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Is Your Marketing Out of Focus?

You may not be using the wrong marketing methods--just too many of them.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: I operate multiple profit centers. I sell calligraphy and a booklet on garage selling. My third venture is an MLM that I actually help my husband with. I know about 35 different ways to market, but just can't seem to get enough sales. What do you recommend?

A: My answer may surprise you. You see, the secret to increasing sales doesn't lie in choosing just the right marketing tactic for each of your businesses. I suspect your real problem is one that's experienced by many entrepreneurs--a damaging lack of focus.

Plenty of entrepreneurs make this dangerous mistake. They try to market more than one business at once, or they tackle too many targets for a single business. Suddenly, they discover that their time and budgets are fragmented beyond their ability to produce positive results. The solution is to get--and stay--focused. This single alteration can actually reduce your marketing costs and increase sales.

The trouble with trying to market several businesses at once is that you end up with many different target audiences--each requiring its own set of sales and marketing tactics. To build your calligraphy business, for example, you'll need a B2B sales and marketing program that targets wedding and party planners and retail operations that sell custom-printed invitations. To reach them, your sales tactics may include creating an in-house prospect list, making cold calls to set up appointments and handling one-on-one meetings with prospects. And you'll require printed marketing materials to support this effort. But selling a booklet on how to profit from garage sales will require a separate marketing effort to target consumers, possibly through a comprehensive Web site and an e-mail marketing campaign.

It's easy to see how marketing the calligraphy or the booklet would each require a substantial, concentrated effort on your part. You can do one well, or both just marginally. Instead of trying to gain small profits from a variety of individual ventures, for best results, the key is to pick one of your businesses (preferably the most profitable and enjoyable) and focus all your marketing energies in that direction.

Whenever I make an appearance on a radio call-in show, I inevitably get a call from someone who says, "Kim, I have the greatest product on earth. Anyone can use it--kids, parents, businesses." And then I'm forced to reply, "Do you have unlimited funds to launch this product? Can you start off with $10 million, or how about $20 million or more?" Because no one can market to everyone. The cost would be astronomical. Even the world's largest companies, with seemingly unlimited marketing funds, typically focus their efforts on a single type of product or service for individual niche markets. And the actual campaign messages they employ differ depending on the hot buttons for each niche.

As an entrepreneur who has limited time and money to waste chasing after unqualified prospects, it's vital to narrowly focus on your best, most profitable target audience groups. This will reduce your media costs--since you won't be advertising to reach marginal groups--and free up the time you would otherwise lose meeting with low-quality prospects.

For entrepreneurs who operate several businesses at once, choosing just one can seem like an overwhelming task. The secret lies in following both your head and your heart. Start by examining the business potential and the corresponding costs of each of your ideas. For example, consider which business has the greatest chance for success based on your ability to fund and manage the operation. Then, review the ideas that look best on paper and decide which you feel most passionate about. When you're passionate about what you do, it shines through to customers--and can make all the difference between lackluster sales and a stunning success.

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