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August 8, 2023

5 Steps to Starting Your Marketing Plan

5 Steps to Starting Your Marketing Plan
# Sales and Marketing

3-phase process to boost your self-promotion and stand out to brands

5 Steps to Starting Your Marketing Plan

Marketing is a self-described problem among printers. It's ironic, because print industry firms spend lots of time and resources creating eye-catching pieces that help their customers communicate. Why not spend some energy providing customized, effective marketing pieces (printed and digital) for yourself?

Since the pandemic, marketing has taken on a new level of importance in our industry, as clients and prospects re-evaluate their partners, budgets and options. Even if you already have a marketing plan in place, it's probably a great time to clarify and showcase your strengths.

Some end users - bless them - make buying decisions based on value, but let's face it: Many companies view printing as a commodity they can get anywhere. So what distinguishes your firm? How are you different from the other printing company down the street, or the other thousands of firms clients can find online? Every answer to that question is related to marketing.

No one knows your company better than you do, but here's a quick guide to get your marketing plan started no matter your history, capabilities or success stories.

Essentially, it's a 3-phase process: knowing about yourself (understanding your strengths and weaknesses, developing an objective), knowing about them (understanding your target audience, researching key contacts) and knowing how to bring those two together (choosing the right media, gauging your campaign's success).

PHASE 1: GETTING TO KNOW YOU

Marketing isn't about tooting your own horn, but before you look for a new list of prospective clients in 2022, it's important to analyze yourself. You don't want to spend months doing so? Good, we boiled it down to a 2-step process you could finish this week. It's a quick, effective way to shape what will become your marketing menu:

Step 1: Write a specific objective.

What, specifically, do you want to accomplish as an organization for the rest of this year? Make sure this objective is detailed, realistic and communicated to your team. All other steps in your marketing plan will be determined by this goal.

Step 2: Write a distinguishing statement.

Examine and articulate your strengths. This is the toughest part of any marketing plan, and here's why: If you asked 10 of your business friends to do the same thing, many of the statements would be similar. Most firms have unfocused, non-compelling descriptions of what they do.

Everyone thinks they're "cost-effective," "responsive" and "customer service-based." As you craft your distinguishing statement, cross out phrases that might apply to thousands of other businesses.

Here are two questions to help:

• Why are you different? Develop a focused positioning statement that describes that advantage.

• Who are your best customers, and why do they choose you?

PHASE 2: GETTING TO KNOW THEM

Your objective and positioning statement will help you target prospects. The next move - one that takes a little more time - is research.

Let's start with the reality that you're fighting against your prospects' limited time, long to-do lists and delete key. Cutting through that clutter requires preparation and the notion that you must earn their attention. They need a good reason to tune in, so you need a good way to cut through the clutter. Prospects want to know you understand the nuances of their market, and have solved similar challenges for others.

Before you start Step 3, ask yourself these questions:

• How can you reach targets in a way that will earn their attention?

• What are the strengths and weaknesses of your prospects?

• What industry forces are they up against?

• What might they not be receiving now that would help them solve a problem?

Here are the steps:

Step 3: Find and qualify a list of target companies. Prospects are available from a variety of sources, including your current lead list, trade-association member directories and publications, list-rental services and all companies in the vertical markets in which you specialize.

Step 4: Research. Do a deep dive on your prospects' websites. Try to build a mental dossier of each prospect, based on website research and past experiences with firms in the same industry. If your target publicly traded firms, get their annual reports. Also, consider setting up Google Alerts for the company names of your prospects, so you'll get updated news about them.

PHASE 3: GETTING READY FOR ACTION

After you've analyzed your company and prospective clients, consider the plethora of marketing tools and tactics available, including video, brochures, social media, direct mail, speaking engagements, email newsletters and online articles for your website.Step 5: Sketch out an editorial calendar for your main marketing messages. Companies learn about printing firms and their offerings in a variety of ways, so consultants suggest integrating several tools in your marketing plan. It's a mistake to think that one method will get your message across. Try to integrate direct actions that tout your capabilities (direct mail, advertisements, etc.) with indirect ones that enhance your visibility (community events, open houses, etc.).

As you complete Steps 4 and 5, consider these questions:

• What methods best align with the marketing content you're planning?

• How can you mix different media in the same campaign to reinforce your message/brand?

• How long might the new tactics benefit your organization?

A Final Word of Encouragement

Start. Just start!

Trying your best to make new connections, and learning what's working and what's not, is something that takes time and effort. Understandably, you're fighting against the forces of limited time and (most likely) scarce self-marketing resources. But really, just start. Take this sketched-out, five-step process and plug in your own creativity and messaging.

It might not seem worth it when business is going great, but you'll thank yourself for having a marketing plan already in place during downswings.

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