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Saturday, December 29 2012

Do you have a folder full of marketing ideas sitting on your desk? Or are those ideas still rattling around in your head?

Either way, putting them into a concrete plan forces you to evaluate whether they make sense or not.

A clear plan helps you channel your energy into routes that give you the best chance of reaching your goals rather than scattering yourself by doing a bit of this and a bit of that as the fancy takes you.

It does take time and effort to put a plan together but once it's done, your life will be easier and your activities more productive - with less effort.

Here's what a marketing plan helps you do:

  • Get your dreams out of your head and onto paper.
  • Define what you want your marketing efforts to achieve over the next year.
  • Do all your thinking at the beginning of the year! When you consider your strategy for the whole year, you'll see how your marketing methods can support and feed off each other so you use your time and resources more efficiently and you get better results with less effort.
  • Understand what your audience wants and how you can satisfy them.
  • Figure out how to attract and retain your clients, and how to reinvigorate old clients so you make more money with what you already have.
  • Keep your focus only on the activities that will bring the results you want.
  • Measure the results of your efforts so you can make adjustments if necessary.
  • Evaluate whether the latest, seductive new marketing method fits in with what you are trying to achieve.
  • Become more effective at handling problems because you'll have a foundation to make decisions from.
  • Reach your financial goals.
A well-designed marketing plan is a step-by-step program for success because it guides your actions: you'll be clear about what to do, how to do it and when to do it; you'll stay intentional and focused on getting where you want to go.

This doesn't mean that you don't make adjustments as you go through the year but the plan sets the direction.

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
Benjamin Franklin

The most important step is the first one: getting started. Go for it!

I know how daunting this can be: drop me an email to or give me a call at 805 965 9173 if you need help putting your plan together.

Copyright 2012 Maggie Dennison

Posted by: Maggie AT 06:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, June 27 2012
In 2001 Jack Trout published a book called "Differentiate or Die: Survival in the Era of Killer Competiton." It's still as relevant as ever, because the ability to set yourself apart from the crowd is at the heart of successful marketing, no matter whether you're networking, using social media or giving talks.
And the competition is stronger than ever too: potential clients need to know why you're the best choice for them. 
In the book, Trout talks about how we often take the easy route to marketing, such as jumping on the latest technology band waggon, or saying what everyone else is saying, rather than first putting time and thought into disovering what makes us different.
If you are a Financial Planner (or a massage therapist, or social media consultant - pick any business!) and I have several representatives of your industry lined up side by side in front of me, why should I choose you? After all you're all probably offering similiar services or products, or the same benefits.
It may come down to personality or chemistry or because you're an all-round nice person, but you can't depend on that. 
There are a multitude of ways to figure this out. Here are a couple of ideas.
One of the easiest and quickest ways is to ask yourself: "What are the most frequent client complaints in my industry?" Once you have that information, then ask: "How do I, or could I, do it differently?" For example, if people in your industry are notorious for not returning phone calls, or for calling back days later, and you are great at responding within half a day, this may have a seed in it that you could build upon to make yourself stand out. Or perhaps you're a chiropractor who allots more time per patient that is usual: this could also be developed to your advantage.
Another way - this one takes more time - consists of honing in on the three words that describe you and your company, AND that your clients care about. I describe myself as creative, adventurous and fun, but my clients don't care that much, because these qualities don't help them in their businesses. When I went through a structured process of digging deep to find out what really connects me to my clients, I came up with completely different words that resonated with the wants and needs of my clients.
Once you know what makes you stand out, the next step is to make this part of your core marketing message and integrate it into ALL your marketing. It lets potential clients see that you have something they want, something your competitors don't, can't or won't offer. 
And now you're ahead of the game. 
Happy marketing! 
Posted by: Maggie AT 10:25 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, May 30 2012

When small business owners ask me what they can do to build their businesses, I always ask: "What are you doing to keep your current clients and recapture the ones who've hired you in the past?" Most of the time the answer is: "Nothing." They are being ignored.

An old piece of marketing wisdom says it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new client than it does to get more business from a current or past one. That's a lot of extra time, energy and money that could be put to better use.

Yet it's tempting to put ALL our marketing efforts into activities that are focused on bringing in NEW clients, and to neglect what we have already. Networking, article writing, speaking, social media - I do all those things too. It's not that it's wrong to look for new clients, but there's a potential goldmine waiting in your client database.

The advantages of retaining clients go beyond simply making more money. Business becomes easier.


  • Past clients already know, like and trust you.
  • You save time and money because you don't have to educate them about your business and the benefits to them. They already know all that.
  • Existing clients are less sensitive to price. They already accept your price structure.
  • There's greater potential for qualified referrals because they are familar with your work.
Here are a few ways to start nurturing those client relationships.
  • Contact your best clients regularly. This can be as simple as sending a card, a newsletter or making a quick phone call.
  • Depending on your business, you can make special offers for your best clients. Everyone likes a good deal and it makes them feel special if they know it's just for them.
  • Contact them at unusual times. Instead (or in addition to) sending cards at the expected times such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, send a card for Groundhog Day, or some other day that's not widely celebrated. You'll stand out in their minds.
You can make it easy on yourself by putting a tracking system in place. It can be a database or a formal contact management system. Or it can be as simple as entering client names into an Excel spread sheet with a date to contact them again. Find out what works best for you so that no one falls through the cracks.

Happy marketing!

Posted by: Maggie AT 03:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, April 28 2012

Marketing success is unpredictable: there are too many variables to be certain about results. However there are some points to consider that will put you on the right track and prevent you from wasting time with the wrong activities.

Start looking at marketing as an investment in the future of your business rather than an expense. When times get tough, marketing is frequently one of the first things to be cut back, because it's looked upon as an expense. When you continue spreading the word about your business, you are laying foundations and stepping stones that, if they're the right ones and done properly, WILL result in more clients and revenue and will bring a return on your investment.

Consider your ideal clients. Who are they and where are they? Then figure out what is the best method to reach them, given the nature of YOUR business. Make a list of all the ways you could possibly get your message in front of people you want to work with.

Refine your marketing message so it's clear to your ideal clients why they would want to work with you. It's worth taking time to do this first, so that your core message is consistent across all your marketing methods. Whether it's your webiste, how you speak about your business at networking meetings or your social media posts, the message will be the same and people will recognize you and know how you can help them.

Don't let the perfectionism dragon take up residence in your head and stop you from forging ahead. It's easy to want everything to be perfect but usually it's not necessary.

Don't copy everyone else. It's tempting to copy what everyone else is doing, just because they're doing it. This creates the copycat effect: copycats who are copying copycats who are copying copycats but what if it's not working that well for anyone and everyone's doing it because it's the next big thing? It's easy to latch onto the latest fad because it's there. But before you jump in, take a good look at whether it's appropriate for your business and target market, and whether it's a good use of your time and resources. Have the courage to NOT follow the crowd if it doesn't fit for you.

Use more than one marketing tactic. Renowned marketing expert Jay Abraham recommends building your business on several pillars of marketing. That means using several different methods to promote it. Choose the methods that are most likely to bring results given the nature of YOUR business and YOUR market. Pick a small number of things to do.

Be consistent and persistent. Once you've decided how you're going to market your business, stick with it. Rather than jumping around, be patient.

Happy marketing!


Posted by: AT 06:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, November 23 2011
Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube: these days it seems that everyone is involved in social media in some way.

But David Meerman Scott in his book "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" cautions against ignoring the traditional website. He says that the company website is often ignored, but in his opinion it's probably still the most important thing to pay attention to. He believes, and I agree with him, that these other channels are added tools, not replacements for what you already have.

Here's how I think about it.

When I read your blog, Facebook page or Twitter posts, I get a snapshot of a moment: an article about something that's on your mind, a comment about a recent event, an announcement of your newest program, maybe an inspiring quotation. And that's all good. It keeps me up to date, gives me useful information, establishes you as knowledgeable.

But now imagine I'm looking for someone with your skills and talent to help me in my business or personal life. I want to know more about who you are and what you do. I want to know the benefits to me of your service and why I should choose you over your competitors. I want to be able to check out your background, your credentials, what makes you good at what you do. Then I may need time to think about it. I may go back and read your information again, perhaps several times, before I make a decision.

Maybe I can find that level of detail somewhere in your blog posts, Tweets, Facebook posts or in your collection of YouTube videos. But in my experience I have to do a lot of poking around to piece it all together. Many web users are impatient and in a hurry to find exactly what they are looking for and won't take the time to search around.

That's why the details of your business belong on a traditional web site that I can go back to as often as I want and still be sure of finding the same information in the same place each time.

Not everyone is as picky as I am when I'm choosing vendors, or partners to work with.

There's nothing wrong with keeping up with fast-changing social media tools, but don't let the buzz about Facebook, blogs, Twitter and other social media blind you to the basics of marketing and a core tenet of useability: make it easy for potential clients to find what THEY want and need - or they'll forget you really quickly.

Copyright 2011 Maggie Dennison. All rights reserved.

Posted by: Maggie Dennison AT 02:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, May 18 2011
 "I need to refer you to an endodontist." (That's a root canal specialist.) Not my favorite words to hear during my regular dental check-up. Now I've had root canals before and - dare I say it - I don't find them as horrific as people think they are: not really that painful at all, more of an unpleasant sensation.

But still, it's not the way I'd choose to spend an hour on a Monday morning.

My endodontist, who has treated me several times, is a delightful lady with a great chairside manner. If anyone has the misfortune to need a root canal, I would recommend her, based on my experiences which have been consistent the few times I've visited her office.

As I left her office after my treatment, she came up to the front desk with me, thanked me for coming in, and told me to be sure to call if I had any problems. As far as I was concerned, I was done with her office this time around. I wasn't planning another visit any time soon.

Imagine my surprise when two days after my treatment, I got a handwritten thank you card from her, signed by her personally, and enclosing a gift card to a local coffee shop.

I was surprised because, with one exception, I have never received any kind of acknowledgement or thank you from a dentist, doctor, attorney, accountant or other professional - I've given them my money and never heard a peep from them. The one exception stands out because it was so unusual.

And by taking that action, she stood out too.

I was already a fan. That little step has made me a fan for life because I felt valued as a patient. Beyond my confidence in her expertise, that little gesture made me FEEL different about her.

Having a root canal is not something I plan to do regularly! She knows that too. But in her handwritten note, she expressed the hope that I would feel comfortable enough with how I was treated in her office, to refer friends and family to her.

I often suggest to my clients that they find little ways to "glue clients to them for life." This is one of those little ways. Given that she offers a high-ticket service, if I refer only ONE patient to her, her investment in a greeting card, a first-class stamp and a gift card, will pay off enormously.

Usually my clients come back at me with: "Yes, but I'm in a business where people don't come back regularly. Why should I go to the trouble and expense of doing something to keep them attached to me?"

If that's your stance, re-read the above story.

Will I refer anyone who needs a root canal to my endodontist. You bet!

Copyright 2011 Maggie Dennison. All rights reserved.

Posted by: AT 02:29 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, September 22 2009
 One of the comments I hear most often when talking to clients about their writing projects is this: "Well, my product appeals to all age groups so let's just do one sales letter and send it to everyone. That'll keep my costs down. After all it's the same product."

NO! NO! and again NO!

The core information and features of your product or service will be the same for everyone, BUT:

Each group of people has a special focus that you need to address if you want to be successful in selling to them.

Let's take seniors and teenagers as an example and let's suppose you're selling jewelry boxes.

Even though the jewelry boxes may look the same, each group speaks a different language.

Now I'm not familiar with the language of teenagers these days but I know they have their own jargon. To get their attention and make them feel that you understand them, it's important to use the language they speak every day.

Just imagine what will happen if you use that same language in your letter to seniors: it will sound like gobbledygook to them and they just flat out won't have a clue what you're talking about.

And vice versa. If you try to target teenagers using language that's appropriate to seniors, they won't relate and you'll literally have talked (or written) yourself out of yet another bunch of sales.

Emotional hot buttons
Everyone has an emotional hot button that you have to push when you write. Each market has different needs for the same product or service and the emotional pull to buy is different.

That means if you're selling jewelry boxes, a teenager's hot button will be different from that of a senior citizen.

Your 65-year old Aunt Ermintrude may not care so much about the appearance of the box and may just want a place to keep her antique jewelry safe, tidy and organized, so your copy should focus on the features and benefits that speak to that need and the emotion underneath it.

On the other hand, your 16-year old daughter may be more interested in how pretty it will look in her bedroom, whether the color matches her furniture and other knick-knacks, how she'll be the envy of her friends because she has something they don't, or how she'll be one of the crowd because all her friends have the same jewelry box. So you see, to get her attention, the focus of your content will have to be very different. (Her jewelry may not even find its way into the box!)

So take the time to figure out how to communicate precisely with your target market. If your information is too general, neither Aunt Ermintrude nor your daughter will feel spoken to and you'll have wasted your time, effort and maybe a bunch of money as well.

Now it's your turn: Review the content of your marketing materials and ask yourself "Is this piece trying to be all things to all people?"

Copyright 2006 Maggie Dennison

Posted by: AT 02:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, May 10 2009
 Rule Number One when writing marketing materials is "Know Your Target Market." There's a lot of foundational work to do before you ever put a word on paper (more about this in future issues), but this is the place to start.

What happens when you define your target market and become intimately acquainted with their needs and problems?

1. Prospects will read your materials and know exactly why they need you

There's a big difference between marketing to just anyone who crosses your path and a target market of, say, seniors over 65 who own their own homes. A senior over 65, who owns her own home, has very specific needs. When you know her needs you can develop a sharply focused marketing message that makes her feel you're talking directly to her. And guess what? When she feels that you understand her, she'll be more willing to do business with you.

2. It gives direction to your product or service

"The Apprentice" was a hit TV series where two opposing teams are given a business project to complete. In one episode, their assignment was to develop a new toy for Mattel, the largest toy manufacturer in the world. A Mattel executive said: "In this business you always want the kids to steer you." In the end the losing team was told that their idea showed a lack of understanding of what children want and like. Bingo! They had not paid attention to their target market - children. And they lost.

When you define your target market and know their likes and dislikes, you can direct all your ideas and resources towards this group. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, your business will gain focus.

3. It's easier to plan an effective marketing strategy

Knowing your target market helps you decide how and where to promote your business. If you're targeting doctors, then you can decide how and where to find doctors to talk to. On the other hand, if you're targeting corporate executives, it's clear that you won't achieve your objectives by hanging out with small business owners.

The result: less time and money wasted running down marketing cul-de- sacs, more time and money dedicated to finding and talking to your perfect clients.  

Posted by: AT 03:26 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, September 22 2006
 Many years ago when I was just starting my first business, a very good friend said to me "If you can't go out and promote what you're offering, go get a real job with a paycheck at the end of the month, because you won't make it on your own."

Blunt, eh?

At the time I was mortally offended by his attitude. But over the years I've eaten many slices of humble pie in front of him because I realized he was right all along. While I was blinded by the exhilaration and excitement of doing something I loved, I wasn't so keen to look at the realities of what it takes to run a successful business.

I've learned a lot since those heady days. One of the things I learned is that business activities fall into 3 categories.

1. Marketing and selling your product or service
2. Delivering your product or service
3. Administrative tasks

I deliberately put marketing and selling in the first place because if you don't market and sell successfully, you won't have any clients to deliver to and you certainly won't need to do any admin.

Many entrepreneurs don't like to hear this. Like myself, many of us go into business so that we can do what we love. We focus on building the skills our professions require. Taking more classes. Attending yet another seminar. Reading more books. Catching up on the latest methodologies. The education is never-ending because there's always something new and exciting to learn.

But when it comes to getting the word out, we stumble.

For me the big breakthrough came when I stopped thinking of myself as a writer, consultant or coach and started seeing myself as a marketer whose top priority is marketing my business.

And the most surprising part of this? My shift in mindset has not affected the quality of work I turn out for my clients. It did however mean overcoming some negative emotions around marketing and selling.

Admin tasks can be delegated. And unless you'e offering something highly specialized that only you can do, delivering your product or service can often be hired out as well.

But if you're the kind of person who can generate tons of leads, persuade someone to call or come by to find out more, and then turn that person into a paying client, you become the indispensable rock that your business is built upon.

Would you rather focus on what you do, become brilliant at it but struggle to pay the bills, or are you willing to be content with "less-than-perfect" and become a marketer who puts the emphasis on spreading the word so that you have a steady stream of clients and a booming business?

Copyright © 2006 Maggie Dennison 

Posted by: Maggie AT 02:49 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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Maggie Dennison, M.A

My Marketing Message
The Magic Of Mindset And Marketing

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Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA

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