Plant some marketing seeds

plant some marketing seedsBy the time a farmer is harvesting his crop, he’s already well into the planning of his upcoming planting season. We marketing types could learn a lot from those farmers.

The fourth quarter is a very busy time for most businesses for several reasons:

  • Lots of clients are spending the remainder of their budgets
  • Customers are motivated to wrap things up before the year’s end
  • Many companies are working short staffed and lose a lot of productivity around Thanksgiving and throughout December because of holidays and vacations
  • Internal planning for 2015 budgets and work plans is typically done during this time

That’s why it’s not all that surprising that you aren’t thinking about the sales/activity dry spell that often comes in January and February. You may be the exception to this rule, but for many organizations, the first few months of the year are often the slowest in terms of leads, sales and revenue.  That’s why you need to plant some marketing seeds right now.

It’s usually around the end of January that someone inside the company says, “Wow, our sales are really slow. We’d better do something.” They go into a brainstorming session and come up with some sort of promotion, marketing tactics or special to generate some sales activity.

Odds are, the ideas that get generated at the end of January usually start producing results 30-90 days after they’re deployed.

So if that’s the case…wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to begin those promos, specials, and increased efforts now, sixty days before your inevitable dry spell?

Let’s call it your planting seeds effort. You want to generate interest now but deliver the services/goods in January and February. How might you plant some marketing seeds now?

Offer a 2014 budget/2015 delivery deal: You know that many of your clients have a fiscal year that ends in December. They have “use it or lose it” budgets. So why not help them wisely spend those budget dollars? Create an opportunity for them to make a smart purchase in 2014 for things they’ll need in the first few months of 2015.

Put together a package: Why not bundle some of your products/services in a way that guarantees usage over the first few months of the year? Set the end date to purchase the bundle sometime in the middle of January. Begin talking about the bundles now and you’ll either sell some in December or you’ll plant the seeds now and make the sale in January.

Kick off a PR campaign: Maybe it’s time to create some buzz? That kind of buzz usually takes some time to build up so starting now means you’ll have some momentum in a few months. Be smart – concentrate on a few key publications that will position you in the right way with the right audience.

Reach out to former clients: Now might be the perfect time to re-connect with some of your former customers. Keep in mind that they’re (hopefully) doing their 2015 planning right now which might result in their realizing that they are going to need what you sell.

Develop and distribute helpful content: Depending on your industry and your customers, this might be an e-book, a white paper, a podcast, or even an in person seminar. Use this opportunity to demonstrate just how smart you are and how you can help them by sharing that expertise. Use the content to reach back out to potential customers you’ve already courted, prospects and even current customers.

Mine your referral network: Your best customers are typically more than happy to boast about your work. Now is the perfect time to ask them who else they think might benefit from your expertise/products. Set up those initial meet and greets for the first week of January.

Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of your slow season to worry about shortening it. If you plant some marketing seeds right now, the slow season may be a thing of the past.

5 ways to market if you don’t have a lot of money

ways to market if you don't have a lot of moneyNo matter where I speak, who the audience is or even the topic I am supposed to address, this same question comes up:

How do you market your business if you don’t have a lot of money?

Well, the short answer to that is you’d better find some resources for marketing or you are in a lot of trouble. But, that doesn’t mean they all have to cost an arm and a leg.

In the meantime, while you’re scraping together the money to spend on marketing — try this budget friendly tactics.

Hang out where your potential customers hang out and be helpful. Do your clients read certain blogs? Then be there and share your expertise. Do they all run in local marathons? Be there, handing out clean, dry socks with your logo on them. Do they go to industry trade shows? Be there and host a free Q&A about their biggest problems. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Go out and find their watering hole.

Know your perfect customer and only take work from them. This requires incredible discipline but pays big dividends. Rather than taking clients for cash flow, ONLY take on those clients that you can delight. And who delight you by paying you a fair price.

Create a referral network by delivering the first referral. When you help someone, it is human nature that they want to return the favor. Why not set the example by making an incredible connection. Now of course to do that…you need to know who their perfect customer is. Which means you get to have a very meaningful conversation that’s all about them. See how the human nature thing is going to work?

Use handwritten thank you notes to show your appreciation. In today’s high tech world, a personal gesture like a handwritten note means a great deal. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy. Just from the heart. And if you can’t thank a client from the heart, you should fire them before they fire you.

Let them have a taste. Sampling is one of the most effective marketing tactics around. There is no substitute for actually experiencing your product or service. This is your greatest opportunity to earn their trust and their business. So do it right.

I can hear your collective gasp. Give away what you sell? Sampling is a golden oldie in terms of marketing tactics. The biggest buying obstacle any business has is the uncertainty of that first time.

Why not leapfrog over that worry by just giving them a taste? Walk through any grocery store or big box store on a Saturday and watch the marketing tactic at work.  This works just as well for service-based businesses even though they don’t have a physical “thing” to offer.

Bottom line on how to market without spending a lot of money – know who you can help the most and be relentless in your efforts on their behalf. Be generous and be grateful.

I know…I didn’t even mention social media or direct mail or cold calling.  Trust me.  If you try these 5 ways to market if you don’t have a lot of money — the rest will fall into place.

Twitter and Facebook ROI

This has to be one of the biggest questions banging around marketing conferences, blogs and social media gatherings.  “How do we measure the return on my investment (ROI) for the time, money and effort we put into Twitter and Facebook?”

To truly answer that question, you need to define your own ROI. If it is a dollar for dollar equation, then you need to be able to quantify/tie a value to the time spent, calculate the dollars invested and then put the proper tracking/measurement tools in place to link your social media contacts/connections to actual sales.

Are sales the only worthy ROI?  Probably not. Like all marketing — you start by knowing what result you want.

  • Are you trying to create a community that will tell the world about your new book, product or ?
  • Do you want people to sign a pledge or commit to a cause?
  • Do you want email addresses because your sales cycle requires a lot of education and time, so you want to create a drip campaign?
  • Do you want to identify like-minded business people so you can create a safe place to generate thought leadership?

I have nothing against sales.  It’s how we all pay our mortgages.  But I just want to remind you, there are many worthy outcomes of any marketing effort.  And that’s certainly true of Twitter and Facebook. As Stephen Covey taught us, begin with the end in mind.

This infographic from InventHelp (click here to check them out) begins to dig at the question and explore potential answers.  Take a look at it and then tell me — what do you want from your social media efforts?

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