Fixing Leaks in Your Marketing Plan

"It is not enough to photocopy last year’s marketing plan, change the dates and expect it to work."

By David P. Kowal

Many companies take the "leaky roof" approach to marketing. When the rain is falling, it's too wet to go up on the roof and repair the leak. But when the sun is shining, the need for repairs is no longer apparent.

Whether the rain is falling or the sun is shining, consider a few tips before you try to fix the leaks in your marketing program. Hopefully, this free advice will help you avoid making costly mistakes (or cheap mistakes, for that matter).

Avoid Ad Nauseam. There is a tendency to cram as much information as possible into an ad. You've paid for the space and, naturally, you want to use every square millimeter of it. But if you really want your money's worth, avoid going on and on ad nauseam. Leave the overwriting to us columnists.

In some cases, advertising copy can be long -- but only if the product warrants it and the space for the ad is large enough. Remember that your ad is competing with dozens of others for the reader's attention. If it is too crammed with information, readers will ignore it.

To avoid ad nauseam, focus your message. Don't be a bore. Develop a headline that summarizes your key message. Few readers will make it past the headline. Body copy should build on your headline, and should concentrate on the benefits of your product or service.

Give your advertising time to work. Many companies are convinced that advertising doesn't work. They'll advertise once or twice – online, in print or wherever – and if new clients aren't lining up at their door, they'll pull their ad. They may try a few different media before concluding that advertising is a waste of money -- which it is, if it's pursued recklessly.

Frequency is usually vital to the success of an ad. People don't make friends with strangers. Likewise, they're not likely to respond to your ad until they become familiar with it.

If your advertising budget is limited (if it's not, please call me), concentrate your advertising in a small number of media -- maybe even a single publication. Spreading your advertising into too many places can dilute your message and make your entire advertising program ineffective.

Develop a communications plan. Regardless of size, your company should develop a marketing communications plan and update it every year. Your plan should include specific goals and objectives, and a well thought-out strategy for meeting your goals and objectives.

In developing your plan, consider questions such as: What are you selling and who are you selling it to? What are your customers or clients looking for? What are you trying to accomplish? Who are your competitors and what do you have to offer that they don't? How can you best achieve your goals?

Your plan should consider several different communications tactics that can work effectively together. You might, for example, develop bylined articles like this one to complement your advertising. Among other things, public relations can give you credibility, help to differentiate your products or services, and educate your customers about what you do.

Seek professional help. Most people wouldn’t prepare their own tax returns, try to sell their home themselves or represent themselves in court. These are all activities most of us don’t have expertise in, so we hire professionals. It is similarly wise to hire professional help to promote your business. Poorly executed advertising, a poorly constructed Web site or an inferior brochure will send the wrong message and may even create a negative image for your company. That's something no business can afford.

True professionals recognize what they can do and what they cannot do. They will rely on other professionals to do what they cannot do themselves. With professional help, you may be able to fix your leaky roof, even if it's raining.

David P. Kowal is President of Kowal Communications, Inc. of Northboro, Mass. He can be reached at kowal@kowal.com.