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November 2002: Volume 44, Number 11

Getting a Head Start on Next Year -- Time to Hang Up a New Calendar and Start Planning
by David H. Martin

November is not just for Thanksgiving. It also marks the distribution of 2003 calendars, an event that should signal all water treatment dealers to begin the annual process of advertising and promotion planning for next year.

In uncertain times like these, you might be tempted to “wing it” going into next year. Maybe leads are scarce and your sales are stagnant today. But should that stop you from planning intelligently for tomorrow? Don’t fall into the trap of basing your business decisions strictly on “how your business feels today.” If you let a feeling of uncertainty put you in a reactive mood, you’ll find that it’s impossible to be proactive when opportunities come along. Maybe you don’t feel like spending on marketing right now but…

“No matter how bad it gets,
you don’t eat the seed corn.”
-- An anonymous farmer

Get the picture? Without a carefully thought-out marketing plan in place, reacting to daily or even monthly “emergency needs” for sales leads is futile. To avoid the consequences of inadequate planning later, you need to start now. Hang up the new calendar and begin detailing a concise plan of all your projected marketing activities from 2002. Complete the process by mid-December, and you’ll be ready to face the new year with renewed purpose and better promise of success. This is no time to “eat the seed corn and wing it.”

Start by making a list
List all the activities you plan to use in 2003 to promote your business and develop leads and sales. Start by listing all of your “consistent effort” marketing activities, perhaps including newspaper, radio or TV advertising, direct mail, telemarketing or other techniques you plan to use on a continuous basis. Your Yellow Pages advertising also falls into this category as it will yield a consistent supply of “ready to buy” prospects all year long. Naturally your budget limitations will determine just how much “consistent effort” marketing you can afford. Assign “prospect” or “customer” labels to each activity in your plan, with an eye for balancing efforts between those aimed at new prospects and past or present customers. Determine a monthly budget for “consistent efforts” as part of your planning process.

Next, list all the “special promotions” you can think of. Many of these will necessarily coincide with community events that afford the opportunity for you to promote quality water and service. They include home shows, health fairs, community art fairs, races, picnics and other venues that not only provide opportunities to develop sales leads -- but create goodwill and credibility for your company. Don’t forget to cultivate your reputation as a community water expert by offering to speak on contemporary water problems at fraternal and environmental organization meetings.

Special promotions also include special sales or “free with purchase” offers that you might choose to advertise or promote at home shows. Email special promotional offers to existing customers or prospects who’ve willingly given you their email addresses.

Use a blend of “old” media and “new” for an integrated marketing program that creates valuable synergy (i.e., 2+2=5).

Define goals & opportunities
Remember, people who define specific goals achieve more than those who do not.

Write down such definitive goals as:
* Successfully launch a new product or service;
* Increase POU drinking water equipment sales by 15 percent;
* Gain community recognition as the local water expert;
* Motivate and train the sales force to reach new goals, and
* Use all available vendor co-op advertising funds.

Make sure every marketing effort relates to one or more of your stated goals.

Determine an intelligent budget
Knowing “how much” is difficult, but consider that dealers of similar “considered purchase” products like water treatment equipment commonly spend from 2 to 5 percent of gross annual sales on advertising and promotion. How much you budget, of course, is up to you -- after you’ve taken the following into consideration:
* How much did your key competitors spend last year? Were you competitive or badly outgunned?
* What media makes the most sense to reach your target audiences: newspaper, radio, direct mail, telemarketing or yellow pages advertising? What are the relative costs?
* Should you be using more than one, and supplementing traditional ads with computer-based electronic media?
* What times of the year deserve concentrated marketing support?
* Are paid home show exhibits a major part of your budget?
* Can you stretch your budget with low-cost promotions at local races and other community events where you provide quality drinking water for participants and spectators?
* Can you count on key vendors to supply you with quality marketing materials and co-op ad funds?

Conclusion
Put on your thinking cap and a positive attitude in planning your 2003 marketing plan and promotion calendar. Don’t let current market uncertainties stop you from planning ahead for increased leads, sales and community awareness. Hang up your 2003 calendar this month and get your employees’ input as part of the planning process.

About the author
David H. Martin is president of Lenzi Martin Marketing, of Oak Park, Ill., a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404, e-mail: newage@attbi.com or website: www.lenzimartin.com

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