should use?
What strategies you should focus on?
Common Short-term, mid-term, long-term strategies
Advantages/disadvantages of short-term, mid-term, long-term strategies
Online strategy formula & how to use it

After reading over these key questions & points, their will be a solid blueprint for you to follow and grow any network marketing company. The true benefit will come by implementing what you read within this article. Now it’s time to jump to fun parts of this content.

What Online Marketing Strategy Should You Use

This is a very common question that is asked from most beginning online marketers who are looking to grow network marketing company online. In fact it’s never a surprise to many of the network marketing guru’s who have managed to build a successful business online & offline. It becomes an applause for the beginners who come online to market because we have a large-scale of Network Marketers who try to build their opportunity only offline with minimum amount of exposure.

Little do Network Marketers know it takes a proper marketing formula and/or system to create unique branding for themselves and network marketing opportunity. This formula and/or system that is used for branding purposes is called attraction marketing. attraction marketing is used very commonly among the Network Marketing Guru’s. So here’s what every Network Marketer need to look for within their online marketing strategy… the proper attraction marketing system.A very good formula to memorize is this “attraction marketing+network marketing=perpetual marketing”, But also understand that with this one formula comes with a plug-in of online/offline marketing strategies.

What Marketing Strategies Should You Focus On

To help you have a better conception of what is being explained to you, I will explain to the percentage of concentration for your market in regards to attraction marketing. Most commonly a large amount of 10% of 20% percent is missing within large amounts of the Network Marketers establishment. And this is because that they have not yet learned the proper 80/20 rule of network marketing.

Your Online marketing strategy should consist of 10%, while the other half of the 20% will consist of offline marketing strategies. The large factor of 80% percent is made up of making solid strong connections most of the time from both online/offline. For most Network Marketers who follow the 80% of the rule find themselves making connections more online(70%) than offline(30%).

Remember to never eliminate offline attraction marketing from your strategy, If it’s just passing out a card or attending marketing meet-up in your local area then so be it. The best type of cards to use are both drop/sizzle cards for offline attraction.This will allow you to be visible offline also.

Common Types Of Online Strategies

There is a variety of online marketing strategies that can be used to grow your business. Within the mist of paths to take within the online world.. is usually a point that we most commonly become stuck with. Most Marketers can never make up their mind with what type of online marketing strategy they want to spend the most time with. But here’s a keynote for you: “learn the basics of all of mass majority of online marketing strategies”.

By learning the basic ropes of each strategy, you will have an idea of what marketing strategies interest you. For example outsource information for each online marketing strategy from online search engines,blogs,forums,social media sites etc.. before making any type of investment for the strategy. Now to keep you in the loop, I want to provide you with the most up to date attraction marketing strategies used online. Within this enlistment you will know of the short-term, mid & long-term attraction marketing strategies:

Short-term

P.P.C. ( Pay Per Click )
P.P.V. ( Pay Per View )
Solo Ads
Voice Broadcasting
Any type of paid advertising

The advantages of short-term attraction:

When creating a starting point, it is one of the quickest way to obtain very fast results for your business.
Minimum amount of time invested when creating short-term attraction

The disadvantages of mid & long-term attraction:

Can be very expensive to produce results if not done correctly
Cannot stick to one way of advertising content and/or information
Advertising only attracts & sticks to audience for a brief amount of time

Mid & Long-term

Article Marketing
Video Marketing
(S.E.O) Search Engine Optimization
Email Marketing
Blogging

Advantages of mid & long-term attraction:

When content is structured correctly, You can position work for a consistent rewarding with less effort
Content always sticks
If structured properly, You can target a consistent audience without spending a large amounts of time

Disadvantages of mid & long-term attraction:

Have to spend a large amount of time structuring content
If not done correctly, You can just be wasting time and not even know it
You must invest into proper tools to optimize your content to make it stick

The Attraction Marketing Picture

Overall, you want to be use an attraction marketing formula that will help you mark a blueprint to success. If you can learn all of them that’s great, but try to learn one of each when starting out. For example you may want to start of with an interest to master Pay Per Click for short-term, video marketing for mid-term & search engine optimization for long-term. For recommendation purposes.. take full training on search engine optimization, This will eliminate the majority of your headaches.

Remember the whole purpose behind the appliance of this formula provided, When applying this formula you will position yourself to become an expert when it comes to building a business online & offline.Another reason is also to attract people towards your primary opportunity just from branding leadership & marketing skills.

Good luck to you and your business, the very best should come to those who strive for greatness in their online marketing business.

David C. Simmons

Marketing Strategy and Planning: The Road Map

Many small to medium sized businesses face a common struggle; a balancing act of plans, strategies, departments and decisions. All of the elements are present, all of the gears in working condition, but business isn’t exactly booming at the pace it had anticipated or forecasted for. What exactly does this growth and sustainability require? In a turbulent economy teeming with congested airwaves and aggressive business practices, it’s about standing out from the crowd. And surprisingly, your marketing strategy has a lot more to do with it than you might realize.

Conflicted business owners can overcome the masses and draw the customers that are right for their product by executing a stellar marketing strategy, not by yelling louder than their competitors or using neon banners on their storefront (or banner ads on your website). My point is, you don’t have to be throwing yourself out there with a bunch of noise all the time. What you need to do is paint a vision for your business, your employees, and your customers. Make promises that nobody but you can keep, and then blow them away with your admirable businesses practices and superhuman skills.

Take a moment to consider this: marketing strategy is the single most important factor in determining the prosperity or deterioration of a business. That’s a pretty substantial claim and I’m willing to prove its legitimacy. Marketing strategy distributes itself throughout all the facets of a business, whether intended by its creator or not. This is possible because the strategy is created and defined by the overall objectives of a specific business, and integrates these objectives with a company’s unique vision and mission. Put simply, every level of a business should be oozing marketing strategy. Really!

Marketing Strategy

Does it seem far-fetched? Let’s examine the relationship between marketing strategy and four key aspects of any business: market research, the marketing plan, corporate identity, and the economy. First, let’s get the formalities out of the way and set forth a definitive explanation of what marketing strategy actually is. After scouring several websites for the official definition, I settled on a less-official but more effective description of marketing strategy:

Marketing Strategy:
A strategy that integrates an organization’s marketing goals into a cohesive whole. Ideally drawn from market research, it focuses on the ideal product mix to achieve maximum profit potential. The marketing strategy is set out in a marketing plan.

While your marketing strategy is, essentially, a document; its purpose is far more load bearing. Included in the strategy should be your mission statement and business goals, an exhaustive list of your products and services, a characterization or description of your target clients, and a clear definition of how you integrate into the competitive landscape of your industry.

Marketing Strategy v. Market Research

This relationship establishes an order of operations: the first phase in any marketing or branding initiative is research. (See our white paper on this subject: Market Research for SMB’s). No matter the scope of your research, whether it is a broad canvassing of your current client list or unveiling specific, detailed findings about your target market, the outcome will have a direct effect on your marketing strategy. It’s imperative to find out everything about whom you are trying to reach. What generation are they in? How big are their families? Where do they live, eat, and hang out? How do they spend their free time and money? All of this information will influence and alter your marketing strategy.

Research alone will not benefit your business without a solid marketing strategy. Often, business owners narrowly define market research as the collection and organization of data for business purposes. And while that is technically an accurate definition, the emphasis lies not on the process of research itself, but the impact it commands on future decisions regarding all levels of a company. Every business decision presents different, unique needs for information, and this information then shapes a suitable and applicable marketing strategy.

Research can be a grueling, confusing, and tedious process. From establishing or cleaning out a database to creating surveys and conducting interviews, you can receive a lot of information about your clients and potential clients and wonder what to do next. Before beginning to formulate a strategy, the information and data collected must be organized, processed, analyzed, and stored. Rest assured, with a little creativity and a lot of effort, this will all be molded into a structured, effective, and easily adaptable marketing strategy. Furthermore, continuous and updated research will ensure your strategy is a current and relevant reflection of your target market, marketing goals, and future business endeavors.

Marketing Strategy v. Marketing Plan

In this relationship, the marketing strategy is essentially a guide to judge the performance and efficiency of a specific marketing plan. In simple terms, a marketing strategy is a summary of what you offer and how you are positioned in the market (in relation to competitors’ products and services), and your marketing plan is an organized list of actions that you will enforce to achieve the goals outlined in your strategy. The plan will encompass the steps to a real-life application of a marketing strategy, bringing life to your mission and vision. It’s your time to show and sell your products and services so that your target market can experience them in the presence that you truly imagined.

Often, businesses lack a balance of creative personality and logic personality. While a business owner might have the creativity to dream up a stellar product, business model, and brand, they may lack the entrepreneurship and discipline to bring it all to life through research, planning and execution.

Marketing Strategy v. Corporate Identity

It’s no surprise that some of the most successful and recognizable companies in the world are those who establish distinguished, one-of-a-kind cultures that permeate through every channel of a business and reach customers on a human level. The culture of a corporation, its psychology, attitude, approaches to business, values and beliefs, lays the groundwork for a unique and compelling corporate identity. There is a powerful and undeniable connection between the health of these companies and the identities that their culture has provided.

These companies have discovered the delicate balance between a brand and a strategy, and how this symbiotic connection encourages visibility and growth. The relationship is simple: the marketing strategy represents where a company wants to go, and the culture determines how (and sometimes if) it will get there. Think of a corporate identity – the style, words, images, and colors – as the personification of your marketing strategy. The corporate identity is extended and applied in every phase of the marketing strategy, and plays a stylistic role in its execution.

Let’s look at an example. Starbucks, until recently, didn’t really have a marketing or advertising budget, per se. Starbucks started advertising in the New York Times and on TV in 2009, and very gingerly at that. Once a week it would print full-page ads in the Times, and on select channels it would air brief, lighthearted commercials. Prior to, the company was able to very successfully promote itself and its products through word of mouth and slapping the 25-year-old logo on every cup its baristas cranked out, proving that even something as simple as a logo can deeply resonate with consumers. But it was the Starbucks’ identity that its millions of customers were happily waiting fifteen minutes in line for. The infamous Starbucks cup rapidly became associated with wealth, leisure, high standards, and urbanites. From college freshman to corporate CEO’s, people couldn’t get enough.

Starbucks enforced its marketing strategy through clever, catchy campaigns, a genuine and human “front line” at the store level, and for the most part, acknowledging any mistakes or shortfalls that it might’ve run into. All of these actions are traits, portraying a deeply rooted culture that is exuded from top to bottom of the Starbucks hierarchy. And, love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no denying their great success, even in a strained economy.

Marketing Strategy v. The Economy

The economy is an incredibly sensitive subject around the globe. What we’ve also noticed is that a lot of companies and business owners are using a depressed economic state as a reason (and in some cases, an excuse) for the shortcomings in their business.

For example, a big trend recently has been layoffs. Larger corporations are using weak economies as a reason to purge its staff and cut positions, when it knows just as well that that’s exactly the opposite of what needs to happen. Or does it? It’s become hard to tell. Is surviving a “depression” really as simple as, say, reassessing your marketing strategy? While an unstable economy is troubling, risky, and unpredictable, it’s also an excellent test of the flexibility of your marketing strategy. Your strategy isn’t set in stone…the whole purpose of designing a strategy in the first place is for smooth navigation through any given circumstance, whether good or bad. Unfortunately, many CEOs and CFOs target their marketing departments first in lean times, while the reality is that it should be investing in these areas so that its marketing managers can adjust their strategy to survive-maybe even prosper, through tough times. An excerpt from the blog of R. Bruer, the owner and head of a strategic communications firm in Portland, Oregon, lays it all out:

“Most businesses treat marketing as a discretionary expense, making it an easy target for budget cutters. It’s as if marketing is a luxury afforded only when times are flush. Less customer demand, less we can afford marketing, or so conventional thinking goes.

But really, can we ever afford not to market?

It’s natural to want to preserve cash during a downturn. I was an employer for nearly 14 years, so I’m sympathetic. But the tendency is to make deep cuts in marketing when sales head south. Companies often start by reducing or eliminating outside expenses, such as advertising, events, sponsorships, research. And when that’s not enough, they lay off marketing employees, sometimes the entire department.

The net effect of gutting marketing is to stifle generation of customer awareness, demand and retention just when these things are needed most. It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision.”

Your Marketing Strategy

While marketing strategy isn’t tangible, its role in business is just as dire as the product or service being offered. It’s contribution bears significance through every phase of a business plan, from conception to execution and far beyond these four aspects of research, planning, identity and economy.

Marketing strategy will continue to fold itself into business plans as long as it is created and executed properly. Research on your industry and competitors will enable you to develop and formulate a proper, pliable strategy. From here, your marketing plan will act as a guide that will bring your strategy to life, attaining and exceeding the goals outlined, all while establishing your corporate culture and identity. Remember, the culture piece works two ways. Your culture helps to form the strategy, and following that strategy will reinforce your culture. Lastly, your strategy must be both strong and flexible enough to withstand the most difficult or unpredictable of circumstances, such as an economic depression, new trends or competitors in your industry.

Strategy is a small piece of a much larger picture. It can all be overwhelming at times, sure, but it’s part of the adventure. With dedication, organization, and a champion marketing team (ahem! B&A), the pieces will come together with ease, allowing for the truly awesome personality of your business to shine, and profits to follow shortly thereafter.

About B&A

Based out of Charleston, SC since 2008, Bartles & Associates is a marketing and branding firm, which offers an ingenious and innovative blend of visual identity and effective marketing strategy. We employ a holistic approach to determining the specific needs for every client, which has proven to be a key aspect in our business model. Our combination of expert strategic planning and original, sophisticated design ideas is what differentiates us from the rest. We thrive on collaborative thinking to solve marketing and branding challenges, and strive to consistently create fresh, relevant, and flawless identities for our clients. Our five-phase methodology and holistic approach takes into account every aspect of a business. We research and identify a company’s philosophy, transform philosophy into identity, develop a strategic plan to drive that identity, put the plan into action, and turn action into the efficient delivery of your brand and image to your customers.

7 Ways a Marketing Strategy Will Grow Your Business

“What is the best money I can spend in marketing to grow my business?” Without a doubt, this is the question I’m most frequently asked by small business owners. It may seem like a question that is promptly followed by an “it depends” type of answer, however, it’s actually quite easy to pinpoint one tool that is relatively inexpensive, delivers a high ROI and, sadly, is not commonly found in a small businesses’ toolbox. It’s a marketing strategy.

Why is a marketing strategy the most powerful tool for growing business? The straight-forward answer is that a solid marketing strategy will address current challenges and map out paths by which a business can grow in the future. It will audit a business’s brand and message, but isn’t limited to branding alone. Rather, a marketing strategy is a combination of big picture and detail analysis that incorporates a wide range of marketing channels tailored for that business’s industry, market, and budget. The majority of marketing strategies I write for small businesses include a high number of items that can be performed for free by current in-house staff, resulting in a plan that won’t lead to a fortune spent. In fact, a good marketing strategy is an investment in saving money because it targets a business’s efforts and helps avoid waste.

At this point I need to qualify my earlier statement; the best money spent in marketing is a smart marketing strategy written by an experienced marketer on behalf of a specific business, not something sketched out by a rep at a service shop (think printer or web firm) or from a generic, ‘small business strategy’ check list. For a marketing strategy to be truly effective, it needs to be a customized effort involving research, analysis and a careful matching of opportunities with the business’s resources and budget. This can never be a quick or off the shelf effort – a smart marketing strategy takes some time to develop properly. My own typically take less than a month and are generally under $2,000.

It’s important to keep in mind that while a smart marketing strategy won’t force a business beyond its means, it will present a mix of opportunities that meet immediate goals and show paths for growth. A marketing strategy’s advantage is that it paints a picture of a business, highlights who that business is targeting, focuses its marketing budget, and develops a schedule for reaching out to buyers. It accomplishes this in 7 key ways:

1. Develops Brand & Message

A brand is simply a business’s public look and message. Businesses all have the beginning of a brand – an official name – and some have taken steps to identify a logo, tagline, and possibly a general color scheme or style guide. In small businesses, these are often a reflection of the owner’s personal taste rather than an evaluation of the market and targeted buyers (years ago I had a client who chose her corporation’s color scheme from her kitchen wall’s paint chip). They may be a result of a family brainstorming effort or an owner’s flash of inspiration. Sometimes they are geographically influenced or an attempt at gimmickry. The point is that while it’s rare to find a small business that developed its name, logo, and message as the result of true market research, it’s a universal rule that, for good or bad, small businesses will refer to these items as their business’s brand.

And this is where a marketing strategy steps in. A smart marketing strategy will thoroughly evaluate a business’s brand through experienced and unbiased eyes. The marketer is not (hopefully) a member of the family and most likely hasn’t seen the kitchen’s walls. Instead, an experienced marketer will audit the brand as both a buyer and a marketer, and evaluate its ability to quickly convey the business’s story, whether or not it targets the appropriate buyer, and if it is unique enough within the marketplace to set the business apart from the competition. The marketing strategy will highlight any brand challenges, inconsistencies, or weaknesses before suggesting modifications and improvements.

Unfortunately, ‘brand’ seems to be a point at which many small businesses abandon their strategic efforts. A business’s brand is essential and well worth a hefty effort, but ‘branding’ isn’t enough of an action item to grow a business and isn’t where a smart strategy ends…

2. Audits Current Program

Which segues nicely into the next stage of a strategy: auditing the current marketing program. This stage goes beyond branding to review all of the business’s marketing efforts and is an essential component to any smart strategy. It’s at this stage that wasted money or effort is discovered, missed opportunities highlighted, or where I find that a client had started down a positive path in the past but either abandoned it too early or was off in its message. Has the business’s marketing program been well thought out or has it been a shotgun approach through a series of one-off efforts spread over time? This is where we find out.
My audits look for strengths as well as holes and weaknesses in a business’s marketing program by dissecting the marketing channel mix, promotional locations (both online and traditional), frequency, and more, then matching the entire program to the targeted buyer profile. I spend quite a bit of time looking through the business’s marketing tools such as its web site, brochures, newsletters, and social media and evaluate the business’s staff resources, factoring any strengths into the final evaluation.

3. Profiles Buyers & Marketplace

It may be hard to fathom but there are small businesses that face each year without knowing much about their own marketplace and the very buyers upon which their livelihoods depend. As a marketer, it baffles me how any business can hang its shingle without taking the time to first evaluate who it will sell to and from whom it will grab market share. Questions such as, “how many buyers are out there?”, “how do they like to be reached?” and, “who am I competing against?” are all fundamental to business success because it’s only through this knowledge that a company can adapt and grow. The only way to create this profile is through research!

I start by pulling information directly from my clients through a combination of interviews and surveys filled with carefully crafted questions. I’ll ask then re-ask until I’ve developed a complete profile from my client’s perspective. My work then turns to generating a buyer profile from a marketing perspective that stems from my client’s high level buyer description. I’ll dig and research until my profile is complete, then compare my profile with that of my client’s. Hopefully we’re in synch, but if not, I’ll point out where we differ and evaluate where my client can hone his or her efforts.

At this point I’ll also want to look at the marketplace from my buyer profile’s point of view, and will “shop” the competition. I’ll look at the business’s geographic reach and investigate both demographic data and local economic growth plans. All of this data will play into the final evaluation of whether my client should continue in its current market or branch out into an area that’s buyer-rich.

4. Evaluates Competition

“Who is my competition and how do we differ?” That’s a question every business owner should be able to answer at any given time! Business owners should be aware of who is snagging market share from them and how each competitor compares in services, quality, customer service, messaging, and overall marketing efforts. It’s wonderful to be the best service provider available, but that won’t mean anything if the competition is signing more buyers!

For this stage of a marketing strategy, I like to shop the competition from a buyer’s perspective before comparing my findings to my own “client shop”. Since I’m an outside consultant, it’s fairly easy for me to assume an unbiased buyer’s approach to most shopping efforts, be it B to B or B to C, and I look for easy shopping situations, who could satisfy my buyer needs, would entice me to make a purchase or conversely would turn me off as a buyer. I use these results to suggest ways my client could improve his or own business’s message and to…

5. Determine Marketing Mix

This stage of a marketing strategy is a game of, ‘find the buyers’. After all, what is marketing if it isn’t an effort to communicate with buyers and lure them to a business? To me, this is the truly strategic stage of a strategy, but one that could not exist without all the previous steps. It is at this point that the strategy should answer questions such as, “should a business adopt the latest trends or stick to more traditional methods?” or, “what will provide the biggest bang for a limited budget?”

It’s also the stage where experience really pays off as there are many, many ways to spend money in marketing and only so many options that will reach the right buyers. I enjoy this stage the most and spend time looking under rocks to discover new options and find cost effective solutions. No two strategies should be ever be the same at this stage, making this the most custom portion of the entire process. A good strategy will look beyond paid search and Facebook ads and find new ways to present the business – within budget.

This is also the most flexible portion of a smart marketing strategy. I like to include a variety of options that range from ‘incorporate immediately’ to more longer term efforts that make sense once the business has grown or has put other marketing tools in place. A good mix will pull in multiple marketing channels and allow a business to reach buyers on many levels.

6. Finds Internal & Low Cost Options

Many businesses have low cost and free marketing options already at their disposal and may not realize it. A good marketing strategy reviews a business’s internal options, evaluates the business as a whole, and discover resources that can be used in the marketing plan. I like to empower my clients and give them the chance to save their budget for bigger ticket items down the road.

7. Designs 1 – 5 Years Marketing Plan

I wrap up every marketing strategy with a 1 year, month by month, marketing plan. This marketing plan lists carefully selected marketing efforts determined in the strategy and provide a schedule for when they should be launched and evaluated. For smaller businesses, I try to stick to the low cost options that can be maintained internally with optional efforts that may cost more money or should happen after an early goal has been achieved. More expensive or involved opportunities are generally reserved for a 2-5 year plan and are contingent upon achieving goals.

By incorporating the above 7 stages into a thoroughly researched and carefully crafted strategy, a small business will have a map by which it can achieve its goals and grow its business. It’s money well spent and something a business really shouldn’t exist without!

Written by Bonnie Taylor, CCS Innovations, LLC’s VP of Strategic Marketing. Ms. Taylor has over 17 years of Strategic Marketing experience and has been instrumental in leading many small businesses to growth awards and international expansion.