A marketing campaign isn't something that comes to you while you're taking a shower. Successful campaigns tend to be carefully researched, well-thought-out and focused on details and execution, rather than resting on a single, grand idea.

Planning a marketing campaign starts with understanding your position in the marketplace and ends with details such as the wording of an advertisement. You may also want to include decisions about uniforms, stationery, office d�cor and the like in your marketing plan.

Keep in mind that your plan is not supposed to be a prison. You have to leave room to make changes as you go along because no plan can perfectly capture reality. But you should also be able to commit fully to implementing your plan-or some future version of it-if you want to take a strong step toward growth.

Revising Your Marketing Plan
A growing business needs a new marketing plan just as it needs a new business plan. The steps in revising your marketing plan are similar to those required to create a marketing plan from scratch.

First, you need to redefine your product or service. Describe your product or service and its features and benefits in detail. Focus on how it differs from the competition. Concentrate on key features of your offering, including pricing, service, distribution and placement. In other words, know what you are going to be selling more of and why more people are going to buy it.

Second, look at the various market segments into which you hope to introduce-or expand demand for-your product. Decide what type of buyer is most likely to purchase it. Now describe your target customer in detail in terms of demographics: age, sex, family composition, earnings, geographical location, lifestyle, purchasing patterns, buying objections, and the like. Know exactly who will be driving your growth.

Third, create a strategy for communicating the message that will produce growth. Find out what your target customers read and listen to, and spell out your promotional objectives. Do you want people to recognize your name or know where you're located? Decide how often you'll need to-and can afford to-expose customers to your message to create the growth you desire.

Choosing the Proper Media
You're not going to reach new markets and new customers by advertising in the same old places with the same old message. That doesn't mean you have to buy a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal or a 60-second commercial during the Super Bowl. Like most small companies, you will be more likely to grow by finding a niche, not by trying to sell to the mass market. Your customers' location, age, income, interests and other information will tell you what media will reach them. Target your advertising as narrowly as possible to the media that will reach your best customers. Then gradually broaden your reach to attract new customers.

For instance, if you were selling computer networking equipment to small companies, you might advertise in Entrepreneur magazine as well as some business-oriented computer magazines. If you wanted to broaden your market to home networkers, you could add media aimed at homeowners. Like any aspect of running a business, marketing involves a measure of trial and error. As your business grows, however, you'll quickly learn which advertising media are most cost-effective and draw the most customers.

Print Advertising
The print ad is the basic unit of advertising, the fountainhead from which all other forms of advertising spring. There are two principal publication categories to consider for print advertising.

The first, newspapers, have a positive and a negative side. On the plus side, you can get your ad in very quickly. On the downside, newspapers usually have a shelf life of just 24 hours. Therefore, if you run your ad on Monday, you can't depend on anyone to discover that ad on Tuesday. As the saying goes, "Nobody wants to read yesterday's news." If your budget allows for multiple insertions-that is, running your ad more than once-do so. Regular exposure of the ad builds recognition and credibility. If some of your prospects see but don't respond to your first insertion, they may well respond to your second or third. If you have confidence in your ad's message, don't panic if the initial response is less than you wanted. More insertions may bring a better response.

The second type of print publication is magazines, for which there are specialty categories of every kind. Advertising in this type of publication allows you to target special-interest groups. Another advantage of magazines, especially monthlies, is that they have a much longer shelf life than newspapers; they're often browsed through for months after publication. So your ad might have an audience for up to six months after its initial insertion. Moreover, readers spend more time per sitting with a magazine than a newspaper, so there's more chance they'll run across your ad.

Radio and TV Advertising
Many entrepreneurs believe that radio and TV advertising are beyond their means. But while national TV advertising is usually out of the entrepreneur's price range, advertising on local stations and on cable television can be surprisingly affordable. Armed with the right information, the small-business owner may find that TV and radio advertising deliver more customers than any other type of ad campaign. The key is to have a clear understanding of the market so the money spent on broadcast advertising isn't wasted. Make sure you know what your advertising is supposed to achieve, set a reasonable budget, get all the feedback you can from other entrepreneurs, station advertising salespeople and others, and your broadcast ad campaign can prove a powerful growth producer.

The cost of producing your commercial is a major issue with broadcast advertising. TV stations usually charge you to produce your commercial (prices range from about $200 to $1,500), while radio stations will put your ad together for free.

Excerpted from Growing Your Business