In an Mastering Core Marketing Principles I looked at marketing from a slightly different perspective, trying to put in more practical terms for a small business.  The approach I spelt out comes from Robert Middleton’s Action Plan Marketing.

He called it “The 5 Ps of Marketing”, with the 5Ps being Positioning, Packaging, Promotion, Persuasion and Performance.  Anyone who has attended one of my Marketing workshops will know how much emphasis I place on Position as a key determinant for a business’s marketing strategy.

Building a marketing plan requires a strategy for each of these 5Ps.  To be able to do so requires you to be able to answer a number of questions under each element.   Once again I’m indebted to Action Plan Marketing for these questions.

A 5 P marketing plan is a matter of developing a complete strategy for all of the 5 Ps. One way to do this is to ask marketing questions for each of the Ps and then go to work in answering those questions. I’ve listed the key questions and the main things you need to do to market yourself below.

Positioning your business

  • What is the problem or problems your business is solving for your customers?  They don’t care about you, they only care about what you can do for them
  • What exactly is your business solution? That is, how does your product or service solve that particular problem, alleviate a pain or add value for the customer?
  • Who exactly are your targeted potential clients? Where are they; what industry; what size; what needs; what past experience with your product or service and what buying process?  You know by now that your market is not ‘everyone’.  What are the adjectives you’d use to describe your ideal clients – innovative, conservative, leading-edge?
  • What are the specific direct and indirect benefits your customers receive? What advantages, improvements or enhancements do your customers get as a result of working with you?  What results can they expect?
  • What is your unique competitive advantage?  That is, what differentiates you from your competitors?  What do you do better, different, faster, cheaper, with higher quality or with a different spin?  Can you be specific, not vague?   This is always hard, but if you can’t identify a key point of difference you may be reduced to competing on price, and I’m sure that you don’t want that.
  • What is your business identity? What are the qualities you want to be known for?  Is it integrity and dependability or expertise and exclusiveness? You can’t be everything to everybody.  Next ask yourself what you are doing to live up to these qualities.  The proof of the pudding…..  This ties back to ‘branding’ which we discussed in an earlier series of newsletter.

Packaging your services

  • Do you have an attractive and appropriate Business Identity Package consisting of a logo or company masthead on a business card, letterhead and envelopes?  This is the look for your business and needs to express your identity and positioning strategy.  It is also reflected in the appearance of your business premises, appearance of staff, equipment and vehicles.
  • Do you communicate the value of what you offer in everything you do?  Do your prospective clients understand immediately what’s in it for them if they use your services?  Do you emphasize benefits, and results over features and processes?  Can you distill this down to a one- or two-page Executive Summary?  Being able to do so is very important in preparing proposals, quotes and tenders.
  • Do you have basic marketing materials (brochure or other printed material, website) for your business? These materials should include, but not necessarily be limited to: An overview of the problem that you have a solution for; an overview of your solution; a description of your Unique Competitive Advantage; a listing of your key customer benefits; a listing of your various services; testimonials from satisfied customers; a listing of customer or client companies; biographies of company principals; information on how to contact your company and how to do business with you; your address, phone, fax and email numbers.
  • Do you have a process of pricing your services and preparing proposals?  Are you value-pricing, that is selling a solution, instead of your time?  Are you sure to include objectives, value and measure of success in your proposals?   Do you avoid “giving it all away” when you prepare a proposal? Do you know how to hold the line on your fees by subtracting value if they want to lower the price?
  • Have you put some attention on your personal package, your personal presentation?  Whether you’re a professional service business, do repairs and maintenance or whatever, you are selling YOU and your expertise. You’re the package.  People make a dozen or more assumptions about you and your business in the first few seconds after meeting you in person or talking to you on the phone.  Are you walking your talk?

Promoting your services

  • Are you building relationships through authentic marketing activities?  Are you doing everything possible to share information that will be valuable to your clients and prospects?  Educating your clients is one of the most effective marketing tools you can use.  See my Profits Leak Detective blog .
  • Do you have strategies in place for generating referrals?  Are you providing a high level of customer service? Are you communicating clearly about your benefits and advantages? Are you asking for referrals, when appropriate?  
  • Do you stay as visible as possible to your clients, prospective customers and associates? Do you belong to any networking organisations, volunteer or community groups? Do you get actively involved in these organizations?  Do you have a web site with all the information about your business posted so that people can learn more about what you do and how you can help them?
  • Do you do personal PR such as speaking and writing? Are you speaking at community groups, chambers of commerce and professional associations?  Are you writing for community papers, newsletters, the trade journal for your industry, for web sites? Are you leveraging these speaking engagements and articles by inviting those on your list, getting reprints of articles, turning talks into articles and articles into talks?
  • Are you mailing or emailing to people on your customer list? This is an absolute must.  Don’t let people forget who you are and how you can help them. From six to twelve times a year are you sending clients and prospects a newsletter, or other type of keep-in-touch mailing?  How else do you keep your business in the front of customer’s minds so when they have a problem, your business is the first that comes to mind.

The persuasion process

  • Do you have an elevator pitch or something similar? When someone asks, “what do you do?” do you have a concise and powerful solution statement that expresses what you do in a nutshell? Is what you say totally focused on what you can do for them?  Do you always answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Do you spend the majority of your time in a sales situation, on the phone or in person finding out about the needs of your prospect?  Do you have a series of well-thought-out questions that help you learn about their situation, their problems and the implications of not taking action?
  • Do you ask future questions of your prospects? That is, do you ask questions to determine not just what problems they want solved, but what they want things to be like once you’ve helped them?  Do you dig in and determine exactly what objectives they need met in order to be satisfied?
  • Can you present what it is you do in a benefit-oriented presentation? Once you know the situation, problems and objectives of your clients, can you outline a course of action that will solve those problems and meet those objectives?  Can you put all of this into a concise proposal?
  • Do you wait for people to take action or do you move the action forward?  Are you comfortable about recommending a course of action?  Can you do this appropriately, without pressure or manipulation, outlining the advantages of moving forward with the project?

Performance in your business

  • Are you good at communicating with customers in every stage of the project, from the sales process through the proposal or quotation and into performing the project?  Are you clear about what you will do, when you will do it and what results they can expect? Do you set things up so there are minimal surprises?
  • Do you make promises you can keep? Are you aware of your abilities and limitations and only make promises that you can succeed in fulfilling?  Do you manage expectations so that you are always able to perform at a level above the promises you make? Your clients will judge you, not on what you promise but, on what you actually do.
  • Do you make requests of your clients so that they know what you expect of them?  Are you sure to define the accountability of each party so that misunderstandings don’t occur?  When agreements are broken by your client, are you able to talk about it and get things back on track right away?
  • Do you go the extra mile to create “Raving Fans?”  Are you continually working to improve your skills in all areas of your business?  Are you building a network of resources that can help your clients in areas where you don’t have the expertise? Are you seen as the ultimate resource to your clients?
  • Are you clear about your purpose and vision for your business?  Do you have a statement of your vision and written goals that you are continually moving towards? Do you do the things necessary to not only make your clients successful but to make your business successful, rewarding and fulfilling?

Now that might seem a lot of questions, but if you can answer you will be able to develop a very practical marketing plan.  Even attempting to answer them should cause you to think deeply about your business, your market and your offering.

It offers the opportunity for some significant improvement.