Here's the Plan

5 minutes are all you need to create a top-notch marketing plan--and get your business ready for success.
Magazine Contributor
9 min read

This story appears in the February 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Going into business without a guerrilla marketing plan is a lot like going to battle under the command of a general who tells you, "Ready, fire, aim!" Your guerrilla marketing plan functions like a personal guidebook that has seven sentences covering the most pressing issues in marketing. We know that there are far more than seven issues facing a company about to market, but we also know the close correlation between focus and profits. By all means, scrutinize every aspect of your business, but concentrate on these seven areas.
Prove your concentration by writing one brief sentence covering each area. That's not overly demanding. In fact, all the sentences except the fourth one are short and simple. The fourth one is a list.

A minute is a long time. Do nothing for one minute, and you'll see how much time is packed into that little unit. For your guerrilla marketing to succeed, you need to put a seven-sentence guerrilla marketing plan into writing in five minutes. Read the entire article before you get started.
Don't try to cover everything or say too much in each of your sentences. A guerrilla marketing plan is a blueprint, a framework, a map.
What you're about to create will serve you in startup and continue helping you for three to five years. Although your commitment to this plan is going to make it work, you must still be prepared to make minor alterations to the plan.

A marketing plan this brief and focused has been the cornerstone of many businesses worldwide. It's short enough to show to all interested parties without boring them with details. It's focused enough so that everyone gets the point. Procter & Gamble, one of the world's most marketing-minded companies, creates a marketing plan for each of its products. These plans are as brief as we're suggesting here. Each P&G plan may be accompanied by 300 pages of documentation, but it begins with a clear guerrilla marketing strategy. Do as you like with your own documentation. But get the seven sentences right first.

1. The first sentence tells the purpose of your marketing. Be very specific. What physical action do you want your prospect to take? Pick up a phone and punch in your business's number? Go to its website? Send an e-mail? Go to your store? Call a phone number and ask for Rose? What specific thing do you want prospects to do right after they've been exposed to your marketing message? You've got to be clear about that, or your prospects never will be.
In your sentence, don't say something vague like "to grow" or "to surpass my competitors." Instead, be very specific. What precisely is the outcome you want from your marketing? Begin by creating SMART goals: sensible, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (must be accomplished before a specified deadline). For example, maybe you want to develop 50 new leads by June 3, generate 1,000 web hits a day or cultivate 10 new clients in the next three months.
Don't talk marketing or advertising in this sentence. Talk in plain English. We'd write a couple of examples here for you, but starting up doesn't mean hitching a ride. Close your eyes and visualize a prospect who has just read, heard or viewed your message. The prospect is smiling. What's he going to do next? Watch him carefully. Then convince the world to do just what he did.

2. The second sentence states the competitive advantage you'll emphasize. How will you accomplish your first-sentence goal? Why will your public take the action we were just talking about? You've got a lot of benefits to offer your public, but so do your competitors. Fortunately for you, you've also got some benefits that only you offer. These are your competitive advantages. This is where you hang your marketing hat. If you have multiple competitive advantages, good for you, but pick only one to be the superstar of your marketing campaign. More than one might confuse an audience already besieged by marketing clutter.

Whenever possible, stress your competitive advantage so that it is seen as the solution to a problem. Guerrilla marketers have long known that it is much easier to sell the solution to a problem than to sell a positive benefit.

3. The third sentence explains who your target audience is. The more specific you are and the more you narrow down the audience, the more accurate your marketing's aim will be. Your marketing plan needs to be as precise and focused as possible.

Try to broadcast only to people with a very high propensity to want and need what you're selling. It's not a matter of high numbers so much as it is accuracy. A thousand random prospects won't earn you as much profit as 10 of the right prospects. Consider the copying company that realized that, as an industry, the legal sector churned out the most copies. It redirected some of its marketing budget to that sector--investing no extra money but simply aiming with greater precision--and increased its profits 31 percent in one year. That's a lot of money for merely identifying a target market.

It may be that you have more than one target audience. Many companies have several. Set your sights on all your target markets. If you don't, someone else probably will, and you'll have a devil of a time getting them back.

4. The fourth sentence lists the marketing weapons you'll be using. See "Your Guerrilla Marketing Arsenal" on page 94 for 198 of the best. Choose only those that you: a) can afford, b) understand, and c) can use properly.

Because you're aware of so many options, it ought to be easy for you to pack an arsenal of custom-chosen weapons that have demonstrated their firepower in real marketing battles. Far more weapons are affordable now than at any other time in history. This is not your father's century--this is your century, and by properly equipping yourself for the struggle to win minds and money, you'll be in for a smooth ride.

5. The fifth sentence explains your niche in the marketplace. Now that you have determined your purpose, benefits and target market, it's time to define your marketing niche. When people hear the name of your company, what's the first thing that enters their minds? Is it price, speed, economy, exclusivity, value, service, selection or one of a host of other good things? That's your niche--also referred to as positioning--and it's what you stand for in the minds of your prospects.
Guerrillas know the marketplace is cluttered with competition, so it pays to be a leader in a smaller pond. For example:

  • Marty Winston is "the most e-mail- knowledgeable PR agent in the universe."
  • Sara Walker is "the ADD coach."
  • Ingred Elsel is "an insurance agent specializing in small business."

Guerrillas carve out a position where they can differentiate themselves, and this differentiation is apparent in every marketing weapon they use. Niches can be defined in many ways, including through a specific target market or a distinct means of service. What's your niche?

Once you're clear about what your niche is, let it come shining through in all your other marketing. Your target market has a hard enough time understanding why it should do business with you. Don't add confusion about yourself to the mix.

6. The sixth sentence sets forth your identity. Your identity is different from your image, because an identity is based on truth. An image is a facade, something phony. The far better "I" word is "identity." Your business's identity is automatically honest. If you communicate a real identity, people sense comfort and relaxation when they contact you. What they see in your marketing is ultimately what they get from your goods and services, and that builds trust and rapport.

Part of your identity is your company's personality. Every company has an identity, but many of them haven't given it much, if any, thought. People are attracted to other people--and businesses--who have pleasant or exciting personalities. Be great at your business, but don't be all business. Let your identity shine through. Put it in writing, right in your marketing plan, so that it will apply to all your creative materials.

7. The seventh sentence states your marketing budget, expressed as a percentage of your projected gross sales. The beauty of guerrilla marketing is that more than half of the marketing weapons are free. But remember: There are important reasons to spend money on your marketing.

Guerrilla marketers know that the most important place to spend money is on business presentation, meaning the quality of your stationery, business cards, brochures, fliers and logos. The public will get their first sense of your professionalism through your written materials, so make a strong impression. This may cost you some money, but look at it as an investment in your company's future.

Now spend a few minutes deciding where you'll get the biggest bang for your marketing bucks. Having a good idea of what your budget is will help you plan better and avoid misspending precious funds. Calculate your marketing budget using your projected gross sales; this helps you operate in a growth mode. If you work off your current sales, you'll be planning to tread water.

In 2007, the average U.S. business invested 4 percent of gross revenue in marketing. But you don't want to be average, do you? At the start, when you have the least money, you still ought to invest generously in your debut. You might invest 10 percent the first year, but rising sales would make that absolute dollar mount only 5 percent the next year and 3 percent after that. Pin down a number and write it into your plan as the seventh sentence.

Now you're ready to write a seven-sentence guerrilla marketing plan. There is no earthly reason why you should need more than five minutes to do it. But you've got to take an important step when you write your plan. The step is encapsulated in two words: Trust yourself. The first sentence ought to flow from your mind to your marketing, and the next six sentences should go with that flow. Your unconscious mind knows the right things to say in your plan. These five minutes are when it reveals its brilliance to you.

Excerpted from Startup Guide to Guerrilla Marketing: A Simple Battle Plan for First-Time Marketers, by Jay Conrad Levinson and Jeannie Levinson (Entrepreneur Press).

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