Today is the inaugural article to help you Focus first. Act second. Grow fast. I’m going to teach you How to Market Smarter. Here’s why:

  • Marketing paralyzes too many personal brands and businesses. You feel overwhelmed by the number of marketing choices and channels.
  • Marketing without a simple, clear, marketing master plan leaves you fumbling through Random Acts of Marketing. You shoot from the hip and hope for the best…which feels the worst.
  • Each article will take about 2 mins or less to read because we’re both busy.

Part 1: You Want a Successful Marketing Plan Because You Want a Successful Personal Brand & Business

I know you want it, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Let’s start with the basics…

You want to grow your business, your brand, and your revenue!

You want to grow your personal brand and business, increase your non-profit’s impact, or further your church’s influence for good. You’ve got something great. But figuring out how to get others excited is hard. You’re already leading with excellence. Are you supposed to have a Ph.D. in Marketing too…or an endless pocketbook to pay someone else to figure it out? Doesn’t seem fair. And yet you keep bumping in to the same questions:

  • How to best market your personal brand or business;
  • How to tell others about your product, service or mission in simple, understandable language (messaging);
  • What to do with your website;
  • What the heck is ‘branding’ anyway;
  • Where in the world do you start?

The pressure of these important questions weighs you down. You’re left without a clear plan. 

The 3 Woes of an Unclear Plan

  1. An unclear plan costs you time and money. 
  2. An unclear plan wastes opportunity.
  3. An unclear plan robs you of reaching your full potential.

In short, without a plan you’re forced to shoot from the hip and hope it all works out. But crossing your fingers is no way to grow your impact.

A Solution to the ‘Attack of the Unclear Marketing Plan’

The good news is, you don’t have to be under the Attack of the Unclear Plan. You don’t need a Ph.D. or superhero powers. You just need to understand how your message, marketing and brand work together. Once you do, you can take aim and grow your impact.

In this series, I’ll give you some great tips to formulate a winning plan. My clients have used these principles to come a long way, and you can too.

A Clear Marketing Plan Demands You ‘Empty the Silos

Here is a common problem I see with personal brands and businesses of ALL sizes: they have no big picture tying together their marketing, messaging and brand. The website says one thing, the brochure says it another way. People within your organization describe you and what you do differently. It’s like 10 first-time chefs in one restaurant kitchen trying to cook dinner. Stuff is everywhere. There’s no overarching plan guiding the meal. Even if a dish or two turns out well, it doesn’t salvage the evening. Guests leave with a doggy-bag of confusion and a bad taste in their mouth, unlikely to return.

The first step to growing your impact is to empty the silos.

Brands and businesses of all sizes fall prey to the silo approach for messaging, marketing and branding. In smaller businesses and personal brands, it starts when they piecemeal marketing projects and providers. You hire a guy to do a logo. You get another web company to design a website. You pay a different group to handle your social media for six months. You convince a friend to help you design a brochure or flier. Silo. Silo. Silo.

In larger businesses and brands, the messaging, marketing and branding wind up in the hands of different people and different departments. Even if they all report to some ‘VP’, they seldom know the ‘whole’ and their part in it. Instead of outsourcing the silos, they ‘import’ them.

Before you feel like a loser…don’t! Few businesses take the intentional steps to masterplan their messaging, marketing and brand. But those who have give themselves the best chance at attaining maximum impact.

The First Step to Creating a Cohesive Marketing Plan

Ready to take a step towards a clear plan? Here it is:

Write down the main problem your personal brand or business solves for your customer.

The most important tip for this step is keep it simple. I know you do a lot of amazing things. But to get others excited, you MUST keep things focused and simple. You should be able to write this on a napkin. This should be ‘kid-shareable’—something you could teach lil’ Jack or Jill. And did I mention, keep it simple!?

This first step is the key. I can’t overstate its importance. Start here. Don’t obliterate your current website. Don’t print 10,000 new fliers. Don’t hire a freelancer to design a new logo.

Here’s a final warning: this is tough. Your business has several services. Your non-profit has numerous steps. Your church has a vision statement, mission statement, and core values. I know. Take a deep breath. You can do this. (And don’t get up from your desk until you’ve got an answer written on that napkin.)

The Payoff

It’s worth pushing through. The silo approach will not breed success, it solicits failure. It will not grow your impact, it stunts your growth. I once had a professor say, “A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.” Think about it like this. If you can’t pinpoint how you help your customer, how in the world is your customer supposed to know.

So get crackin’. And always, always, remember to keep it simple.

It’s Not Me. It’s You.

When you’re dating, you never want to hear, “It’s not you. It’s me.”  When you start dating someone, you’re trying to find out if the person is a good fit for you. Does he make you laugh? Does she have the same values as you? In the long run, will your life be better with this person? 

Your messaging, marketing and brand is like dating. Your customer wants to know what you have to offer them and how their life will be better for it. Like a date, your messaging is what you say; your marketing is how and where you say it; your brand is what you look like and how you come across. This is why we need a clear plan for how these work together to grow your impact.

In the first email, we took the first step in defeating the Attack of the Unclear Plan. Today we’ll take aim at crafting a winning message.

Step 2 to Creating a Successful Marketing Plan

There are two tips for a great first date.

  1. Don’t say too much.
  2. Don’t talk about yourself.

So here’s the next step in your plan, and it’s all about the message.

Quickly tell your customer how you help them.

This should be the focus for all your marketing. Remember, marketing is like dating. Too many personal brands and businesses use their website, brochure, emails, or social media to talk about themselves. Instead, make your message about how you help your customer. That’s why we started by nailing down the main problem your personal brand or business solves for your customer.

Here are seven tips I recommend for creating your message and why… 

  1. Define your customer (so you know who you are talking to)
  2. Focus on one problem facing your customer, not many (so you don’t clutter the conversation)
  3. Describe how you help your customer in simple steps (so they easily understand)
  4. Don’t use any insider jargon (so you don’t confuse your customer)
  5. Tell them why they can trust you to help, but be brief (so you don’t blabber or brag)
  6. Create your message in outline form (a bullet for who you’re talking to, what they want, how you help, why they can trust you, and how they take the next step towards a solution)
  7. Use your outline to write your message out in a single paragraph (so it’s clear, concise and anyone can get it)

The Payoff

Get this wrong, and no amount of money spent on marketing or branding will move your customer from first date to long-term relationship. Get it right, and you can spend far less and grow your impact far more. Remember, a bad date ends with, “It’s not you. It’s me.” Bad messaging is the same. Focus on your customer, not your personal brand or business. “It’s not about me. It’s about you!”

Building Out Your Clear Marketing Plan

I hope you feel proud of yourself.

By completing the steps thus far, you should now have a foundation for a clear marketing plan. And that’s important.

Now, let’s build on that foundation…

Branding. I know, what the heck is it…really? Here is what you need to know in plain terms.

  • You have one, no matter what.
  • It’s important for every personal brand or business (not just global corporations).
  • Branding may feel mysterious, but it’s not hard to grasp.
  • Your “logo” is not your brand, but it is an important ingredient.

Your brand is akin to a first impression and reputation. Your brand is what comes to mind when your customer interacts with your personal brand or business. Your brand is what your customer feels about you. Most importantly, your brand is what you make your customer feel about themselves.

Step 3 to Creating a Successful Marketing Plan

You’ve pinpointed how you help your customer (step 1) and built a message to share it (step 2). Here’s how to make your brand work for you.

Design a brand that carries your message along and primarily appeals to your customer, not you.

Our theme of ‘serving others over self’ continues. This is why branding is Step 3, and not Step 1. How you help your customer and what you say about it must shape your brand. That’s why you never start with, “I need a logo.” Instead, follow these guidelines to build your brand. 

  • Describe your primary customer.
  • Write down what you want your customer to experience from their relationship with your personal brand or business.
  • How do you want them to feel about themselves?
  • What main colors help you communicate that (i.e. blues communicate trust, black&white says refined, pink is for love and ladies, etc.)
  • Define the ideal vibe for your customer (hipster, fun, minimal, traditional).
  • Choose a great designer who understands the importance and role of your brand.
  • Ensure your designer provides a ‘Branding Style Guide’. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Resist oversimplifying branding to just a logo. This is a critical step usually requiring some outside expertise to get going. Design your brand as an expression of your message. Aim it at your ideal customer. And once you define it, stick to it religiously.

Branding may may seem too cumbersome or pricey to deal with. But consider this, ho-hum branding is costly. It costs you potential impact. You’ll also find it harder fixing a boring brand than building an engaging brand. Brands are not like bedsheets—you can’t throw a fresh set on in three minutes. Do it right, now!…and reap the rewards over the long haul.

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