Sticking to the Marketing Plan when Writing Content
Although your particular product or service hopefully fires up your imagination with visions of hilarious advertisements, flashy websites, and of course, dollar signs, the most important thing to write from a marketing standpoint is a plan. This will be the first floor of your "pyramid" to all your potential customers.
It's also important to note that marketing plans help in a variety of situations that have nothing to do with typical businesses. Such plans are mostly overall strategies to reach a goal. An amateur actor who wants a major part in a feature film would reach that goal much more quickly with a plan than without one. This also pertains to a man who wants to be elected to public office, or an athlete trying to reach a personal record. Without credible strategies, all would be operating on hope, faith, guesswork, and blind luck.
Marketing plans are crucial for success, yet nobody in the business world can seem to agree on what makes a "proper" marketing plan. There are any number of elements that experts feel must be included; however, every company's marketing plan should work for that individual company, and therefore be unique to every individual company. There will be markets a company is not suited for, and advertisements that would be a waste of time and resources for that company. (The Chevrolet Corporation lost a considerable sum trying to market its Nova automobile in South American countries, since the word "Nova" translated to "won't move" in Spanish.)
The good news is, marketing plans do not have to be in any specific format. A major company's marketing plan might fill an entire book, whereas a one-man company's marketing plan may fit on a 3-by-5 card.
Your marketing plan is therefore yours to define, and there are many expert resources available to help you create it. For the purposes of this article, however, consider the following suggestions:
1. The first thing your marketing plan should "sell" is itself, and its customers are you and your own employees. The right marketing plan should excite and motivate you and your employees to believe that your product rocks, that people will love it, that success is within your grasp, and the grasping will be fun. The wrong marketing plan will seem like work, work, work, and make success seem possible only after a thousand hurdles have been jumped. Therefore, when finally committed to paper, its wording should be upbeat & motivational, wherever possible. Some sales offices even replace the word "weekly" with "strongly" and call the "weekend" a "strongend" to motivate their staff.
2. Since marketing was previously described as everything your company does to build a relationship with a customer, your initial marketing plan should contain everything you can think of to create that relationship -- yes, every idea you and your employees can come up with. Obviously, some ideas will not be practical and will be discarded throughout the creation of the plan. But it's infinitely better to consider an idea and then discard it as impractical (at least temporarily), than to never voice it or consider it at all.
3. Your marketing plan should never be cast in stone -- as in, "We're going to do this, this, and this, and if it doesn't pan out, we're in the wrong business, and we'll have to dissolve the company." It's possible that parts of your plan will succeed and others will not. Aim to leave it flexible and open to reinterpretation and change.
4. After you list as many workable ideas as possible, decide in which order they should be executed (if that's unclear -- and it often can be when you work for yourself -- decide which ideas could be executed swiftly), then examine them chronologically and begin to set dates for their completion. In our digital age, many marketing goals can be carried out with great speed, but you should leave yourself plenty of wiggle room in case any mistakes are made. You can give yourself months or years to reach various goals as a sole proprietor (as someone's employee, you might only be given days), but "dating" goals in any manner gives them more importance, realism, and immediacy. Once you replace "someday" with "this day, you begin to move forward.
5. Once you've chronologically examined and dated goals, do a cost analysis of each marketing strategy -- everything from business cards to TV advertising air time. How much will each strategy cost you?
6. Consider conserving your start-up capital (or your own funds) by implementing the least expensive goals first, then sequentially move on to the more expensive ones.
7. Set a date after the completion of a goal to evaluate it. If it didn't turn out as expected, see what can be done to improve it.
I will demonstrate a very simple marketing plan, using the example of the amateur actor:
STONE COOLMAN, Actor
GOAL: To secure a major or supporting role in a feature film.
REASONS BEHIND THE GOAL: To further his acting career via more visibility and word-of-mouth publicity; to learn more about film acting and enhance acting skills; to acquire a good "demo reel'; to make money.
COMPLETION DATE: One year.
PRODUCT/SERVICE: Stone himself (service: dramatic performances)
PRICE: Screen Actor's Guild Rate (subject to change).
OVERALL MARKET/POTENTIAL BUYERS: Theatrical Agents, Casting Directors, Film Directors, Producers.
COMPETITION: Male performers of the same "type" and age range within the Screen Actor's Guild. (15,000 / 40% = 6,000 maximum, subject to change).
COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES: Less expensive than "A-list" performers; willing to do stunts and nudity; better than average looks and muscularity; distinctive voice; secondary skills in firearm handling, martial arts, etc.
RESOURCES: $2,500 in funds; 500 head shots and resumes; computer and printer; digital video camera; passport
These basic facts form the bottom floor of Stone's "pyramid." As he's a freelancer and nobody else has to see this, he's handwritten this into his notebook. He has his overall goal and his reasons for reaching them; his initial completion date; his product and his price, his market and his competitors, his competitive advantages (previously a "Why I can achieve this goal" statement), and his existing resources. With a mere glance at this, Stone can mentally surmise, Okay, I've already got this and that, now I need to do THAT to get THIS.
On the second floor of Stone's pyramid come the strategies:
1. FORM A SOLE PROPIETORSHIP (This makes his expenses tax-deductible.)
2. OBTAIN SCHEDULES OF ALL FEATURE FILMS IN DEVELOPMENT.
3. OBTAIN CONTACT INFORMATION FOR ALL "BUYERS" (Agents, Casting Directors, Directors, Producers, etc.)
4. MAIL HEADSHOTS, RESUMES AND INTRODUCTION LETTERS TO ALL.
5. SET UP WEBSITE WITH VIDEO DEMOS, PHOTOS, BIO AND CONTACT INFORMATION.
6. BUY PHOTO-BUSINESS CARDS WITH CONTACT AND WEBSITE INFORMATION.
7. WRITE FILM-SPECIFIC OR BUYER-SPECIFIC "SALES" LETTERS.
8. FOLLOW UP INITIAL HEADSHOT MAILING WITH SALES LETTERS WITH PHOTO-CARDS ATTACHED.
9. CREATE NEW STUNT/LOVE SCENE/MONOLOGUE VIDEOS AND UPLOAD TO WEBSITE.
10. BUY PHOTO POSTCARDS WITH NEW VIDEO AND WEBSITE INFORMATION.
11. FOLLOW UP SALES LETTER MAILING WITH POSTCARDS.
12. CREATE "E-CARD" TO RESPOND TO INTERNET CASTING CALLS.
13. FOLLOW UP POSTCARD MAILING WITH "E-CARD" (FOR BUYERS WITH WEB ADDRESSES).
14. CREATE PHONE SCRIPT TO REQUEST A MEETING OR AUDITION.
15. FOLLOW UP E-CARD MAILING WITH SCRIPTED COLD CALLS.
16. REVIEW PROCEDURES, ADD OR REMOVE BUYERS, LIST EXPENSES INCURRED.
As an actor, Stone has his work cut out for him, since feature film roles are competed for fiercely. This is a marketing plan used by many actors -- and in fact contains most strategies that actors use to get auditions -- but now Stone has a plan set in writing.
Stone's next step is to examine the strategies chronologically and set a time frame for each of them. For example, item #10, the Photo Postcard = 1 day to order + 4-6 weeks for delivery + 1 day to sign, stamp and mail + 5-7 days to be received = 51 days (at most) from placing his initial order, to being received by the potential buyer. Once he knows this, he can begin working on his next strategy.
This is a clear, basic, and easily created marketing plan for a free agent like Stone. Obviously a larger company's marketing plan will be a lot more detailed and complex, containing factors like consumer trends, government regulations, competitor's strategies, gross margins, and the like. However, it will ultimately focus on everything that company does to build a relationship with a customer.
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