Easy and Effective – Creating a Comprehensive Marketing Plan for Your Home Business

Everyone knows that planning is essential to business. Yet, the average work at home professional does not have a current marketing plan. Many don’t feel they have the time or the skills to create a marketing plan, however a marketing plan can save both time and money and no special skills are required to create a marketing plan.

What can a marketing plan do for your business?

Just creating a marketing plan can benefit most businesses immediately. It gets you thinking about marketing as an ongoing investment rather than the haphazard approach that contributes to inconsistent results. Creating the plan can help clarify and distill your goals into achievable tasks. Knowing what you are going to advertise and when helps you narrow down exactly how you are going to do it far in advance. Planning in this way can pay off big for your business. It can help you stay on budget and increasing profit margins by reducing marketing costs. The resulting windfall can be used to pay off debts, re-invest for growth or put into savings for the future.

The immediate benefits can be quite astounding to those new to planning. It can put you ahead of the competition in both advertising space and in placement for events, online and off. The rules of some of these events prohibit two representatives of the same company from participating. By researching the options early, you can take the time to choose the events most likely to be profitable for you. Booking early for these events can ensure that you secure a position at some of the most popular events. Events like craft shows, bridal and baby fairs, and other events often give preferential treatment to those who book early, including reduced rates, preferential placement and any number of perks.

A marketing plan can help you budget purchases more effectively. For instance, if you plan to get a personalized item, such as pens, printed for a particular event you can price out the options in advance and begin setting aside money for the expense. If you happen to see a good sale or special in the meantime, you may decide to purchase early, possibly saving a significant amount depending on the sale. Without a plan, you may purchase these sorts of items without a solid purpose or end up leaving the decision too late and have to pay for expedited production and delivery. Since these sorts of items are often less expensive with higher quantities, planning in advance can allow you to purchase enough to last through several, if not all, the events you have planned saving both with the lower unit price and by avoiding additional set-up fees common to most print jobs.

Ready?

Relax! This is quite likely not as hard as you fear it will be. There’s no need to face the process with trepidation. There is no reason to avoid it as a daunting task that you need to procrastinate your way up to.

As a small business you don’t need a fancy program or any specialized knowledge to create your own marketing plan. Your marketing plan doesn’t need to be drawn out and complicated; it simply has to meet your needs. You don’t need a marketing plan that conforms to corporate level standards. It simply needs to keep you on track and moving towards your personal business goals.

Get Set…

Before you begin, block off at least one hour of time. If you have young children at home, you may want to book two hours to allow time for interruptions. Once you’ve blocked off this time, you will want to gather up your supplies.

If you are a paper planner you will need:
A notepad
A calculator
A calendar
A pen
A pencil
Highlighters
Post It Notes
*Easy Access to past and present business records
Working near the computer (if you keep your records online) or filing cabinet will ensure you can keep working. If your records are all over the place, take the time to gather them in one place even if they aren’t organized. You may have to do additional calculations to make the marketing plan effective, but at least you won’t have to search the entire house to do it.

If you are a computer planner you will want programs that can allow for the simulation of the paper supplies. Most word processors can easily handle this, though you may have to download a calendar template. You may choose to use a scheduling program if you are comfortable with using one, but there’s no point to learning a new program for this task. Learning a new program while developing a marketing plan can slow down the creation process.

Go!

First read through all the steps before you begin. This is important because you may choose to do some of the steps out of order.

Step One: The Budget

Your first task is to develop a marketing budget. Small businesses often find it necessary to budget both money and time. Since money can be rather scarce, especially in the start up stages, you will have to invest time to take advantage of free and low cost alternatives and undertake much of the marketing work yourself.

How much to budget is a matter of debate. The exact amount will vary depending on the size of your business, your comfort with risk, and your long term business goals. Someone with a small business who wants business to grow big enough to support her entire family within five years will choose to spend more than the business owner who is content to fund household extras.

If you are already in business, one way of coming up with a ballpark figure for your marketing budget is to review your marketing expenses over the past year. If you haven’t been in business for a year, add up what you have spent on marketing so far, divide the amount by the number of months you’ve been in business and multiply this figure by 12. From this yearly figure, decide whether you would like to increase, decrease or maintain this budget, keeping in mind that you may be able to reduce some marketing costs through advance planning. You can add or reduce the figure using a set dollar amount or percentages. For example, if you spent $100 on marketing in the past year, you may want to increase it by a modest 10% or a more aggressive target of $1000 in an effort to expand.

If you are not yet in business and developing a marketing plan, look at your sales goals and decide on a percentage of sales (or profit) that you are willing to re-invest into marketing. At 10% a sales goal of $3000 would net a $300 marketing budget. If you are basing your budget on retail sales, you will want to make sure you can still make a reasonable profit. If you are in direct sales and receive 40% commission, this scenario would leave $900 remaining after marketing expenses. Adjust the figure up or down until you feel comfortable committing to it for at least six months no matter what your sales figures dictate.

Don’t worry too much if your marketing budget seems minuscule. There are a variety of ways to stretch a marketing budget. Look for the article on this topic (Stretching your marketing dollar) next week.

Step Two: The Methods

After the often challenging task of developing a budget, this next step will undoubtedly be a breeze for you. If you are already in business make a list of the methods and venues you are currently using and have used in the past year. This includes both free and paid marketing opportunities. Things that you might be adding include:

Article Writing
Networking Groups
Online Expos
Advertising Groups
Newsletter/Ezine Advertising
Banner Ads
Pay Per Click
Direct Mail
Flyer/Sample Exchanges
Prize Giveaways
Press Releases

After you’ve completed a comprehensive list of what you’ve done, create another column or start another page that covers what you would like to do in the coming year.

Step Three: The Calendar

The calendar will become an integral part of your marketing plan throughout the year, so choose one that has large blocks for you to write in. Resist the urge to use the same calendar as you use for all your business and family needs. You can add marketing tasks to your general calendar later if having calendars is too confusing, but the planning part should be done with a blank calendar.

First, go through each month and identify the major holidays and events. This is easy because most calendars already have them marked off. Decide which of these holidays will lend themselves well to your product or service. For instance, mother’s day won’t be an ideal holiday if you are a consultant for toys (though you could try to promote certain toys as sanity savers for moms the idea probably won’t lead to a high volume of sales).

Second, you will want to enter dates that are specific to your company. When is your spring product launch? Do you work with a company that has specific campaign start and end dates. Pencil in as much of this information into your calendar.

Now, let’s take a minute to go back over your holiday or special event promotions. If you work with a direct sales company, determine how long does it take for items to be shipped. Count back from the event and add three days just in case and write this on your calendar. You can skip adding the three days only if you are confident that your company always ships with precision and timeliness. Repeat this process until you have a date which orders must be in by for each holiday and special event. We’ll get to the actual marketing and promotion tactics a bit later.

Next you’ll want to revisit those company specific dates. Count back 8 weeks from the product launch and mark that as the date when you’ll start booking forward with hostesses. This will also be the date when you begin to call previous hostesses and customers to get them lined up for the new season.

After you’ve established the basics, you’ll want to take a look at other promotional opportunities. If you are involved in online or offline fairs, you’ll want to slot these into your calendar. General dates are okay at this point, but be sure to write these events on your notepad so you can investigate and fill in the details later.

Finally, before we put away the calendar for this exercise, book yourself one to two days a month to follow up on special events for your customers. If you haven’t been making an effort to record things like birthdays, anniversaries and other special events in your customers’ lives, you could be missing out on some wonderful sales opportunities as well as a chance to connect to your customers on a personal level.

Step Four: The Nitty Gritty

Now comes the most labor intensive part of the process, putting it all together. You want to work to align your budget, your dates and your methods together, so you can create a plan of action to take you through the year.

Let’s take February as an example for a business that sells handcrafted jewelry. In this business the owner has decided to use 10% of last year’s income to determine the marketing budget for this year. In February of last year the income was $600, giving a budget of $60 in total. However, it costs the owner a steady rate of $10 per month for hosting charges for a website and has an ongoing ad for $5/month at a shop at home website. That leaves $45 for the marketing expenses for this month.

She doesn’t feel that this is enough for this year because she really wants to increase sales for this year. She peeks ahead in her marketing calendar and sees she has no major promotion for March, and her next big promotion is a spring promotion around Easter. She takes half of March’s budget of $75 (after website and set advertising)and allots the funds February and April ($37.50 each), choosing to do as much free promotion in March as possible.

Now, being handcrafted, it takes time to create and ship orders. While some orders can be created in advance, the owner doesn’t feel confident in her ability to gauge the most popular pieces in advance. So, she doesn’t like using supplies, if possible until the orders come in. She decides to allow 5 days for production and another 5 for shipping. That means all online orders must be in by February 4th for Valentine Delivery and February 9th for local orders. She decides to run her Valentine Promotion beginning on January 20th. Since the promotion starts in January, she decides to use a percentage of January’s marketing budget $40 (after website and standard ad) for February’s promotion as well. It’s an 11 day promotion out of a 31 day month, which is 35% of the month. This gives a dollar amount of $14.

She now was $96.50 to devote to her marketing efforts for the Valentine’s Day promotion. Now she has to decide which methods to use to promote her business.

She first considers using chocolate hearts with her business name on them and leaving them with a sign and display at the local mechanic. Unfortunately, at 25 cents a piece, the 500 minimum is too high to fit the budget. She loves the idea though, so makes a note on her notepad to reconsider the idea the following year.

She considers putting an ad in the local paper for the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. She would like to be able to afford a display ad, but knows that three ads would be more than her budget will allow for at $56.00 for a quarter-page. She makes a note to call her friend that makes candles, another who creates gift baskets and ask them if they’ll consider doing a joint ad. She assumes they will and takes $56.00 off her marketing budget.

She notes that there is an online expo that runs a “Love is in the Air” expo on February 4th. It’s cutting it tight for creation and delivery, but decides she’s willing to work extra hard if necessary to complete orders that may come in from the event. She sets aside the $10.00 vendor fee.

She then decides that she will use the remainder of her budget to directly market to the customers who bought around this time last year. She already has general postcards and will print up individual letters. She figures printing and postage will take up the last $30.50.

With her budget gone, she starts to examine free ideas for promotion. She decides to write three articles for the month, one on buying appropriate jewelry based on a woman’s personality, one on jewelry care and one on romantic ideas for Valentine’s Day. She puts the ideas onto her notepad and adds writing and distribution to her list. She also jots down several related ideas to enter into her blog. Then she thinks about the specials she will offer to her newsletter list and the ads that she’ll create for the advertising lists, networks and forums that she’s on.

The process is repeated with each month and each promotional period that she’s set throughout the calendar year.

Step Five: Making it happen

Using a PDA or a planner system, putting specific tasks and deadlines through the calendar year can help keep everything on track throughout the year. When you experience a lull or slow period in your business you can write ads or articles for future events. You could even write all your ads for the year at one go, to create a consistent feel and flow. You could create blog entries or articles for your newsletter months in advance of busy periods, when you know you’ll be too busy to concentrate on those tasks. You could also create your web pages for specials in advance.

Step Six: Measuring

Don’t leave measuring your results till the end of your marketing calendar. Assess your results after each promotional period or at minimum once a month. If a certain venue or method isn’t working for you, you’ll want to adjust your plan and re-allocate your resources so they can be put to best use.

Other Hints and Tips:

It’s important to keep in mind that marketing takes time to be effective. Don’t pull an ad after one attempt in a new venue. It takes time and repetition for prospective customers to decide to click on over to your site or give you a call.

Keep yourself out there and trying new ways to reach more customers. While it’s important to be consistent and stick with venues that work, you want to avoid reaching the point of saturation in any area. So keep seeking out new areas to expand into.

Always follow up and consider your current and past customers in your marketing approach. Repeat customers are less expensive to maintain than finding new customers to replace them.

Don’t forget to have fun! Marketing should not be all drudgery and dirty work, it should be exciting. And with a well thought out plan it should be.

How to Tell the Best Business Stories

You’ve learned by now that stories are an effective way to capture attention and package great ideas so they are memorable, but the problem is how do you tell an engaging story that sticks?

Getting Started

Let’s start with the big picture. It is important to understand the proper business story structure that captures interest and balances detail with concise and direct language. I recommend the use of the great Joseph Campbell’s classic story structure, the hero’s journey. Start with an attention grabbing opening, then introduce a conflict or spark that is the process or the insight that inspires your character to overcome the conflict. There may be some additional barriers along the way but the story has a turning point. Then relate what positive event occurred or what transformation took place. Finally, end your story with a takeaway of what the audience needs to learn or your key message and a call to action if appropriate. This format makes your storytelling more organized and structured.

A Powerful Opening Hook

So, following our recommended structure, let’s talk about creating an attention grabbing opening or hook. The start of your story is what captures the interest of the listener and hooks them into it emotionally before they have time to put up a wall. You don’t have much time, just a few seconds, so it has to be compelling. To give you some ideas, I’ll list the five great types of openings here:

  • First you can introduce an element of surprise – something unusual for the situation or person.
  • The second type is to create a mystery- in this opening it is like a puzzle to the listener and they want to solve it
  • Your third option is to introduce a main character that they can relate to and put your character in a challenging situation or predicament.
  • Number four is the imagine if opening. It creates the vision of what is possible with your product, solution, or idea. You can paint the picture of life at their company as a dream and then transition to how you helped a client achieve their dream.
  • Number 5 is foreshadowing. In this case you start with changes that are about to happen and you move to a story of how it has become an issue.

It is a psychological fact that we are naturally curious. So, when you open with one of these attention grabbers, your audience is hooked emotionally and wants to learn more.

Keeping Their Attention

Now that you have them hooked, you want to keep their attention. Don’t try to tell a story the way you would write a book, a business report or even an article. If you do, you’ll quickly lose your audience. You want to tell your story in a style that is the way you normally speak. Use short sentences. Experts recommend an average of about 14 to 25 words in a sentence. However at 9 to 14 words in a sentence, the audience understands more than 90% of the information you are sharing. You also want to use shorter words. Experts recommend about 80 percent or more of your words should have just two syllables to ensure you have clear communication. Long words or unfamiliar words that sound intellectual can leave your audience focused on the meaning of the word and wanting to check the dictionary in their smart phone rather focusing on the main point of your story. So, use an informal simple style that is quickly understood by the brain.

Keeping It Real.

Use definite, specific and concrete language not vague abstractions. If your story is about feeding the homeless, tell it in those terms. Don’t say it is about providing government standard nourishment to those falling below the government identified poverty line. Just say you were serving lunch to families in the homeless shelter. Be real, be open and be honest. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions such as your passion or sadness about the topic.

When you have a story about people, use their names. If necessary, you can substitute a another name to protect their identity. If you use real names and the people are in the audience, you’ll see them smile. But I suggest that you don’t point them out as they may get embarrassed. Speaking of stories about people, it makes your story interesting if you use dialogue between the characters in the story. It enhances your story and on an unconscious level it communicates – relax this is a story, not a report, a lecture or a sales pitch. Dialogue is the way we naturally tell a story. Listen to the conversations among your family members around the dinner table as they relate the events of their day. They’ll use dialogue in recounting what happened. The transition from character to character in a story generates curiosity as to what will happen next. This technique keeps the brains of your audience at attention so they are interested and listening. It also makes it easier for you to write a draft of your story.

Use Active Voice for Interest

Telling your story in an active voice will ensure your audience remains engaged. In active voice you or the character in your story does the action. In the passive voice, the character is the receiver of the action. Compare these two sentences: “The ball that won the game was hit in the bottom of the 9th inning by Jack Winston. ” Now compare that to Jack Winston hit the winning run in the bottom of the 9th inning. The active voice was more interesting. Did you notice how the passive voice sounds like a newspaper article or a prepared speech?

Telling your story using the active voice is more direct and it actually takes fewer words to convey the same message. Since the best stories are told in less than five minutes, this is an important tactic. If you want to check your time on your story, you can draft it and divide the total number of words by 150 to see if it fits your desired time frame. Most people speak at the rate of 150 to 180 words per minute. If you want to be exact, check the number of words in your story in the review tab of Microsoft Word. Then record it and divide the number of words by the number of minutes and round the resulting number. Remember, you’ll be most effective if you have a conversation with your audience. Don’t slow down like most people do when telling a story for business, keep the normal rate of speech at 150 words per minute and maintain a conversational tone and pace. Carmine Gallo suggests you watch Bryan Stevenson’s TEDTalk. He tells three stories and it sounds as if he is having a conversation with you yet he is passionately speaking about injustice and poverty.

Keep It Simple

I discussed the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in your words. I also want to mention that it is the ideas in your story that are important not the complexity or grade level of your words. Some people think that telling their story with words that are listed as a higher level when checking the Microsoft Word readability index makes them sound intelligent. But, when you use too many of these complex words, you confuse your audience. I did some research and found that the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post all write to the 8th and 10th grade level. Remember you want the audience to remember your story. You don’t want them still thinking of the meaning of the last sentence as you are making that all important main point. If you are wondering about my statistics in this article, the readability is grade 8.3, I have an average of 16.8 words to a sentence and only 4% of the sentences are passive.

If you are writing a story for a magazine or a book, then you should use lots of adjectives and adverbs to describe the elements in your story such as the characters, their emotions and the setting. But when telling a business story it is important to be concise. However, do not be so concise to the point that you don’t create a vivid mental picture. Your story needs information about the physical description and quirks in personality so the listener has a mental picture of the characters. Focus on creating a total experience for your listener. Eliminate unnecessary words but keep the right descriptive words.

Connect To The Senses And Emotions

Did you know that brain scan research shows that when people hear descriptive words or metaphors, areas of the brain associated with the words are activated? In a description such as “the area smelled like a citrus grove” caused the area associated with the sense of smell in the brain of research subjects to become active. So include good descriptive words, especially those associated with the five senses. They can make the difference between getting applause and seeing yawns. You can find great advice on being concise but compelling in two books Presentation Zen by Gar Reynolds and Resonate by Nancy Duarte, who helped Steve Jobs create his spectacularly engaging product announcements. View Steve Jobs announcement of the iPod on YouTube. It didn’t have a long litany of descriptive words but the descriptions he provided were spot on.

Use Good Grammar And Pronunciation

Good grammar and pronunciation are important as well as the style so I have several books on my shelf to help me write my blog posts, eBooks and training modules. My old copy of Reader’s Digest Write Better. Speak Better is a bit tattered but still a great resource. I also use Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo, and the trusty Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

Watch TEDTalks

People who give TedTalks practice over and over with friends, co-workers and mentors to get their talk just right. It takes work to tell your story authentically. You have to dig into your emotions about the story and choose the right words to communicate how you feel about your point. It takes practice to ensure your body language; facial expressions and tone of voice all communicate the same message. Listeners spot incongruence immediately. You will want to practice to the point you are automatic in your delivery. Did you know that Jerry Seinfeld often takes several years to perfect the words and delivery of his jokes? I bet you thought he was able to just think of a joke and tell it. You don’t want your mind distracted on anything else when you are telling your story. So it takes hours of practice to make it look effortless. However, the reward is worth the effort if the story makes your point and calls the listener to action.

Use these hints and tips and practice. In no time you will become a better storyteller.

The Secrets to a High Income Home Business Online Revealed

How many times have you asked yourself “self…is there a more desirable job in the world than working from home? Then asking yourself the next question, “is the home business online?” Followed of course by “where exactly is this high income home business online?”

I am going to go over some valuable information for you take with you and I promise by the end of reading all this you will have learned something valuable to take with you through your successes to find the a high income home business online.

I am going to break down the concepts that produce a high income home business online with the following ingredients necessary. The first is what it takes to succeed in a high income home business online. Point blank it is consistency and knowledge. Here is what I mean. If you want to succeed you have to keep plugging yourself into all of the things that I am discussing on this page. This consistency of work must be applied everyday for the time you have set for yourself. The knowledge portion is about taking everyday as a learning experience. My best gift to myself for my first year was learning and soaking up knowledge everyday about home business online, learning from some mistakes, and most of all keep driving, kept going. I was consistent. Both the need for knowledge and consistent work combined daily will lead to growth and wealth for your business. Now, can you earn a high income fairly quickly from a home business online? Yes, I see it in my own team fairly regularly. I encourage that kind of drive. However, to sustain that high income levels for your home business online you are required good solid personal development and basic online business training. Guess where that comes from? It comes from that knowledge you seek everyday, soaking up and reading everything you see about home business online.

The second concept that produces a high income home business online for yourself is lead generation. This ingredient is always necessary for any high income home business online. For this what you do need is a pipeline filled with prospects (leads). This pipeline can be manifested for your business in two ways; free lead generation and paid lead generation. Paid lead generation does wonders for your time management for your home business online. Here are a few paid lead generation tactics: P.P.C. (Pay per click), lead campaign buying, and ezine ads, just to name a few. Some of the successful free lead generation tactics are email marketing, forum posting, article writing, and my favorite video marketing. It is best to experience both paid and free marketing to see what works for you and your business. This experience and consistency of free and paid lead generation will create growth for your business, that I promise. The key is to generate more leads that you can handle in a single day. Because after you have gone through all the leads you can handle in that one day, you have the next day ready with enough leads from the previous day to work with. No single lead, prospect or person is the drive or success for your business. The only single person is you.

The third concept that produces a high income home business online for yourself is true mentor and guidance. True mentorship and guidance is providing real value and teaching you about real marketing. It is to help build a mindset of a real entrepreneur. For me also what I do is really give out all the goodies. Duplication! All the tactics that I test that work and make money, I give out. Now that doesn’t mean you won’t be working hard to apply those tactics, oh you will. But there is no need to struggle on something that is already hard enough for most new people to grasp. What you need to do is look for true mentorship and guidance to produce a high income home business online for yourself.

The forth concept that produces a high income home business online for yourself is effective marketing campaigns. It’s all about what you are trying to do for your home business online. If you are direct selling for a company making $1,000 sales off of each sale it doesn’t make sense to use crappy banner ads on a site for car ads. More than anything you must find out what works for your home business online. Called simply “testing.” In a successful team for home business online the testing has been done for you before you join a home business online. When it comes to finding the best marketing campaigns for your home business online the true marketers have to test it. I personally tested my home business online before I went out to promote it to my list and new prospects. I would never want to market something to the masses that doesn’t work. Once I tested the business itself, my team partners and I started testing out the marketing campaigns that would either work or not work for the home business online. I tested, tested, tested, until there is enough feedback that calls for the right adjustments. All that was left is the right direction to earn high income from my home business online.

The fifth concept that produces a high income home business online for yourself is true leverage. Any online company that claims that they are the 9th wonder but they can’t prove they DUPLICATE true leverage with their compensation plan in a reasonable amount of your attention span is not a wonder for you to waste your time investing in. To save yourself months or years of frustration on finding a high income home business online follow everything that I am discussing here on this page. You want 1 hour each out of 1000 people rather than 1000 of your own hours

The sixth concept that produces a high income home business online for yourself is high conversions. Without high conversions there is no high income. The first crucial step in high conversations for your home business online is web copy. The web copy has to be crafted with content where that content contains a funnel that produces desirable information and opportunities. The business I work with contains $20,000 a page web copy. Most web copy for their home business online sites are not designed with the psychological conversions tactics needed to truly convert.

The seventh concept that produces a high income home business online for yourself is automation. One of the big problems with ANY home business online is that people can not communicate effectively. People cannot close sales effectively. After the opportunity is surrounded their life, time and money, action is then required, they take action by get their prospects on the phone…then they screw it all up. Well let’s start with the problem of the phone. If you are a high income home business online earner then chances you are not on the phone. Trying to convert your prospects on the phone does not earn you high income for your home business online. Automation. What you need is to remove human error of people who cant sell by setting up automation from a system.

The eighth concept that produces a high income home business online for yourself is a system. Here it is, the big reason for the success of anyone I have seen online. I can’t tell you enough how key this is for any high income home business online. It is so important to have some sort of system in place so the human error of bad communication can be removed. Once human error is removed the system sells for you, trains your prospects, and automates your business for you. This way people you sign up can actually make money. Otherwise 95% of the people who join the home business industry and try to earn high income from their home business online don’t make that much money because they have to do all the selling, all the training, with almost no automation. Unless you want to seriously develop the skills of communication that most humans lack so much in selling and be that system yourself. Get a home business online that has a system that communicates for you. Where can I find the right one your asking huh? Well, contact me and check out what I offer and I will explain more for you.