How to Write a Really Simple Business Plan

True success in any venture needs planning. Successful planning needs a clear direction with actionable steps towards getting there, a way to measure success, and a separate plan for dealing with setbacks. Fear of the unknown, the need for deep soul searching, and of course the ever elusive resource of time, can all conspire keep you from even starting to plan – especially when it comes to your business. Enter the Really Simple Business Plan The ideas for the questions below were first developed by one of my favorite bloggers, Sonia Simone, as part of her free email course Internet Marketing for Smart People. I strongly encourage you to sign up for her course, which consists of 20 emails sent to your Inbox over a period of 2-months where she lays out multiple approaches to Internet Marketing. The nine questions presented here are adapted from Sonia’s original post, and I have used them in presentations and when working with clients to get them in planning mode. 1. Who are the right customers, where are they now, and how will they find us? This question should focus on your target market. If you say “everybody” is your customer then I think you are lying. There are very specific people your business will appeal to, which you can determine by doing a little research and analysis. Free tools like Google Ad Words, Talkwalker and Meltwater can reveal so much about your potential customers. Another great way to zero in on the right targets: identify your successful competitors, see who they are going after and then analyze that for your offerings. These...

Gamification Basics: What is Gamification and How Can It Help Your Business?

Nike has changed the game by creating a game. Each pair of Nike running shoes has an accelerometer that wirelessly syncs with your online Nike+ account. It tracks things like how far and fast you ran, how that compares with other runners, and it awards you virtual trophies for meeting milestones.  Most runners who engage in the Nike+ game would never think of owning another brand of running shoe. Nike has created the ultimate brand loyalty with a little thing called “gamification”. Learning The Basics of Gamification I love to play video games. Ever since I picked up a pong paddle way back in 1982 I was hooked. When Professor Kevin Werbach of the Warton School at University of Pennsylvania offered an online course in Gamification on Coursera, I jumped on it. This was the first week of class, and as we go through the course I hope to publish blog posts every Friday on the main subjects we covered, both to help me develop my knowledge and to share that with you. Ultimately, I hope that readers of this blog will find ways to use the information to inject some life and engagement to their own marketing and business efforts. Gamification is a hot topic right now in business, but so many people have the wrong idea about it. They think if you add a point system, create a few badges and reward people publicly then an exciting game has been created. Not so much. As we’ll learn in the next section of this post, those are just game elements. Companies may try to add them to the marketing...
Olympic Gold Medal Winning Marketing Strategies (Part 3): Unique Selling Proposition Gymnastics

Olympic Gold Medal Winning Marketing Strategies (Part 3): Unique Selling Proposition Gymnastics

All marketers can learn from the dedication, preparation and planning of Olympic athletes. This series of posts will put that into perspective when preparing your own marketing plan. Here are the posts in this 5-part series: Part 1 – Competitive Analysis: remove obstacles like a judo champion Part 2- Targeting Markets: zeroing in on your customer like an olympic archer Part 3 – Unique Selling Propositions: what artistic gymnastics teach you about execution Part 4 – Goals, Metrics and Timelines: the triathlon of marketing measurement Part 5- Tactics: sink or swim by using the right Olympic strokes Today, we talk about crafting a Unique Selling Proposition that will dazzle your customers like an Olympic gymnast. People are nuts about Olympic gymnastics. An entire episode of Seinfeld even centered around Jerry dating a former Romanian Olympic gymnast and the amazing things she used to do on a balance beam. The routines these champions put together are one-of-a-kind routines pulling together the best of their bag of tricks. Unique Selling Propositions: Making it Look As Easy As The Olympic Balance Beam When defining what makes your product and organization a winner precision and creativity make the difference between a statement that matters and one that falls flat on the mat. The unique selling proposition (“USP”) started as a mechanism for understanding successful advertising in the 1940’s. Today it helps marketers to differentiate their products and company from the competition. It guides the internal efforts of the marketer and can even help to perfect marketing copy as it gives you a clear understanding of what unique benefits your product gives to the...
Olympic Gold Medal Marketing Strategies (Part 2): Hitting the Target Market

Olympic Gold Medal Marketing Strategies (Part 2): Hitting the Target Market

All marketers can learn from the dedication, preparation and planning of Olympic athletes. This series of posts will put that into perspective when preparing your own marketing plan. Here are the posts in this 5-part series: Part 1 – Competitive Analysis: remove obstacles like a judo champion Part 2- Targeting Markets: zeroing in on your customer like an olympic archer Part 3 – Unique Selling Propositions: what artistic gymnastics teach you about execution Part 4 – Goals, Metrics and Timelines: the triathlon of marketing measurement Part 5- Tactics: sink or swim by using the right Olympic strokes Today, we talk about hitting your target market like an olympic archer. According to the official 2012 Olympics website, archers have it easy. Their objective is simple: “shoot arrows as close to the center of the target as possible.” If you are following the advice in this post and started your strategy planning by analyzing your competition then you are halfway to the target already. Now it’s time to hit the bullseye. Defining your “target market” answers one question: who should “buy” from you. If you’ve been following this blog at all then you know I use the term “buy” to refer to any kind of influence you as the marketer exert on your audience. Many marketers make assumptions about their target market that sometimes miss the mark. So how do you know whether your target is correct? 7-Factors to Identify Your Target Customers There are 7-factors used to identify target customers. If you already have a customer base, these 7-factors will provide you with a clearer picture of your proposed market...
Lessons From Legos: Creating Engagement With Decision Simplicity

Lessons From Legos: Creating Engagement With Decision Simplicity

Most online marketers measure success in social media based on Engagement. This vague measure of online dominance takes many forms that all indicate some kind of “customer hand raising” in response to company content. You want to see what Engagement REALLY looks like? My kids recently discovered Legos for the first time. I watched my five year old girl and my three and a half year old boy enter a world where Dad can help them build their own toys from these little plastic bricks, which can become anything they imagine. Hours of engaged play went by, and now they want everything Lego. In the first week alone we bought two more Lego kits, got  some Lego videos and even had our own little “Lego party”. Little did I know this experience with Legos would teach me everything I ever needed to know about Decision Simplicity and what it has to do with Engagement. Why Are Marketers Obsessed With Engagement? July 2012 marks the death of Engagement. Blogs began buzzing about this thing called “Decision Simplicity” after Patrick Spenner published his brilliantly titled post on Forbes.com: Marketers Have It Wrong: Forget Engagement, Consumers Want Simplicity. The article released a torrent of responses and blog posts decrying the demise of Engagement as the marketing metric of choice and proclaiming Decision Simplicity as the new king. Corporate marketers and social media gurus had been obsessed with “Engagement” for years, touting it as the primary indicator of a company’s success in social media and the surest way to close sales and establish brand loyalty online. Just create Engagement and the ROI of social media...