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  • Marketing Tips

  • Strategic Marketing Planning


    General Ideas 

    • Make time for family, exercise and hobbies. This will help to reduce stress. Stress creates barriers that impact on our ability to think clearly.
    • Protect those things that give value to your business. Protection should not only be seen as a legal process (like patents, trademarks etc.), but one that involves commitments from people via company policies and confidentiality agreements.
    • Give back more than you take. That seems to go against the idea of making a profit, but there are many ways you can add extra value into your relationship with customers and your community. Look for ways you can provide a better value, even if it is for no other reason than it gives your customers and neighbours a better shot at succes
    • Always acknowledge when something nice is done for you with a thank you letter. A call is not the same and doesn’t reflect the effort you put in.
    • Sometimes it’s not always possible for people inside a company to come up with the best ideas or solutions on their own. They may find that they are too close to the issues and don’t have the necessary perspective. There are two ways to deal with this challenge:
    • Move the meeting offsite and create a new environment for people to be creative in.
    • Ask a consultant or facilitator to work with you to offer an alternative viewpoint.
    • Either way, you will create a new and unique set of circumstances that may spark the necessary creativity from your team.
    • Say “thank you.” It’s one of the oldest, yet underused, words in our language. Tell customers thanks for calling, thanks for asking, thanks for buying, and thanks for taking time do drop by and see our sale. Thank customers for their complaints. Smile at an irate customer and say, “Sincerely, I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. Thank you.” You’ll be amazed at the positive feedback.
    • Occasionally give something away to a person you know truly needs it. All of us meet customers from time to time that we know really need what we sell but can’t afford it. Give them a good discount or show them how to get the job done cheaper or for free by doing it a different way. They may never know that you don’t do this with all your customers, but you will know you made a difference in the life of someone who really needed you.
    • Engage in one marketing activity a day. For example – call an ex-client or business associate. Let it become a routine.
    • Set specific marketing goals every year. Track and measure success and review and adjust quarterly
    • Carry business cards and brochures with you, everyday and everywhere. You never know when you will need them.
    • Create a personal nametag or badge with your company name prominently displayed, and wear it whenever appropriate, especially at high visibility meetings.
    • Keep an “ideas” file, and jot down ideas whenever they come to you. Visit the file monthly and see what you can realistically use.
    • You may be operating your business as a solo proprietor in your basement; but no one needs to know! Image plays a huge part in business. To be perceived as a small business entity can sometimes work against you. Create the perception of a larger business – this could add credibility and increase the likelihood of being hired.
    • If you live in an apartment or condominium, use the word suite rather than apartment to include in your address.
    • With the advent of voice mail, have someone else record your message that greets callers. Hearing another voice will make your callers think that you have employees to help you in your business.
    • For correspondence, use three lower case initials typed on each letter you write. This will give the impression that you have a secretary or clerk.
    • Join business or trade organizations; and make sure that you list the professional credentials to which you belong. Knowing you belong to a nationwide community of your peers is very reassuring for your clients.
    • Develop strategicalliances with other professionals who can complement your work. As a start-up, you may “ride-on” in other people’s projects (and vice versa), getting a small percentage of the work, until you develop your credibility and business history.
    • “Marketing is an art, not a science.” As such, common sense should never be abandoned in favour of “scientific data” or in the least, scientific data that flies in the face of common sense should be questioned. When someone (like an agency) tells you something that doesn’t make sense and supports it with “market research”, dig deeper. Chances are the research could be flawed or the presenter has a different agenda.
    • It is far, far easier to sell more to the customer you have than to sell a new customer. And yet the average business spends five times as much money to attract a new customer than they do on the customer they already have. It was the Italian philosopher Pareto in the 1800s who said that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers. It still works today. So stop spending time and money on the bottom 20 percent. Instead, concentrate on the top 20 percent who spend the most money with you.
    • Remember AIDA – it is the truest and simplest idea of marketingA = AWARENESS – people need to know about you before they do anything

      I = INTEREST – people need to be interested in what you’re saying before they do anything

      D = DESIRE – people need to want what you’re selling before they buy

      A = ACTION – finally, people need to act to make a purchase

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    Networking and Word of Mouth 

    • Join a Chamber of Commerce or other organizations.
    • Join morning networking clubs
    • Serve on city or college boards or committees.
    • Hold an open house for fellow tenants.
    • Stay in contact with people you meet at conferences or trade shows.
    • Call one person on your contact database every day.
    • Bring your own badge to an event. This way you can control how large your name is
    • Ask customers for referrals
    • Make referrals a part of your deal with clients.
    • Join discussion databases on the Internet.
    • Have a 20 second elevator pitch down so you can recite it in your sleep but not seem canned when you do so. The question people are really asking when they say “So, what do you do?” is how do you make money, except that that’s impolite to say.
    • Mail a brochure and business card to members of organizations to which you belong.

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    Internet or Website 

    • Why do many companies fail with their website presence? Research shows that they “did not have strategic direction to their web efforts or hadn’t refined their e-commerce practices”. Without a strategic direction for the website, how do we know we’re doing the right thing? In order to address this major strategic/planning web site issue, every company with a web site (or desiring one) should have a written plan (including a marketing plan) for their web site, and should seriously question whether it fits with the rest of the company’s plans.
    • Set measurable objectives for your website – without these you have no way of knowing whether the site is successful or not.
    • Develop and manage your Internet marketing plan – without it you can, very quickly, overspend and create a major cash flow problem
    • Review your competitor sites before you plan your own – make sure you have a meaningful way of differentiating yourself from your competition.
    • Does your domain name have an appropriate meaning? Should it? Could it?
    • Plan how often you will update your site – the more often you do this, the higher the likelihood of people re-visiting your site.
    • Here’s a neat trick to understand who is referring customers to your competitors’ websites. By knowing this, you could contact the referring sites and get them to create a link to your site as well. If successful, this could counter a current advantage your competitor may have.
    • Here’s what you should do:
      • Check your own site first – make a list of the top referrers to your site
      • Check your competitors’ sites and highlight any of the top referrers that are not on your list
      • Contact these top referring sites (if appropriate) and ask them to add a link to your site
    • How to do it:
      • Use search engine Overture.com
      • Type into the search function the following: linkdomain:thewebsitename.com (where “thewebsitename.com” is the address of the site you wish to check on).
      • The list of sites, in order of importance will then be displayed.
    • If you have Internet presence, make sure that your web site does not scream “amateur!” Make your site as clean as possible, with easy navigation and readable fonts. Avoid using intricate wallpapers as your background that makes fonts difficult to decipher. Your web site is your “face” to the rest of the world; how you create it will impact on the image and credibility that you and your business projects.
    • A meaningful electronic signature (on your e-mail) can boost your business. It can describe an entire business: who the writer is, what type of services the company offers, the benefits and positive results clients can expect.
    • Search Engines – List your site with as many search engines as possible. Some of the more important one’s include Google, MSN, Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, Mamma, Hot Bot and Overture. List, not only the main or home page of your web site with the search engines, but also your additional pages, as long as they are different and titled accordingly. Doing this, will dramatically increase the traffic to your site.
    • Make sure that you plan the site’s integration with the rest of your business – you’ll be amazed how the site can affect different parts of the business.
    • Include your website address on all your company’s materials – it’s the most cost-effective way to promote your site.
    • Create an area on your website specifically for clients.
    • Consider the following options as a way of promoting your site:
      • Ad Banners
      • Hyperlinks
      • Email newsletters
      • Email signatures
      • Newsgroups
      • Search Engine Registration
      • Bulk Email
      • Complementary Site
      • Promotion

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    • Before you try to encourage improved productivity within your organization, try some of the ideas out on yourself first. Leading from the front will always send positive signals to your staff, and will enable you to sell the productivity ideas from a first-hand perspective.
    • Turn your voicemail into a productivity and marketing tool. Managing voice-mail effectively means knowing how to leave messages that will result in action and how to deal with messages you receive. Very often, voice-mail communication that is clear, concise, and timely, will be even more effective and productive than 1:1 personal communication. It allows for the issues to be addressed in a really focused manner. From a marketing perspective, it’s sometimes better to leave a message and not to talk to a live person – it all depends on your objectives. It could become a really effective tool, if you use it wisely.

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    • Planning is a process that cannot be haphazard. It requires structure so that one “puts first things first” and ensures that all decisions are made with the ultimate goal in mind. Use the numerous tools that are available (consultants, software, books etc), but don’t neglect this process. If you don’t plan effectively, your chances of business success will be dramatically reduced.
    • “If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend 6 sharpening my ax” – Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865, Sixteenth President of the USA). Understand that preparing (planning) for something will ultimately make it easier to deal with.
    • Budgeting is part of the planning process. Managing your finances becomes the ultimate challenge to business. If you don’t plan on how to manage your income and expenses, the surprises could be quite painful.
    • Understanding the differences between features and benefits from a customer’s perspective becomes the key element in creating a message that is likely to be accepted and acted upon. Always “walking in the customers shoes” will help the seller adapt their way of thinking and dramatically improve the odds of a successful sale.

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    Image and Branding 

    • Branding is an important issue – your brand positions you in the business. It is the face of the business, and what makes you unique. Make sure everything you do supports the brand.
    • Image. Keep all aspects of your marketing focused on one image. Don’t use a high-tech image in one media exposure and a warm-fuzzy image in the next. Define yourself. Customers will connect faster and feel confident in you.
    • If you deal in different languages, don’t do simple translations of slogans – they may mean something totally different in another language.Examples:

      1. Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhea.” 2. Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into German only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “manure stick.” 3. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a porno magazine. 4. Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”, in Chinese. 5. When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. Instead, the company thought that the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”

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    Target Market 

    • Read trade publications to track trends.
    • Read market research studies about your business and market. The better your knowledge of the market, the easier it will be to satisfy their needs.
    • Collect competitors’ ads and literature – knowing what they are doing can give you clues on how to differentiate your business offering. You will also gain valuable information on their strategies, tactics, features and benefits.
    • Ask clients why they hired you and what other services they need.
    • Ask ex-clients why they left you.
    • Always test new products and services by talking to your customers about them.
    • Don’t try to satisfy too many needs – understand the core business offering you are best positioned to deliver and focus on that. Once you start growing you can expand your target market.

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    Marketing Communications 

    • Develop a brochure, business cards or a website that promotes your services. Promote them aggressively.
    • Publish a newsletter that provides valuable information for customers and prospects.
    • Give prospects two business cards – one to keep and one to hand on to someone else
    • Print a slogan on invoices, fax cover sheets and letterheads – this helps people understand what you do.
    • Include testimonial letters from satisfied clients wherever possible – positive comments from customers are much more valuable than your word.
    • Test new mailing lists – test different types of lists to find out what works for you.
    • Test, test, test – everything you do. Use different types of mailing techniques – should be results oriented, but don’t splash out on a new venture without testing the concept first.
    • Send letters in coloured envelopes or in strangely shaped boxes or packages – this way you’ll catch the prospect’s attention.
    • Include a reply paid card with your letter – you’ll be sure to increase response if you make it easier for the customer to reply. Check boxes are easy to understand and to complete.
    • The most valuable tool in marketing at the lowest cost is a letter. In fact, the most valuable tool in marketing at any cost is a letter. Write one business-getting letter every day.
    • The best formula for creating headlines in marketing is “New product offers benefit, benefit, benefit.” Use this to create the headline of your press releases and advertisements, for envelope teaser copy, and for the beginning lead of your brochure. Example: “New keyboard offers faster typing, greater accuracy, and is less tiring.”
    • Review the features of the product or service and ask yourself: “what benefits will the client get from this?” – it’s this benefit list that should be highlighted
    • Quantify benefits. The reader must weigh the cost of your service against the benefits they will reap. Help them decide with numbers, i.e., “Increase productivity by 300%.”
    • The most valuable single sheet of paper you can create in marketing is a press release. You should be sending press releases every month. Make sure you’re sending it to the right person and in their preferred format.
    • Follow up serious inquiries and sales leads with more than one piece of mail. Take your time writing. No one will ever know the one-page letter they received took you three weeks to write. Just make sure when you send it, it’s perfect.
    • When you start to write any business communication, always write your objective first. Figure out and state in writing what you are trying to accomplish. For example, an ad objective may be to generate maximum direct orders, or get as many leads as possible. This gives your writing more focus.
    • If you’d really like a response from a personal letter, include a return envelope with a live stamp on it. It’ll increase your response or it’ll drive them nuts.
    • In a direct mail solicitation, don’t be afraid to ask for the order – several times. If the recipient doesn’t call or send an order, the piece fails. For best results, be very explicit and tell the reader exactly what you want him to do – twice in the body copy, and again in the PS.
    • Properly written direct mail with a follow-up phone call can be one of the most effective, low-cost techniques for getting new clients and new business from old clients.
    • Reinforce the letter with a brochure. Present your benefits in a different way, but tell the entire story a second time. The most interested readers will get to both.
    • Don’t split the message. Tell the whole story in your letter and in the brochure. Always make it easy for the reader to learn the benefits of your offer at a glance without having to refer to another mailing component or a reverse side.
    • Delete needless copy. Don’t “set the stage” for your sell copy. Don’t give a history of your company (unless a clear benefit is involved). Don’t use humour; it distracts from the purchasing decision. Stick to benefits; don’t lead with an attention-getting, but irrelevant story about hockey.
    • Keep it positive. Either ignore objections to your service, or somehow phrase your response to the objection as a benefit. If your service solves a problem, make sure the problem seems “solvable”. For example, don’t emphasize your hourly, daily or project rate; instead feature the profit, convenience or time saved by your service.
    • Tell the reader what to do. “Read how our service benefits you.” “Call, write or send for more information.” Make it easy to respond. Use a self-addressed, postage-free reply card or return envelope. Use a toll-free number.
    • Ask for the order right away. If the reader goes no further than the beginning of the letter, he still knows exactly what to do.
    • Offer a free gift. This often increases response, and is usually worth the expense.
    • Use testimonials whenever possible. Be sure to include the person’s name and affiliation. This is where you can say outright how wonderful your service is.
    • Use attention-getting graphic devices. Keep the reader alert and stimulated to read further. Use capital letters, a second color, indented paragraphs, handwritten notes, underlining and boldface type and text boxes.
    • Ask for action from the start. Don’t build up to it. Request the specific action you want at the beginning. Rephrase it from time to time. Be very direct at the end, and repeat it in the P.S.
    • Use a P.S. This is often the first thing that people read, and they read on if it interests them. So make it intriguing.
    • Keep it personal. Your letter should look like a personal type written letter from you to the reader. Use handwritten notes in the margins to emphasize key points, and use a signature in a second color (blue is often used here, to simulate handwriting in ink).
    • Keep your paragraphs short – no more than 6 or 7 lines. Break up long copy with graphic devices (indented paragraphs, etc.).
    • Be sure it’s easy to read. Use typefaces that are proven easy to read. Avoid using too many different typefaces. Make it look inviting.
    • Ask for an immediate response – “Reserve your meeting time today!” “Supplies (your report, booklet or other premiums) are limited!”, “offer expires February 28”. Only use a deadline if it is genuine.
    • Articles – Provide tips, shortcuts, advice, and any additional helpful information to editors of ezines and magazines.
    • Clear communication within a company is key – This relates not only to risk management but to marketing as well. People are truly effective when they have all the information, and it is incumbent on everyone in the company to share knowledge and experiences with everyone else. Marketing plans only become effective when the results of implementation are reported back by the sales team. Early adjustments to sales and marketing programs will only make them more effective. Make sure everyone in your team feels that their views and opinions are respected.

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    Product or Service 

    • Always try to create something unique about your products or services – this need not be real, so long as it is perceived to be valuable by your clients. This will set you apart from competitors and prevent direct comparison. It could also enable you to charge more. Create a new product, service or technique.
    • Offer a simpler/cheaper/smaller version of your service.
    • Offer a fancier/more expensive/bigger version of your service.
    • Continually update your products or services.
    • Offer ‘Added Value’ to your product or service – the customer gains some additional advantage without having to pay for it (or pay very little, compared with its value to the customer). Adding perceived value is a way of enhancing what you are offering, without necessarily adding to your costs. It can also help to differentiate your products from those of your competitors. This makes direct price comparisons more difficult for prospective customers, and can increase your profit margins. Examples:
      • Guarantees: The cost is usually very small, but they can go a long way towards gaining customer confidence.
      • Delivery: Deliver faster – you may even be able to charge for it.
      • Service: Very important to customers, and a major way to retain customer loyalty.
      • Credit: Can add value to some customers. But make sure that your own finances will not be damaged.
      • Packaging & presentation: Professional packaging enhances the perceived value of the product.
      • Quality assurance: International standards, such as ISO accreditation can be of value.

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    Pricing and Payment 

    • Check prices against your competition.
    • Establish credit card payment options for your clients – if it will make a difference.
    • Give regular clients a discount – or added value.
    • Look for opportunities to barter – offer discounts to association members in exchange for promotion on their website or in their publications or materials.
    • Give discounts for quick payment.
    • Offer financing or installment plans.
    • Remain flexible with your credit terms – understand exactly why you are discounting your services (or not).

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    • Deal with the things that are important to you, the seller, right up-front. If you don’t receive satisfactory answers to those issues, then you’re wasting your time in the selling process, and you should move on to other potential prospects. Make sure you have an upfront contract that defines future outcomes. By doing this YOU have control of the sales process, and NOT the buyer.While this process is counter-intuitive to traditional selling, it will certainly enable you, as the seller, to spend your time more appropriately on prospects that are more likely to become customer
    • Building the foundation upon which a decision is made is as much a part of selling, as the selling process itself. That foundation building process is called marketing. It is a crucial part of the overall selling process that develops the environment that makes selling easier, or in many instances, possible.
    • Make sure that your marketing and selling efforts are in alignment. If they aren’t, the process of selling could be as tough for you as it is for a fish to swim upstream. Just ask the fish: doesn’t he find it easier to swim WITH the current?
    • Give your sales literature to your accountant, lawyer, banker etc. They could become an extension to your sales force.
    • Follow-up on direct mailings, faxes etc with a friendly phone call.
    • Extend your hours of operation. Being available when competitors aren’t could help.
    • Upsell a product during the ordering process – you can upsell anything related to your product, or cross sell something that is unrelated.
    • Continually remind clients of products and services that they aren’t buying – they may have a new need or may have forgotten that you offer specific services.
    • Call or email ex-clients – you could reactivate them just by staying in touch.
    • Timing is everything – the more you’re in customer’s face the more likelihood that it will be the “right” time.
    • Take orders over the Internet – or in ways that your competitors don’t.

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    Resources and Information 

    • Read newspapers and business journals for new business openings and for personal appointments and promotions made by companies. Send your business literature to appropriate the people.
    • Subscribe to email newsletters or other trade publications.
    • Hold a monthly marketing meeting with employees – make them feel part of the decision making process. They are also one of the best sources of ideas and information at your fingertips.
    • Bookmark useful sites on the Internet – and make an appointment with yourself to review them monthly.
    • Join organizations or associations related to your profession.
    • Attend seminars and trade shows.

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    Media Relations and Press Releases 

    • Create and maintain a media list so that press releases are easily sent to the right people at the right address.
    • Send timely and newsworthy press releases as often as possible. Make sure they are newsworthy, otherwise the media will tune out next time they receive something from you.
    • Write articles for targeted, appropriate media
    • Submit expert “tips” to newsletters and newspapers – this free information can be valuable in gaining you free publicity.
    • Write a monthly column for local press, business journals or trade publications
    • Take the editor of an important trade publication to lunch – make sure you have enough meaningful information to share with him.
    • Forward news releases to the editors of any online ezines, as well as offline magazines, most of which will have web sites as well. You can also locate most of these through search engines by searching on the term, “ezines.”
    • Search for “news sites,” “news posts,” or any related term on the Internet. What you are seeking are sites that allow posting of news releases and notices regarding your business, products, services, information, ventures, etc. These are very detailed and instructional on how to get your information posted within them.
    • There are also databanks, whereby, you can list your articles for other publishers and editors to freely use with the condition that they maintain your byline with your article to ensure credit to you. One such databank is at www.ideamarketers.com.
    • Media Selection. No one can afford to be everywhere. But you’ve got to concentrate enough to make an impact. KNOW your market. Know your customers. Know the media. Or use an objective Marketing Consultant.
    • Use Canada Newswire – it’s not cheap but it’s the easiest way to send news releases to targeted media.
    • Get public relations or media training – or read up on it. It will help you in your dealings with the media.
    • Have a publicity photo taken of yourself – include it in your press release.
    • Publish an article – and circulate reprints of it.

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    Customer Service and Customer Relations 

    • Return phone calls promptly – it shows efficiency and respect.
    • Be on time for meetings – respect your customer or prospects time.
    • Provide added value – it shouldn’t cost you much but will probably be significantly appreciated by your customer, especially if it wasn’t expected.
    • Ask your clients how you can serve them better – eliciting their opinion will be valued.
    • Set up fax on demand or automated e-mail response for customer inquiries that are easy to respond to.
    • Send clients a “tip of the week”. It should add value to the relationship and should not overburden them with excessive reading.
    • Hold a FREE seminar at your office (or at the client’s office) – this should be an added value service.
    • Hold a “paid for” seminar for your client if it helps to educate them significantly.
    • Send hand-written thank you notes.
    • Thank clients at year-end with gifts or luncheons.
    • Photocopy interesting articles and send them to the client, together with your business card.
    • Purchase your clients gift subscriptions to their favourite professional magazines as thanks for business sent.
    • Create an area on your website specifically for clients.

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    Advertising and Promotion 

    • Get a memorable 1-800 number – for example 1-800-Salesman
    • Advertise in targeted media
    • Advertise before and during peak selling periods
    • Create an advertising campaign – don’t rely on a once off ad to create all the business you need.
    • Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes when deciding where to advertise – ask yourself: “where would I be looking for this product or services?”
    • Track your advertising results – you’ll need to know what worked for you so that you can refine your plan next time round.
    • Promote your business jointly with other professionals via co-operative mailers.
    • Cross-promote when you can. It is always very efficient to have others promote your product or service. If you come across an organization that you have some synergy with, discuss the potential for a joint marketing campaign with them. For example, lawnmowers that recycled the grass. Supplier approached the local government to see if they could use their recycling program to promote their product, and they agreed. They utilized the government’s materials distribution to insert a brochure about their product’s recycling capabilities. The local dealers realized increased interest due to this different channel of communication/promotion.
    • Advertise in a specialty directory or Yellow Pages.
    • An ad in the Classifieds could help to kick-start your business – it could also be the most appropriate place to advertise specific products and services.
    • Distribute advertising specialties like pens, mugs etc – this will maintain top of mind awareness.
    • Advertise on other media such as billboards, magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, websites etc – if you can afford it.
    • Put a sign outside your office.
    • Paint your car with your company name and telephone number.
    • Develop a bumper sticker, and give it to friends.
    • Sponsor community activities.

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    Special Events 

    • Exhibit at a trade show or conference.
    • Sponsor an open house at your premises
    • Give a speech or volunteer at an organization or at a career day at a high school, college or university.
    • Teach a class at a college.
    • Volunteer at a Non-profit organization.
    • Donate your product or service to a charity
    • Appear on a panel at a professional seminar.
    • Publish a book or articles for a newspaper or trade journal.
    • Produce and distribute an educational CD-Rom or Video

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