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How to create an effective business message, pitch, and marketing plan

By Laura Sherman | Small Business

Some entrepreneurs are top-notch experts in their industry, brilliantly skilled in their craft, but they’re missing one key element. They don’t know how to market. Remember, if you have an excellent product or service, but no one knows about it, you can’t succeed.

You must be willing to stand up and be noticed. Draw attention to yourself and say, “Find me. I’m here!” Brilliant, but quiet business people are often broke.

Your marketing plan is just as important as your business plan, if not more so.

According to Yodlee’s First Annual Small Business Sentiment Survey of August 2013, 42% of small business owners said their number one worry was finding new customers. Makes sense. Isn’t that your concern as well?

 

Create a compelling business message

You will make use of a company message over and over, so make sure it’s powerful. If you’re constructing one for the first time, here are some things to highlight:

  • Who are you? People must be able to trust you immediately.
  • What are you selling? Be very clear about this point.
  • Who would be interested in your product? Direct your message to these people, not a general group.
  • What makes your product unique? Answer this correctly and people will contact you.

When crafting your message, here are some tips to remember:

  • Be courteous in your delivery. Remember the old adage: You never have a second chance to make a first impression.
  • Make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect. There’s nothing that says unprofessional like misspelled words. When I lived in Glendale, CA, I remember seeing a sign for “Proffessional Window Cleaner” by my apartment complex. It was memorable, but for the wrong reasons.
  • Be clear and concise. The attention span of the average consumer isn’t long. Make sure they can grasp your message quickly.
  • Be honest. Honesty and trust go hand in hand. People buy from those they trust, often returning again and again.
  • Keep your message positive. Focus on what you do that benefits your customers, while indirectly pointing out how you’ve made improvements over your competition (without speaking ill of them).

Once you write your message, pretend you’re standing in your potential customer’s shoes. Anticipate their reaction. Is it positive? Will they buy from you?

Once you have the perfect written message, try it out on a few people. See how they respond and edit it accordingly.

 

Prepare to pitch

Once you know your message and have identified your target audience, you can begin to form a pitch. Actually, it’s usually a good idea to have a written pitch as well as an oral one.

Be comfortable delivering your pitch, making sure it aligns with your voice and style.

If you’re creative, consider creating a variety of pitches to handle different situations. For instance, let’s say you’re suddenly trapped in a proverbial elevator with your ideal prospect. What would you say? Or what if you’re at an elite fundraiser and find yourself with thirty seconds to impress the CEO of a company you’ve always wanted to work with. How would you handle that scenario?

Although the basic message will always be the same, the pitches may be different.

Over the years, you’ll need to pitch yourself to a variety of people in a host of different circumstances. Tailor-making a pitch for the person standing in front of you will always be more effective than using one rote set of lines.

When writing emails or letters to clients, it would be ideal if you could pitch one-on-one, so that the wording of the letter is appropriate for each candidate. However, that often isn’t practical, so you may need to send out bulk communications. In that case, try to find a common ground so that it reaches as many people as possible.

Your written pitch should always have a call to action, which will entice people to reach out to you.

Here are some basic rules to follow when preparing a pitch:

  • Stick with the Golden Rule: Pitch to your clients the way you’d like to be pitched to.
  • Keep it real: People can spot hype a mile away. If you’re honest, people will respond to you.
  • Don’t try to impress with words: Remember your pitch is a communication and must be easily understood. Keep the language clear.
  • Don’t become a critic: It isn’t wise to slam your competition. Stick to what you do well and why you’re at the top of your field.
  • Answer the key questions: There’s nothing worse than a pitch that doesn’t say anything. Hit the most popular questions so that the recipient feels satisfied.

If your product or service is simple and low cost, you might only need one pitch per customer.

However, if you’re offering a high-end product or service, you’ll need a basic pitch to get customers in the door and another to close the deal (and perhaps a few in-between). The initial pitch shouldn’t be more than a minute, while the latter may take up to an hour or more.

 

Marketing Vehicles

Today, there are many choices when it comes to how to get your message and pitch across to your target audience. Here are a few popular ways to reach people:

  • Direct contact via mail or email
  • Print advertising
  • Online search engines and advertising
  • Use of a sales force
  • Seminars, webinars, and events
  • TV and radio
  • Social media and blogging

You need to weigh your style of promotion with the preference of your prospective customers. You may love the idea of webinars, but if the majority of your clients don’t like computers, it won’t work. Although it’s good to have an affinity for the marketing vehicle you use, it’s more important that it be an effective campaign!

Whatever method you use, remember that your marketing collateral should:

  • Interest people in your business.
  • Answer basic questions about your product or service.
  • Introduce your brand.
  • Have all your contact data.

 

Your marketing budget

If you’re going to spend money on marketing, you must be certain you’ll get a return on that investment. Most marketing plans involve a long runway. For instance, if you choose to use print ads, you must plan to run the ad several times. Buying only one spot is usually a colossal waste of money.

Consider hiring professional writers, web designers, and social media gurus to help you market your product or service. The money you shell out for these experts can increase your reach and visibility, often making it money well spent.

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