Making an Effective Marketing Plan
By Mary Bellis, About.com Guide

How well your advertisements and promotions draw customers will ultimately determine how effective your marketing strategy is. It becomes your responsibility to cultivate your designated market, if you decide to market your invention yourself. One of the ways to do this is through advertising and promotions. Remember the aim of the advertising and promotional strategy is to create awareness of your product, to arouse customers’ needs and expectations to the point of consumption and to create a loyal stream of satisfied customers who continue to patronize your business.

Effective Advertising and Promotions Techniques

Perhaps, the first step in developing an effective advertising and promotional strategy is to understand the difference between the two concepts. Most people think that advertising and promotions are one in the same; there is, however, a distinction between the two. While both advertising and promotions use the different media formats – print, radio, and television – as a way of conveying a message, promotion encompasses much more. It is the method of advertising and can entail community involvement. For example, this could mean sponsoring a Youth Organization, allowing non-profit organizations to use your facility, such as, letting the high school drama club use your parking lot for a car wash fund raiser, sending an underprivileged child to day camp or involvement in any type of positive community activity that will bring attention to your business.
While advertising is a way of keeping your business is the public’s eye, promotions are a way of signaling that you are concerned and committed to the welfare of the community and its residents. This commitment may be one of the most effective techniques for building customer loyalty. People tend to be more supportive of businesses and organizations that give something to the community rather than those that just take from the community, never giving anything in return.

Advertising

Advertising plays an important role in successful business ventures. It entails identifying and selecting the media that provide the greatest amount of exposure for your business and developing effective, yet appropriate materials for each medium. It is more than running an ad in a local newspaper, on a radio or television station or just simply hanging a sign outside your business and waiting for the customers to purchase your product. It requires that you know your product – that is, the selling points – and that you develop literature that can arouse the customers’ consciousness levels to the point that they are curious enough to investigate it, and then raises their need or desire levels to the point that they are willing to purchase it.
Advertising keeps your product or service in the public’s eye by creating a sense of awareness. Yet this awareness alone will not ensure the success of your business. Thus, advertising not only has to be effective, it also has to be a continuous process.

It may be a good idea to mix the different media formats that you use. For example, design a brochure that describes your product, emphasizing its selling points (special features). Place copies of the brochure in strategic locations of your business to use as customer handouts. Or, devise a customer survey. The survey should focus on whether customers like the product, the quality of the product, ways to improve it, the quality of service provided by staff – their friendliness and courtesy. Place the survey with a self-addressed, stamped envelope near the check-out counter and ask customers to mail in or return the survey when they come back. Review their comments with staff and implement those suggestions that are practical, cost efficient and can improve the overall quality of service your business provides.

More Media Formats

Newspaper, radio, or television ads (newspaper advertising is the least expensive and television advertising is the most expensive of these formats). You probably will need professional advice and assistance when developing ads for those media formats. The following media formats you probaly can do yourself:
Business cards
Classified ads in the local newspaper
Direct marketing
Telemarketing (this format can be expensive, also)
Yellow Pages advertising
Sampling – mailing or distributing free samples of your product to the public.
Advertising in community-based magazines or newspapers.
Whatever media format you use, be willing to invest the money needed to develop an effective ad campaign.

Promotions

As discussed earlier, promotion entails more than just selecting the media format to market your business. It can, and oftentimes does, encompass community involvement. This involvement can range from sponsoring a Boy or Girl Scout troop to hosting a charity ball for senior citizens or allowing non-profit organizations to use your facilities.
Your approach to promoting your business should encompass more than creating a sense of awareness about your business. It should include a commitment to community involvement – the desire to give something back to the community and its residents. An excellent way to foster this type of involvement is to meet with community leaders to find out how you can help, and what events are forthcoming that could or will require your assistance. Keep in mind that community leaders can be an excellent networking tool, especially if they feel your involvement is genuine.

Examples of community programs you can sponsor or take part in are:

sponsor a Boy or Girl Scout troop for summer camp
sponsor a underprivileged child in day camp
host and sponsor a charity ball for senior citizens
sponsor cooperative education for high school and/or college students
volunteer as a tutor for at-risk (those likely to drop out or fail in school) students
sponsor a fund raiser for the homeless, or day care tuition assistance for children of single-parent households
offer summer employment to local high school, middle school and college students
become active in the local chapters of the Big Bothers or Big Sisters organizations.
volunteer in a local literacy program.
Other inexpensive ways of promoting your business that doesn’t encompass community involvement are:
employee tee shirts, hats, aprons or jackets with the name of your business and logo.
ball point pens with the name, telephone number and logo of your business.
balloons with the name, telephone number and logo of your business
free samples
a door prize for the 100th or 1,000th customer to enter your business.
While it is impossible for you to participate in every event or program in the community, you should at least get involved in one or two activities, even if it’s only on a part-time basis. People tend to be more supportive of businesses, organizations or individuals who give something to the community. And, this is the image you especially want to project in your promotional activities.
No plan that anyone provides will show you how to promote or advertise your business. These are techniques that you, yourself, will have to develop. Talk it over with your family and community leaders, then decide which activities you can afford to sponsor and have the time to commit to before becoming involved. Involvement in the community doesn’t necessarily have a price tag attached. Find a project that you can afford, that you have time for and is of interest to you.

For ideas on how to develop an effective advertising and promotional strategy, see “Marketing Tips, Tricks & Traps”. A sample Marketing Plan also is included to assist you in developing an effective marketing strategy for your business.

http://inventors.about.com/od/advertisingmedia/a/effective_marke.htm