As entrepreneurs, our greatest challenges in gaining new customers are simply determination and focus. You may be determined, but without focus, you will have a hard time achieving your goals.
Over a recent weekend I spent a good amount of time speaking with my son who is involved in the opening of a new business endeavor. It's a unique concept in family entertainment featuring party rooms, a restaurant, and game rooms and get this, bowling lanes! Apparently, this is a trend sweeping the country as families and folks in general are looking for wholesome entertainment options beyond the dining scene.
In our discussions he talked about how he has so many ideas to bring in new customers — he keeps going over them in his mind and writing them down. Much of our discussion revolved around "seeing what sticks."
As entrepreneurs, our greatest challenges in gaining new customers are simply determination and focus. You may be determined, but without focus, you will have a hard time achieving your goals. Putting together a marketing plan — no matter how simple — can provide that focus and serve as your road map.
In the pest control industry, getting from $500,000 to $1 million is when many companies feel they have "made it." It's that magic number. Many of us focus on production and sales but haven't taken the time to see what our customers are buying or how long have they been with us — in other words, going to that next level. I would suggest that without a basic marketing plan you are doing it the hard way.
We all want new sales BUT more importantly we want long-term customers with recurring revenue and the ability to cross sell. Have you selected your top three ideas to implement and execute to grow your business? Are you "putting ideas out there to see what sticks"? Are you executing your ideas and following through to see if they are on track? That is what your marketing plan is all about. While we can't build a plan in this column, we can address a few basics to get you started:
Vision and Mission. When starting a marketing plan, many jump right in with objectives and strategies, but without a vision and mission, how do you know where you are going?
This is the key — your VISION is who you want to be. Your MISSION is how you are going to get there (or do that).
Your Vision could be as simple as:
To be the premier "customer friendly" and "trusted" pest and termite control company in the markets we serve.
And your Mission — how we are going to get there — could be:
We will always put the customer first. Our competitive culture and customer focus will ensure results.
Who is your customer? So now you have a vision and a mission. It's a great start, but now you need to know who is most likely to buy your services. The demographics of your existing and potential customers are as important as your vision and mission. What's the average age and education level of your potential customer? What's the average income and home value?
While many companies allocate a specific percentage of their revenue to marketing, there are always spending limits. It is extremely important that you spend your marketing dollars where you have the most targeted audience listening/seeing/interacting with your messages. If you take some time to look at your existing customers — where do they live, who makes the call for service, what service(s) do they purchase and more, you will be able to take advantage of finding "like" customers in the market(s) you serve. This will allow you to have a more effective and efficient marketing spend.
Consider this scenario: You are in your service center; you've had your Monday morning meeting with all of your service technicians and they are now "out the door" solving your customers' pest problems.
Waiting in your reception area are:
- Three radio sales folks from different stations (you hunt with one of them and don't know the other two)
- Two TV sales folks (one has promised to take you to the local game that you can't get tickets for)
- The local "coupon" marketer sales person (your golfing buddy)
- A rep from the local billboard company (your kids play together)
- And of course your Yellow Pages representative (a friend of your spouse)
They all want you to buy something from them. How do you make a decision? Do you buy the cheapest? Do you buy from the sales person with the best "pitch" or the best "perks" or do you buy all of them because you can't find a reason to say no? None of these options stretch your dollars the way you need to and there could be a lot of waste because you aren't reaching your target demographic. Instead, ask them about their reach and with your budget in mind, how often they will reach YOUR target audience. If you already know who you want to reach, you can make good decisions for growing your business.
Sound objectives, strategies and tactics will grow from your vision and mission and knowing your target audience. Once you have developed your road map, stay true to your plan.
You don't have to hold an MBA to make good solid marketing decisions for your company. Because you are an entrepreneur looking to take your company to the next level, I would suggest that what you need is what you already have — determination and focus. Those two attributes trump a skill set any day of the week. Build your plan. It's a roadmap to your future.
The author is chief marketing and strategy officer for Arrow Exterminators, Atlanta, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.