ICS Magazine

Your 9-Step Marketing Plan - Step 3

December 11, 2008


Do you really need a marketing plan to survive in business? Do you really need a marketing plan to thrive? You may be able to do okay without one, but having one will make your business even better. And if you are struggling, if you aren’t getting enough clients and you aren’t getting the kinds of clients you want, then you need a marketing plan!

Far too often in our industry, instead of “Ready, aim, fire,” it’s just “Fire!” And worse, it’s fire only once. If it doesn’t work, you give up. You did not stop to think that perhaps you implemented the strategy the wrong way!

Setting your “Sales and Marketing Goals” was Step 1 of this series (check www.icsmag.com for details). Step 2 was documenting your “Description of Service.” In that article I discussed outlining your Unique Experiential Proposition. You need to be clear on what you are really providing the client. You are not just providing cleaning or restoration. Anyone can do that. What is unique about your service? That’s what creates demand. And that leads us to…

Step 3: Positioning

What do I mean by positioning? According to the classic (and highly recommended) book Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout, positioning is about taking up a “slot” in your prospect’s mind. Like a file cabinet, a product or service will take up a slot in the mind of consumers unless that file is full with another product or service. In that case, you must create some room.

When I say Mercedes, that product goes into a file called “luxury automobile.” When I say Saturn, that product goes into a file called “value automobile.” And when I say Kia, that goes into a file labeled “low-cost automobile.”

Now the interesting thing is that Kia is on the move, much as Toyota and Honda years ago. Believe it or not, there was a day when Honda was a joke! A Toyota was a toy! Now look: Not only has Toyota passed up GM, they also created a new brand – Lexus – that caught Mercedes (wait for it) asleep at the wheel!

So what does all this have to do with you?

You will take up a position in the marketplace. You will be positioned in the minds of those in your community that count. Do they see you as the Mercedes? Do they see you as the Saturn? Or do they see you as the Kia?

Here’s how you know: What kind of phone calls are you getting? What kind of customer are you attracting?

If your UEP is wrong, you won’t attract the right kind of client. If you don’t deliver, you won’t keep your position. If you want Mercedes clients and you are advertising where Kia customers shop, it will not work! There are no shortcuts in positioning.

So, what position do you want to take up? If you say luxury, that’s great, but are you willing to do what is required to attract and keep the high-end client?

If you say value, I hope you have plenty of money. Here’s why: While the value market is the biggest market, it also has the most competition. And the value customer is not necessarily loyal, where a luxury client typically is. When the value customer sees a better “deal,” they jump. Sure, you can out “wow” and “out service” the bigger companies, and if you market smartly to past clients, you can get them to refer your service and use you again. But can you thrive on the margin?

If you have to charge 25 cents a foot to compete and your advertising expense is higher, where does that money come from? From the good ‘ole “Hip Pocket National Bank,” you betcha!

Now, if you want to be aggressive and build a large company, you may be able to compete with the big boys. But I wouldn’t bet on it. 

Finally, if you want to go after the low-end market, you best keep your expenses very low. A lot of guys go after the big retail chains; usually they end up with a job. Then, when you figure out you have to raise your price to have a real business, they find someone cheaper. If you are going to target apartments and low-priced, commercial-type work, be prepared with a good business plan to keep your operating costs low and to help you grow big. That’s the only way you are going to have enough leftover at the end of the day.

So, how do you position yourself properly?

You do it by managing communications every step of the way. Do you have a message that communicates a brand consistent with the type of client you want? If you want to attract Mercedes clients, for example, you don’t do that by price advertising.

The message you put out into the marketplace has to be the right fit. Second, as you deliver your service, it has to be consistent with your message. You can’t send out Bubba and his kin and expect to deliver the most outstanding service experience!

Now, let me step up onto my soapbox.

Those that read industry magazines such as this and that are a part of the “Independent Professional” sector of our industry - not the large franchise company, and not the bait-and-switch type company, but one that has integrity and one that wants to serve your clients well –  are selling themselves short. And it is costing you dearly.

You want the high-end client, but you are not willing to do the basic things you need to do get there. Like ditching the blue jeans and dressing for success. Like shaving. Like losing the earring or ponytail. Like actually putting on a sport coat and going out to network and build referrals. Like actually rehearsing your message and telling a compelling story that resonates with high-end clients. Like answering the phone with an out of the box, enthusiastic greeting like “It’s a great day at (your business); how may I assist you?”

Instead, we never change. If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten.

My prayer for you today is that you will wake up and smell the high-end coffee and begin to plan your business for phenomenal success. And that is my passion.

Next month, Step 4. Until then, know this: building a phenomenally successful business is up to you and you alone. No one is going to do it for you.