Creating a marketing plan for your business can be an overwhelming task.  You are faced with deciding which tools to use, whether or not to incorporate paid advertising, whether to jump on the social media bandwagon, and more.   Here's a little secret - the most important piece of your marketing plan has nothing to do with your logo, or your "brand," or even your deliverables (website, etc).  The most important decision you have to make is WHAT and HOW you are going to measure whether your plan is successful.  Here's 4 things to keep in mind as you create a marketing plan for your company or organization.



1. Start with the end in mind

What are you trying to say, and more importantly - what do you want people to do?  When people are exposed to your marketing, what action do you want them to take?  Figure that out first - then you can create a plan that moves people towards your goal.  Without knowing what you want people to do, you'll never know if you're successful. 

2. Understand your market

Think about your target, and understand how they make decisions.  Taking the time to be sure you're researching the type of customer you're trying to reach, gives you the information you need, to carefully craft a strategy that reaches them.  One of the most important things of any marketing plan is good understanding of your "ideal customer," and the tools that are most likely to influence them.

3. Focus On What You Can Measure

Often times, clients talk about marketing that "increases brand awareness."  Any time you can increase awareness of your brand among your target customer, that's great - but how will you know?  How will you be able to tell that there has been an increase in awareness of your brand?  If you can't find a way to "measure" the result, you'll never know if your strategy is working.  

Instead, focus on things you can reliably measure as indicators that your "brand awareness" is increasing.  Sometimes that results in increased foot traffic to your coffee shop, or more sales at your retail store.  On the other hand, for many businesses it might be measured in website visits, or Social Media mentions, or Facebook "likes."   Every good marketing plan must have a clear picture of what you expect your result to be, and how you're going to measure it.  

4. Use Tools That Give You Data

Don't ignore the data.  If you measure the success of your marketing campaign by the bodies that come into your store, you better be tracking that, and looking honestly at whether or not it worked.  How many people came as a result of your campaign.  If your campaign is online, ask yourself, how much traffic did we generate as a result of this plan?  How much of that traffic converted to leads, and how many of those converted to customers?

Finding that data requires having the right tools.  From free tools like Google Analytics, to more sophisticated tools that provide you analysis of complex campaigns, you need to have the tools in place to not only measure, but make sense of the data. 

What do you think?  How do you incorporate measuring your results into your marketing plan?  What are the challenges you've faced in measuring the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns?  Leave a comment below!


There's a cute little coffee-house/cafe that I recently visited on one of my trips.  It's the kind of place, that when you walk in, everything about it says "authentic, indie, gourmet espresso house." They serve fair-trade coffee, artisan sandwiches and gelato.  



There's a case with fresh-baked pastries, and it smelled like, well - gourmet coffee.  Behind the counter are a few barista's that look exactly like what you expect, and from the decor, to the menu, to the signs in the windows, everything about this place screamed "indie-boutique coffee house."  That is, until one of the women behind the counter started talking to a customer.  

"What's the difference between Gelato and Ice Cream?" a young lady asked her.

"I don't know, I used to work at Dairy Queen, and they're all sweet, cold, and creamy to me." She replied.

(sound of authentic, cool, hip vibe crashing to the floor.)

Whoa, wait a minute. Did that just really happen? Imagine walking into an Apple store, and a customer asking "what's the difference between this MacBook Air, and the stuff made by Dell?" 

"I don't know, they all have buttons, a power supply and a keyboard." replies the soon-to-be former Apple Store Employee.


Of course, this isn't really about Gelato.  Except, that if you've invested a ton of energy, time, and resources in positioning your little storefront as an authentic "indie, gourmet espresso cafe," it might be nice if the woman behind the counter doesn't start her explanation of Gelato with the the words "Dairy Queen."

Companies spend a lot of money putting up a front of Marketing.  As small business owners, we do the same thing.  We spend money, time, energy and resources on things like our logo, our website, a storefront and print ads.  And then the phone rings, or the email comes in, or someone walks in to your location.  Ask yourself a question - will the experience they have on the inside, match with everything you've done on the outside?

Your brand is only as good as it's lowest common denominator.  

If your brand is about high-touch, boutique-level service, will that be the experience a client has if you take 4 days to return an email?  If your brand is about fun, high-energy, bubbly personality, will that be the experience a client has if the person answering the phone is having a bad morning?

That's the difference between inside marketing and outside marketing.  Outside marketing is things like advertising, logo, website, print and online advertising, word of mouth referrals, etc.  Inside marketing is things like: the way you answer the phone, the way you reply to emails, your follow up time, the way people are greeted in your office or store, and even the way your staff are dressed.

Edit: As I finished typing this, the "lowest common denominator" barista (yes, I'm really calling her that), has taken a seat at a table with guest who apparently works at a nearby shop.  In earshot of at least a half dozen of us guests, while drinking a mug of her own hot chocolate, she keeps talking about how much she can't wait to "lock the doors, and get out of here."  

Bottom line: maybe spend a little time thinking about your inside marketing, because - if you don't nail that - none of your outside marketing will matter anyway.


"Brand" is more than just a buzzword.  It's a pretty common conversation among small business, to talk about branding, or rebranding.  But what does that really mean?  The reality is that most people don't really understand branding, especially for their business.   And managing a brand has gotten even more difficult now that social media creates a 24/7 stream of brand awareness. First, there are a lot of things that your "brand" isn't. 


It's not your logo. 

It's not your website. 

It's not your business card. 

It's not your photographic style. 

It's not your color scheme. 

Then again, it's all of those things - but not because of the reason you think.  Your brand isn't about what you say about your business (which is what all of those are for), your brand is about what you do, and the impact that has on people. 

In reality, your brand is "the way people feel about you and your business."  It's the perception they have, and the emotions connected, to all of those moving parts - and more.  Sometimes, those elements can help influence the experience your clients (or potential clients), have with your organization.  Often they help recall an emotional connection that already exists with a brand, but they - on their own - are not your brand.  The question becomes "how do I make sure my brand represents actually represents my values, and what I want my customer to experience." 

So what's the point?  Make sure the details (website, logo, etc), match the big picture (experience you want your clients to have) - but don't forget that branding is as much about creating the experience as it is about creating a logo, or website, or whatever.  If the promise doesn't match the experience, your customers won't believe anything else you have to say.  This matters because if you think that what your marketing really needs is a new website, or new logo, you might be surprised to find out that those things only reflect a brand - they don't define it.

Start by defining what your brand is... then create the details that help people connect with that.  Otherwise, it's all just a waste of time.  In fact, every time you make a decision about a logo, or color scheme, or whatever - that isn't founded on the promise you want your brand to stand for, you compromise the overall integrity of your brand.  

What do you think?  How do you translate your brand promise, into a customer experience in your business?


When I talk to small business owners, I often hear the same questions: "should I redesign my website?" "we're thinking about rebranding, what do you think?" or "do I need a new logo?"  It's not that uncommon for small businesses to be changing their marketing materials on a regular basis - but is it helpful?



First, your logo isn't your brand.  Your brand is the way people feel about you and your business.  Your logo simply represents that experience.  Changing your logo doesn't change your brand.  In fact, it can often simply confuse it.  

Your brand is the sum of the experiences that a consumer has with your company.  It's based on the interactions they have with you, the quality of the product you deliver, and the way you make them feel.  The logo simply helps reflect the impression.  It's true that a poorly designed logo can certainly cast doubt on your brand promise, but...

Believe it or not, often a "bad" logo is better than a "new" logo.  When you change your logo, you cash in any equity you might have had.  Even if you don't love your logo, chances are your clients (and potential clients) hardly notice it - until you change it.  

One of the disadvantges of working for yourself is that you don't have to check off with anyone before making changes to things like your logo.  The end result is that creative business owners like to tinker and tweak away at things like websites, logos, business cards, and color schemes.  This prevents you from building consistency in your overall brand experience, and consistency is the most important key to building your brand promise.

In reality, there are only two good reasons to change your logo - to escape negative brand sentiment, or to reflect a major change in your business.  If you're making a major change, it can make sense to incorporate new brand collateral in that process, as you work with a professional brand consultant or designer.  If you've changed your focus (or found your focus) a "re-branding" can help clarify the story you're telling your ideal client, and reframe your marketing.

On the other hand, if your business has a high amount of negative brand sentiment, a new logo won't fix your problem - but it might help give you a fresh start when introduced along with changes to your business (see reason above).  If you don't fix the problem, there's no negative sentiment that can be fixed by changing your logo.

So, why are you getting a new logo again?  What do you think - I'd love to read your thoughts below:


We all know that advertising can be expensive, and many small businesses cut their marketing budgets first because of tight budgets.  Especially as you are trying to grow your business, it's important to keep your brand front and center.  



You want to be intentional about making sure that your brand stays at the front of your customer's mind, even though you may not have a huge budget.  Social media is undoubtedly one of the most effective and affordable ways to engage your customers, but it’s not the only way. Here are a few other strategies that can help you build your brand, without going broke:

1. Marketing 24-7 You should be marketing all the time — wherever you are.  You only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention so it is wise to come up with a killer elevator pitch. Use your pitch to create business opportunities, anywhere and everywhere.

2. Networking. There's a saying that building a brand requires either a lot of money, a lot of time, or a lot of luck.  Networking definitely falls into the "requires a lot of time," but I’m a huge fan.  For many businesses, there's no better way to build a business than to get out there and get to know people.  A strong network is one of the greatest assets any business can have.

3. Build Relationships It is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. It is crucial to establish strong relationships with your customers. Building strong relationships with your customers means they are more likely to refer you to their network.  The more you focus on creating exceptional experiences for your existing customers, the more they will want to return the favor - and talk about that experience with others. 

4. Co-Marketing.  Chances are, there are other businesses in your community, that offer different types of products and services to the same types of customers your business serves.  Often, you can create a win-win situation by developing a strategic co-marketing partnership by providing each other access to each others customers.  When the products or services are a natural fit, this can provide a great opportunity to increase your brand awareness. 

5. Get Involved Sponsor local events or get involved in charity efforts. Get to know your ideal customer and think about how and where they spend their time and then search for opportunities to get in front of them. These easy and inexpensive marketing strategies will help you engage your customers, build relationships, and keep your brand top-of-mind. 

What do you think?  What are some ways you have found to build your brand, without spending a lot of money?  Leave a comment below!


I was speaking at a conference a few weeks ago, and just before I was ready to take the platform to give my talk, I was going over a few things with the host and tech people.  As we were having our relatively important conversation (at least at that moment), a perfectly nice young guy walked up to me, and over the top of the person I was talking with, said: "I was hoping I'd find you here, I was wondering if you could look over my marketing materials and give me some feedback."



I thought to myself "this guy is asking me for a favor, and he's doing it while I'm in the middle of something else... seriously?"  That's not exactly what I said out loud, but it's exactly what I was thinking.   You know who does that?  Children.

I have 3 children under the age of 6, and I'm pretty familiar with having my conversations interrupted by them.  It's rare that my wife and I are able to have much of a conversation while they are around, without one of them interrupting.  It isn't that I don't care about what my kids have to say - it's just that interrupting someone isn't the best way to get their attention and earn their affection.  I'm sure that whatever they want to ask me is really important to them, but at that moment - let's be honest - it's mostly just irritating.

Amazingly, that's exactly what companies spend billions of dollars doing every year.  They pay a ton of money, to try and show up where their customer is, and interrupt whatever it was they were doing (watching a tv show, listening to the radio, reading a newspaper, visiting a website) with their message.  Clearly, this "interruption advertising," as Seth Godin calls it, isn't going anywhere.  But you have to ask yourself whether there might not be a better way to earn people's attention.

Your customers (and potential customers) are busy people.  They have jobs, and families, and lives.  They spend most of their time thinking about things other than your company and/or product.  Instead of focusing on interrupting your potential customers, here are 3 ways to earn their attention, and turn potential customers into customers for life.

1. Be EXACTLY what your customer is looking for.  This also means don't be anything else.  Don't try to be what everyone is looking for - that doesn't work.  Focus on being just what your customer is looking for.   You can try to be all things to everyone, but you'll end up being nothing to anyone, and your ideal customer won't want anything to do with you. 

When you focus on who you should "be," you create a compelling reason for customers to find you.  When you are the very best solution to their problem, you are able to attract the right type of customers, and those customers tell their friends - who become customers.  This means understanding the value you really bring to a customer, and amplifying that.  It also means resisting the temptation to try and be a little bit of everything.

2. Create value by solving their problem.

The problem with most "interruption marketing," is that it is focused on inserting yourself into the customers life, so that you can talk about yourself.  It's focused on you.  The entire goal is to blitz your customer with enough messages, that when they are in the market for whatever it is that you sell, they think about you.  The problem is, you risk of alienating the very customer you want to serve, because you've intruded on their life without permission.

Instead, focus on how you can create opportunities to solve problems.  An effective way is by creating value through freely shared content.  If you're a hardware store, maybe you offer free DIY classes.  If you're a bank, maybe you provide an educational series of videos about financial planning or managing credit.  Not only do you help your customers solve small problems with no strings attached - generating goodwill - you also position yourself as the expert in your field.  When customers are ready to solve their bigger problems, you're both generous, and the expert.

3. Cultivate affection, not just attention.

You may be able to capture my attention for a moment if you interrupt me, but the cost of my attention is that it's unlikely I'll have any affection for you or your company.  In fact, if you interrupt me, the only thing I'm thinking about is how quickly can I get back to what I was doing.  On the other hand, people don't quickly turn away from those for whom they have real affection.  

Think about creating marketing that builds genuine affection among your audience, instead of simply trying to grab their attention.  One of our clients has a habit of tweeting out a screenshot of their Starbucks app, with money preloaded on the card, and letting their audience have a drink on them.  They spend about $100 each time, but the affection they build among their target goes far beyond that. 


Marketing has never been about telling potential customers about your product or service.  It's never about finding people to talk to about your company or organization, at least not when it's done right.  Yet, so many small businesses spend enormous amounts of time and money trying to just that.  Marketing, when it's most effective, is about connecting with your customers' story.  It's true, marketing isn't about your company, marketing is about your customers.   


If your small business is struggling to create a marketing strategy that works, here are 5 keys that will help you refocus on what marketing is really all about - your customer.

1. Your Marketing Should Know Your Ideal Client

One of the biggest mistake most marketers make, is believing that they can come up with a strategy that "reaches everyone."  It's understandable that when you're passionate about your company, and it's products and services, that you want to make it available to everyone.  There's nothing wrong with that - except that not everyone is your customer.  Your job is to learn who IS your customer.  Learn their story - who they are, what they need, what problem they have that you can solve.

2. Your Marketing Should Tell A Story

Marketers are, by nature, wired up as storytellers.  The problem is that most marketers are focused on telling the story they want you experience.  They are experts on telling stories about their company,  the benefits of their products, and the reasons for buying their stuff.   That's the way that many marketers believe they prove their worth - by how well they get their message out into the world.  

In reality, most people don't care that much about your marketing message.  Most people don't care how cool your product is, or how wonderful your company is.  Most people, care mostly, about themselves.  They care about their problems, their lives, their kids, their car, their dog, their hobbies, their job, and their circumstances.  Your job isn't to get them to care about what you offer - your job is to demonstrate that you care about them.  

Your marketing should focus on talking to your customers about their story.  Talk to your customers about their lives, and their values.  Instead of trying to craft stories about your company, that your customers can relate to, craft stories that show how you relate to your customers.

3. Your Marketing Should Add Value

Obviously, people won't buy your product or service, unless they believe it will add value to their lives.  That's why so many marketers spend so much time, money, and energy, coming up with ways to demonstrate how much value their product (or service) will add to their customer's lives.  What if instead of your marketing trying to prove how much better your customer's lives would be with your product, your customer's lives were better simply because of your marketing.  

How much easier would it be for them to believe that your product has value, when you've focused on creating value before they buy anything?  Think about the value you add through your marketing.  Are you creating content that matters?  Are you telling stories that matter?  Are you giving your customers, and potential customers, meaningful ways to connect with you - and each other - through your marketing?  If I never buy your product or service, will my life be enriched in any way as a result of your company?

4. Your Marketing Should Be Consistent

There's nothing that ruins the marketing story you are trying to tell, more quickly than inconsistency.   Many small businesses grow fast, by moving fast.  They can adapt and change to the market much quicker than larger competitors, and often experience great success by being flexible.  Unfortunately, sometimes things fall through the cracks when you move fast.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't move fast, it simply means it's that much more important to pay attention to the details.

It's important to make sure that your brand identity is consistent across all platforms.  Your social media pages should match your website, which should match print pieces, which should match your TV ads.  Each component should be supporting the larger story, instead of each trying to tell different, often competing, stories.   Details matter, because the way you handle the details goes a long way towards building a customer's trust, which goes a long way towards earning a customer's business.

5. You Are Your Best, And Worst, Marketing Asset

It's true.  No one is more qualified to connect your company, with your target customer, than you.  No one knows your company better, no one knows your customer better (hopefully), and no one knows what you do, better than you.  That makes you the most valuable marketing asset your company has.  At the same time, it also makes you the biggest marketing liability.  So many small business have a great idea, with a solid brand, but fail in connecting with their customer, because the founder, or owner, is unable to look through the eyes of the customer.  Having an outside perspective is critical to being sure that each piece of your marketing supports your overall goal.

It's easy, as a small business owner, to get hyper-focused on what you believe people think about your company, and your marketing message, even though we know far too much to be objective about our own company.  It's easy to overlook the obvious when you've invested every ounce of passion into your business, and too many companies fail in crafting a message that connects, because they think like a company, instead of a customer.  Having an outside advocate for your brand, and your marketing message, ensures that neither get lost - and ensures that you can focus on doing what you do best, which is, after all, why you are such an asset.