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What's the Plan?

Need a marketing plan? Here are strategies to fit penny pinchers, big spenders and everyone in between.

Think you can't afford powerful marketing in 2005? Don't be fooled into believing that only marketers with deep pockets reap substantial rewards. No matter your marketing strategy, there's a group of tactics priced to fit. To show you how to choose the right tactics for your marketing mix, here's a look at a single marketing challenge tackled with high-level, midlevel and low-level budgets.

The Marketing Challenge

Imagine your growing business has created a learning toy for toddlers that helps improve motor skills and teach vocabulary, and is priced at $49.95. The broad strategy is to target new parents, ideally those who are most likely to be looking for this type of product and can afford it. And let's assume your product isn't in stores and you don't have the name recognition of major competitors, such as Fisher-Price.

With a high-end budget, you can choose:

  • Sixty-second, direct-response TV spots on targeted cable programming: Long-format spots allow you to demonstrate product benefits and keep your toll-free number and URL on the screen longer for maximum response.
  • Full-page ads in magazines that target parents, with emphasis on those that reach more affluent readers: Large-space ads stand out in a sea of clutter.
  • Direct mail to parents nationwide: Carefully chosen lists should target parents who most closely match your selection criteria.

With a midlevel budget, try:

  • Small-space print ads in the shopper sections of national magazines that target parents: The key to success is finding exactly the right publications, then running your ads consistently.
  • Experiential marketing venues, such as craft fairs, in key markets: This gives parents and kids firsthand experience with your product and builds sales and word-of-mouth.
  • Exhibiting at major trade shows to obtain retail placements: Once your product is in stores, you can add retail-oriented marketing tactics including radio spots and newspaper ads.
  • A PR radio tour: Position yourself as an expert in early childhood development by hiring a PR firm to book interviews for you on select talk-radio programs.
  • Setting up a dealer or sales network in multiple cities and offering co-op advertising dollars: Your ad budget would directly support the sales effort in each market.

Even with a tight budget, you can:

  • Create a terrific website. Since most Americans on the internet use it to research products before buying, you can woo traffic to your site with pay-per-click ads on search engines.
  • Launch an online marketing program. This can include placing ads on sites frequented by your target audience and in the opt-in e-newsletters published by those sites, writing articles for placement on key websites, and sending ongoing e-mail solicitations and e-newsletters to customers who have registered on your own site to receive more information.
  • Give workshops and seminars. Link with leading associations or groups, and offer to speak; or host your own events.
  • Build buzz. Create contests on your website, and put your product in the hands of "influencers," like celebrity parents or kindergarten teachers, in select cities to spread the word.
  • Use traditional PR. To get press coverage, assemble a press list, send an initial release and follow up by phone; then send those who are interested a press kit with product photos, information and your company background.

Get the idea? Depending on your 2005 marketing budget, you can select activities-from high-ticket tactics to others that are virtually free-to create an affordable mix. Multiple exposures to your message in different media will actually help your prospects remember it, so you'll get superior results no matter your budget.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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This article was originally published in the December 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What's the Plan?.

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