Posts Tagged ‘marketing action plan’

What’s In Your Marketing Action Plan?

All small businesses and sales professionals should have their own marketing action plan. With buyers becoming better educated and the marketplace place becoming more crowded with other small businesses and sales professionals, it is essential to have specific goals to attract attention and build relationships. Small Business Coaching Tip:  The keyword here is ACTION.


Assess Critical First Step

For those who have engaged in a strategic planning process, they have already engaged in assessing the marketplace. This begins with vision and mission and ends with results. Unfortunately from my experience, the super majority of small businesses and sales professionals have not taken this critical first step. What may happen is creating the wrong goals and focusing on the wrong results. These misdirected activities derail the action with any marketing plan.

6 Key Marketing Activities

For simplicity, there are six basic key activities within a marketing action plan.

  • Internet – web site (Note: Due to social media, this has its own secondary social media action plan.)
  • Networking and Trade Shows
  • Direct Mail
  • Paid Advertising
  • Promotional Items
  • Professional Development

Each of these key areas has specific goals that evolved from the strategic plan along with key performance indicators (KPI). For example, a KPI for a website could be unique visitors.


Target Date

As with any WAY SMART goal, there are target dates.  These are projected dates to determine when the goal will be completed.  Without these target dates, the marketing plan becomes a hodge podge of misdirected actions.

Completion Date

Knowing when the goal was actually completed allows forward thinking small businesses and sales professionals to make adjustments specific to future goals. Not keeping track of completion dates may generate misguided future decisions and goals.

Measurement Is Essential

Within the WAY SMART goal criteria, M is for measurement.  All goals can be measured by some metric. These metrics would be identified and determined within the strategic plan. Small Business Coaching Tip:  If you cannot measure the result of your marketing activities, you cannot manage them.

Simplicity Required

Small business owners and sales professionals are indeed crazy busy. Simplicity is required because with all the craziness, there exists the real possibility of confusing motion with progress and activity with results. By having key goals on one piece of paper helps to keep all this craziness in some control.

Possibly now is the time to stop, rethink and commit your marketing goals to writing.  Wasting time on marketing activities that fail to yield your desired results is foolhardy and will not get you or your small business to where you want it to be.

Check out this one page Marketing Action Plan

complete with room for KPI indicators.

* * * * * * * * * *

Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.




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The Confusion Path Between Sales Objections & Qualifying Customers

Some recent social media discussions revealed there exists significant confusion about sales objections.  This is best explained because in the past the marketing depattment handed off the fully qualified sales leads to lukewarm ones to the sales department.

sales-objectionsNow with 97.7% of all businesses here in the US having under 20 employees and far more constrained budgets, marketing departments are no longer separate entities.  Usually the small business owners to even those in sales management must integrate marketing activities with selling activities and thus begins the sales objections confusion path.

Before any salesperson can sell their solution (products or services), they must have a clearly articulated ideal customer along with having these four (4) to five (5) qualifying criteria met:

  1. Decision maker – the person who can actually sign the check or approve signing the check
  2. Allocated budget – just because the company has dollars does not mean those dollars will be directed your way
  3. Wants or needs for your solution
  4. Urgency to take action – sometimes salespeople can build a case for urgency
  5. Commitment to take action – salespeople can also build through proper research a greater emotional desire to make a decision in their favor

The ideal customer profile is the result of having invested the time to engage in strategic thinking and planning. Unfortunately for many small businesses they embrace the role of Captain Wing It where they spray their marketing and selling actions all over the place and then pray something will stick. I recently heard this during a public workshop where some SEO experts with significant national accounts recommended developing the marketing plan first and then determining the ideal customer.  Bad advice, very bad advice.

For example, if your sales lead or prospect cannot make a buying decision this is not a sales objection, but rather one of poor qualification. This happens a lot for realtors and even car sales people. Potential customers walk in and because they have poor credit scores, limited work history, excessive debt, etc. they cannot buy anything less along something as expensive as a house or car.

A true sales objection only happens after the sales lead has been 100% qualified and you as the salesperson do not violate the 3 Sales Buying Rules.  Now if the marketing has been executed flawlessly or almost flawlessly, the prospect will pull you, the salesperson, to him or her so you do not have to engage in “push selling” where you are pushing (think pitching) your solution.

Many sales are made without sales objections.  Again, some in sales believe if you are not achieving sales objections you are not selling.  This is a false belief and is in many cases because of ME or massive ego.

By ensuring through your marketing action plan your sales leads are qualified and better yet fully qualified will reduce the number of sales objections as well as your stress in making your marketing and sales goals.


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Marketing Goal Worksheet Works with Your Marketing Action Plans Part 2

Now that you understand what a marketing goal worksheet looks like and how it works. The next questions is:

marketing-goal-worksheetWhat do your marketing action plans look like? 

Of course before you have constructed these action plans you have invested the time to do your marketing research along with a competitive analysis of your business, haven’t you?  This is not the time to short change that critical thinking process.

Years ago, small businesses essentially had only one marketing action plan. This traditional plan looked to outbound activities including:

  • Networking and/or trade shows
  • Direct mail
  • Paid advertising including: print, radio, TV or special events such as sponsors for charity events
  • Promotional items including business cards, brochures, give-a-ways

A few more forward thinking small business owners and sales professionals may have also included:

  • Internet (web site)
  • Professional development specific to improving marketing knowledge

Today a second marketing action plan is required that also works with the marketing goal worksheet. This action plan looks to inbound marketing actions, usually arising from social media.

  • Blog
  • Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • You Tube
  • Micro Blogs

With either of these  simple one page marketing action plans, the marketing goal worksheet works to ensure the successful execution of the marketing goals.  And as noted in part 1, the marketing goal worksheet is no different than any other goal worksheet.

If you are having some challenges with the successful execution of your marketing plans and goals, then remember the very wise words of President Eisenhower:  Plan are useless; planning is everything.

Your marketing action plans and consequently marketing goals will change and should change because the marketing changes. However the thinking that started the entire planning process and ongoing thinking will never change.

If you do not have a social media marketing action plan, the one page social media action plan may help you get started.

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To Retweet or Not to Retweet That Is the Question

So you log onto your Twitter account from your smart device and face this question as you read another posting:


“To retweet or not to retweet?”

You really enjoyed what you have just read.

You actually clicked on the bitly shortner and read the article.

This is really good  and I want to share it, but….you start thinking:

My Twitter feed is already scheduled with postings from others along with my own stuff.

I do not want to overload my followers.

Yet this follower has shared my information with others.

I do not want to be viewed as a one-way small business person only concerned about myself, my blog, my offerings.

So again the thought returns “to retweet or not to retweet?”

With over 230 million users, the chances of one’s entire Twitter community of followers reading every post is probably not happening given there are 9,100 tweets per second. Also with new followers coming and old ones leaving, the dynamics change potentially on an hourly basis.

My own practice is to retweet, but to schedules those retweets with at least a few moments in between.

Also by personally approving each follower, I know that I am being as judicious as possible in avoiding those small businesses that spam feeds with their MLM marketing messages or individuals who are just selling this “quick fix” or that one.

What I have discovered is “to retweet or not to retweet” returns to your integrated marketing action plan as well as your own business ethics.  And hence this question, like most others, can only be answered by you.


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News Flash – Social Selling Is Not a New Sales Frontier

I just read another posting by another sales expert about social selling specific to LinkedIn.  The observations this author made applied to all selling in general.


Social selling is not a new sales frontier as it implies all other selling is not social as if people buy from robots.

If people buy from people, then all selling is social and has been since the dawn of man or at least since mankind has been exchanging his or her resources for the resources of someone else.

Beyond some sales expert attempting to sell another book or workshop, the focus on this new term “social selling” is because the existing selling has not been working.

Selling does not work if you:

  • Expect a quick fix
  • Believe one size fits all from your own marketing to your solutions
  • Lack a written plan, a personal commitment to that plan
  • Buying a tool (technology or non-technology) will automatically increase sales
  • Adopt a copy and paste attitude (copy this person’s profile, elevator speech, etc.)

Sales is a process (marketing, selling and keeping) and the length of time for that sales process will vary depending upon many factors. However one factor is always present people who are by nature social.

Social selling has always existed.

Engagement in the technology driven “social world” is essential provided you are engaging in the right areas where you prospects are spending or investing their time and you are leveraging the those tools to the best of their capabilities.

In sales including this now popular term of “social selling,” authenticity is demanded now more than ever because of technology and the 24/7 connected world.

Focus on being authentic, caring, and committed to your sales action plan as well as marketing action plan, then you will earn the success from those hard efforts.  Do not be fooled by the experts who advocate social selling because these individuals are just jumping on the bandwagon to sound different or to make selling sound different. Selling has truly not changed. What has changed is potentially:

  • More obstacles to increase sales
  • Less thinking by salespeople
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An Action Plan for Sales Improvement, Where Do You Start?

So where does one start an action plan for sales improvement?

action-plan-for-sales-improvementWrite down the WAY SMART goals?

Return to the executive strategic thinking plan?

Maybe, look to the marketing action plan as to how many sales leads are being generated by inbound and outbound marketing actions?

What would happen if you look to within yourself and specific to your own talents?

Could you then be more effective in executing those sales strategies and action steps?

Would you feel better knowing you were focusing on your true talents and not turning non-talents into weaknesses?

Possibly, would you construct a better action plan for sales improvement because you now have enhanced clarity?

The lack of crystal clear clarity  is the greatest obstacle faced any salesperson. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Until an individual has crystal clarity about his or her own talents and the ranking of those talents through a proven assessment, that individual may continue to work harder.

If you are rethinking about an action plan for sales improvement, possibly consider looking within and securing an objective perspective.

P.S. The Attribute Index Performance Appraisal has a proven track record of providing crystal clarity.

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The Simplicity of My Sales Suck

How many times have small business owners to sales professionals have had this thought: “My sales suck?”

Depending upon their level of desperation (translated their incoming bills), they may take some of these actions:

  • Increase their business to business networking activities
  • Chop marketing to training budgets
  • Start a new marketing campaign

Yet, the most simple action, the most affordable action is so often ignored.

Yesterday, I spoke to 10 small business owners and sales professionals with 90% of them not having this in place:

  • A goal driven marketing action plan
  • A goal driven sales action plan

The bad news is the failure to put their business goals including marketing and sales to writing is a very costly behavior.  And the good news is this behavior can be easily changed without a tremendous investment.

There are probably several reason why sales suck for any small business or salesperson.  Yet when examining the root cause, more often than not from my experience it is because of this failure to write down the goal and work the goal through a goal achievement process.  By taking this simple action provides tremendous clarity and clarity enhances execution resulting in far less redos along with failures.

President Dwight Eisenhower said

“Plans are worthless; planning is everything.” 

When using a goal achievement process supported by a goal setting worksheet, small business owners or salespersons are engaged in critical  thinking first and foremost. They are planning by looking at all the obstacles that may prevent success. In some instances these obstacles may be specific sales skills and in other cases it could be not having:

Sales, in spite of what many sales gurus to marketing experts will tell you, is quite simple because it is all about people buying from people through the transference of feelings.  Yes, there may be some complexity especially when you are selling high ticket items.  However, for most small businesses in today’s market place that is not the case.

If your sales suck, then take this simple action of committing your goals to writing and working them through a proven goal achievement process.  You just may be surprised by the results.


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Brain Farts and Small Business Start Ups

Being an entrepreneur for many small business start ups begins as a brain fart.  What I mean is all of a sudden, an individual gets the idea, almost magically without warning, “Hey, I can do that better than company XYZ” to “I want to be my own boss.” Whatever prompted the thought to become a small business owner suddenly popped into the brain for many of these enterprising individuals and hence why I call it a brain fart moment similar to the old commercial “I could have had a V-8.”

Another reason for this designation is the lack of thinking the decision through.  Sure, possibly some thought has gone into researching where to place the office or who to unite with especially if the business is professionally service orientated such as lawyers, accountants, financial planners, physicians, dentists, etc.  Yet the critical questions never are answered because so many say “Once I hit the ground running, I can think about those other things.”

Those other things are all related to a strategic plan, that has been placed on the back burner from the get go. Big mistake.

Last night I was speaking to a young woman who is leaving her current employer to start her own legal practice. She shared the experience about speaking to a mentor (to someone else) who told her to determine what type of law she does not want to practice. In other words, what is your niche?

In our conversation, I was not surprised she lacked clarity about her ideal customer, her target market and how she was going to reach those unknowns. She mentioned joining a chamber to a formal business to business networking group. I made the observation joining any group should be based upon her ideal customer profile and her target market all found within her marketing action plan. She did not have an integrated marketing plan (uniting inbound marketing and outbound marketing) nor a sales plan because she had not taken the time to develop a strategic plan.

As she was looking to form some existing professional alliances, I asked who was going to do the selling?  She reluctantly responded “I am.” Any experienced salesperson who read the discomfort in her response.

Having those infamous bugs to start a small business or what I call brain farts for entrepreneurs or small business owners can be wildly satisfying  However given the failure rate for so many small businesses, it can be equally disheartening.

The advice is next time you get one of those brain farts be it to open a small business or provide a new solution, invest the time on the front end to do your market research, create an integrated marketing plan along with a sales plan (both located within your strategic plan). By taking this action, you have dramatically increased your chances to being a successful small business owner while reducing some of that stress that is just around the corner.

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Business to Business Networking Unplugged or Overloaded

With the majority of small businesses being sole proprietors or what some call SOHO (single office home office), business to business networking is one of the primary marketing strategies. Yet in spite of all the articles, the conversations, many of these small business owners become unplugged or overloaded as they engage in conversations with other small business owners or business professionals.


The Wall Street Journal recently offered the Top Eight Rules of Networking. Just as we had multiple exposures to our arithmetic facts to remember them, it appears that same exposure, call it spaced repetition or memorization, is necessary for some crazy busy professionals as well as those new to the entrepreneurial ranks.

What is also quite evident is that effective business to business networking begins within your strategic plan and especially your marketing action plan.  Here is where you identify your:

All of these elements are present in most of your conversations as you spread your message (marketing) to new potential customers, strategic partners and centers of influence.

Now for some individuals business to business networking is about spraying and praying.  They actively work the room by spraying their efforts all over the place and then hoping something will stick.  These folks are truly unplugged from what needs to happen.

On the other side, you have the folks who just pump and dump as Jeb Blount wrote in his book People Buy You. Here you are the overloaded business networker who appears to be somewhat desperate because he or she is so focused on the goal to increase sales, he or she forgets about truly caring about other people.

By remembering as Zig Ziglar said “Sales is the transference of feelings,” this may help you improve your business to business networking behaviors.  After all, people do buy from people who they know and trust.  So the simple question is:

Are your business networking behaviors demonstrating trust?



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How to Increase Sales Tips & Snippets #17 – Marketing Calendar

Calendars be them paper or electronic or even Cloud enabled keep track of calls, appointments and To Dos all as part of the how to increase sales activities. Then it just makes plain sense to also have a marketing calendar to ensure that all marketing efforts from campaigns to social media to traditional attract attention activities are completed.

Each week day I have a recurring calendar item to:

  • Write a blog posting for this business and sales blog
  • Share over on Facebook my forgotten word or word phrase of the day
  • Post an LinkedIn update
  • Retweet (RT) two tweets over at Twitter
  • Post at Google Plus
  • Check HARO free PR opportunities

On weekends, I scale back just a little. However I have discovered not taking any marketing actions during the weekend will decrease web traffic.  Also most of my sales from my website come during the weekends.

Then on other days I have scheduled when I must submit articles as I write for several sites such as the Post-Tribune and business journals such as NBiz in Houston, TX. Finally if I have any special marketing campaigns such as Triage Business Planning or College Success Bootcamp, I have made sure to include those marketing actions as well.

Having a well written marketing calendar with specific target dates for marketing goals is critical and truly reduces all that crazy busyness that comes with being a small business owner. Additionally, this may help any outsourcing firms such as a Virtual Assistant like Catherine Mallers owner of The Office Grapevine to ensure those outsourced actions are in alignment with your actions relative to how to increase sales. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Your marketing calendar will come from your marketing action plan within your strategic plan.

Consider your calendar is not just for lunch dates or important business meetings, but truly should include your marketing actions.

Sales Cartoon


Sales Quotation

“There have been great societies that did not use th wheel,

but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”

Ursula Le Guin

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith
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