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3 Steps to the Right Marketing Mix How to create a marketing mix that will get your business off to a flying start.

By Kim T. Gordon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Your new business needs customers--now. But choosing the right marketing mix isn't always easy. The key is to assemble a group of marketing tactics that will win early sales and then sustain your business as you build a customer base. It's not as tricky as it sounds. Just follow these three steps to create a marketing mix that will get your business off to a flying start.

  1. Pinpoint your target market. Start by writing a one- or two-sentence description of your ideal prospects. This handy target-audience profile will be indispensable as you evaluate each potential marketing tactic. If you're targeting consumers, base your profile on demographics including their gender, age, and any other qualifying criteria that are important to you. Does household income matter? What about the number of children in the household, or the kind of car they drive? If you're marketing to other businesses, list the specific types you're targeting and all other qualifying criteria, such as their size or location. Is there a specific job title, such as CEO or purchasing director, that you must reach? You need to know.
  2. Outline your goals and budget. Before you can pick a family of marketing tactics, decide what you want to make happen. What results do you need from your marketing program in order to achieve success? For instance, say your business needs 20 new accounts in the first six months. That would require a more aggressive group of marketing tactics and a larger budget than if you were to set a goal of 10 new accounts. Make a short list of measurable marketing goals, such as "generate 300 leads a month." And be sure to keep them realistic to avoid overspending.

    Some marketing tactics require significant out-of-pocket expense while others are virtually free. The marketing dollars required to launch a business vary greatly depending on how established and well-funded your competitors are, how easy it is to reach your unique target audience, the complexity of your message and the cost of the media required to reach your prospects. If you're launching a totally new kind of product or service, you'll need a more generous budget to educate and motivate your prospects than if you're offering an existing, well-understood commodity at a better price or in a unique, new way. So be realistic and set a budget you can sustain.
  3. Choose your tactics. The final step is to pick a family of tactics that will touch your prospects throughout the sales cycle. Choose tactics that reach your target audience with little waste and will directly help you achieve your marketing goals. Select tactics you can use over the long term with enough frequency for your message to penetrate--without exceeding your budget.

Since your new business needs customers right away, choose at least one tactic that reaches prospects when they're actively looking for what you sell, such as advertising on search engines and in online and print directories. Next, identify the media your prospects look to for information about the type of product or service you market--from magazines, newspapers and cable TV to websites--and use public relations or advertising to reach them. And consider tactics such as direct mail and social networking that reach out to prospects and motivate them to learn more about you by visiting your website.

When money's tight, focus on a handful of affordable tactics that reach a core group of qualified prospects. Then as your campaign succeeds, you can cast a wider net by adding tactics or expanding on existing ones to reach a larger number of prospects.

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