Is Having a Marketing Plan Enough?

I was about to start typing today’s post when the phone rang. The woman was talking so fast I could hardly understand her (and I’m from New York, where we all talk really fast).

unusual stop sign

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Me: “Whoa, slow down. What is it?”

Caller: “It’s about your merchant account.”

Me: “I don’t have one.”

Caller: “But you want one.”

Me: “No.”


You can have a great marketing plan. You can identify a niche market, grab a list somewhere, and start making phone calls or sending emails.

But, it will all fail if you’re not solving their problem, rather than yours.

Someone at the company where this woman works decided that they wanted to reach businesses like mine.  They created a marketing plan, hired people, and started calling.  They never stopped to think whether I needed what they were selling. Or whether a merchant account fit my marketing plan.

I don’t want a merchant account. I’m not a retailer. Paypal is fine.

They’ve just wasted my time, their own employees’ time, and probably quite a bit of money on a marketing plan that won’t work.

Before you start selling your idea, see if your audience wants it.  Otherwise, you could end up with a bra dryer or nail polish for cats.

Marketing plan essentials

To be effective, a marketing plan has to start with the audience, not with the product.  Then you build out the rest based on what the audience needs.

  • Start with your ideal client.  Who are they?  What do they want?  What troubles them?  What are they afraid of?  What do they dream about?
  • How can you fix those problems? Or fulfill their dreams?
  • Where can you reach/find them?
  • What appeals to them and what do they hate?
  • What tools will you use to reach them and where will you use them?
  • What offer will you make to them (price, product, terms)


What Every Creative Should Know About Marketing

Paint brushes

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Starting a creative business is exciting. You’re full of ideas and energy. You want to make money. You’re passionate about what you’re doing. However, that’s not enough. Marketing your creative business requires a plan.

I just read something (sorry, can’t share details) by someone who set up his business without thinking through his marketing.

If you want your creative business to succeed, there are six key tips you should know about marketing before you open your doors, set up your web site, or start printing business cards.

What have you got?

What is it you’re selling? Illustrations? Web sites? Training programs? Be very clear and very specific about what it is you do. The kinds of illustrations, what sort of training you provide.

Who wants it?

This is your tribe. Your people. The group (large or small) that will buy your products.  For example, they might be startups with small budgets who need a simple website (or blog) set up quickly. Or, people who need an ebook designed and don’t have a graphics department. Know exactly who your “fish” are, and the problem of theirs (not yours) that you solve.

Why you?

The why is more important than the what. Why buy from you? People buy from Zappo’s because their service is ridiculously good. They don’t really deliver shoes. They deliver happiness.

Why them?

What connection do you have with your tribe? Are you passionate about what they do? Is there a problem they have that nobody else is addressing? (Jonathan Fields tells the story of a woman who loved yoga, but found that all the mats got slippery. She invented one that didn’t slide around and started selling it).

Where are they?

How do you find them? Once you know who your market is, how do you find your ideal client? Are they reading Wired or reading National Geographic ? And where are they physically located?

How do they get your product?

Buy it online? Pick it up in a store? Click on a link? Respond to an email message?

Figure all of this out before you spend one minute on social media or one cent on marketing.

The Elephant and the Marketing Plan

Jennifer on LinkedIn wanted to know if it was worth a large investment of money to redo her web site. She’s an interior designer and isn’t happy with the way her site currently looks. She got lots of answers.

Some advised her to concentrate on search engine optimization (because graphics don’t matter as much as marketing strategy), others recommended she insist on a content management system (an MS Word like interface that makes it easy for a non-technical person to change the site’s content).

I’ve heard others in similar situations insist that words don’t matter because nobody reads.

The graphic designer focuses on the design, the wordsmith on content, and the SEO expert on optimization.

It’s like the old folk tale about the blind men and the elephant. One touched the elephant’s side, and declared the elephant to be like a wall. A second felt the tusk and said, no the elephant is a spear. A third, holding the trunk, insisted the elephant was like a snake.

The truth is that the elephant, and the Web site, are all of those things: side, tusk, trunk, words, design, marketing strategy, and traffic.

A web site with poor design, that’s hard to use, or read will not be successful. A site with poor wording will not convince anyone to buy; one with no traffic (or the wrong traffic) will not make sales if nobody sees it.

The design, the colors, the layout, the traffic, the marketing strategy (her points of difference, her story, her call to action) must all work together. Without legs the elephant will fall. With no trunk, it can’t eat.

With no marketing strategy or poor traffic, the web site will founder. Take away any single one, and the whole thing fails. Look at the whole elephant (and the whole site), not just pieces.