Note to Production: Berman column last ran on Jan. 18

Sharon Berman

Happy New Year!

But it's only June, you say. So what? Don't you wish you could recapture the enthusiasm for marketing your business that you felt back in January?

Well, you can renew that feeling and now is the perfect time to do it.

If you're like most people, many of your New Year's resolutions are already long forgotten. You may also have lost much of the entrepreneurial enthusiasm you felt at the beginning of the year, when your marketing plan for 1999 was fresh and shiny, and you were chomping at the bit to carry it out.

Though that marketing plan may have been sitting on the shelf for months, now is the time to dust it off and re-ignite your enthusiasm for growing your business. After all, there are six good months left in 1999 months in which you can still accomplish a great deal, including laying a solid foundation for 2000.

The fact is, you're in an even better position now to evaluate and fine-tune your marketing plan than you were when you formulated it, because you have six months of data and results behind you. That information can be invaluable in guiding you toward greater success.

Where to start? First, set your overall marketing objectives for the next six months, and then break them down into two quarterly goals.

Quantify your objectives as much as possible and place them in a specific time frame. ("By the end of the third quarter, I will land three new 'A' customers in the automotive industry.")

You may want to set out a minimum objective something you would be satisfied to achieve in addition to a higher-level target that would leave you absolutely ecstatic if attained. Then set your sales objectives. ("By the end of the third quarter, I will sell 10,000 widgets to customers in the automotive industry.")

In setting these goals, look back at what you've done in the first half of the year. Will you be ramping up, or will you be happy just to maintain the same pace?

Next, formulate the strategies you'll employ to attain your objectives, drawing them in broad-brush strokes. For example, you might pursue increasing the visibility of your business in the marketplace; educating prospective clients about what your company has to offer; targeting a market niche that you've never gone after before; creating a stronger brand identity for your business or any combination thereof.

Ask yourself this question: Do you need to reassess which markets you're targeting, or do your results show that you've been aiming for the right ones?

To help you decide, you might survey your customers to find out about their likes and dislikes, and to learn how you stack up compared to your competition.

Also, reexamine your communication points. Does the message you've been putting out in the world need to be updated or redirected in any way? Take a look at your marketing materials. Do they present clear, easily understood information about the benefits of purchasing products from you or using your services? Are your communication points consistent throughout your materials? Are your marketing materials of a quality that will enhance your company's image?

Now that you've reconsidered your goals and the communications materials you'll employ to attain them, think about what specific tactics you'll use.

Tactics are where the rubber really hits the road; taken together, they make up the game plan you'll implement during the remaining months of 1999.

Possible tactics include advertising, direct mail, the Internet, telemarketing, marketing materials and public relations. Of course, you won't be using each of these all of the time, but it's important to evaluate all of them to determine which should be part of your marketing arsenal.

Again, your results in the first half of the year can help guide you in making that determination. Take a close look at what worked and what didn't. For example, if you were disappointed with your direct-mail results, rethink the specific offer you made or the mailing list you used.

Be as specific as possible about how you might use each tactic by creating a mini-plan for it. For example, if you're going to be doing advertising, identify the publications where your ads might appear and set out a preliminary timetable for them. Will there be certain periods when your advertising will appear more widely and with greater frequency?

Answering such specific questions will put you ahead of the game.

After you've developed a timetable for each tactic, create an overall timetable for the entire marketing effort. Compare it to the timetable you set for attaining your goals, and adjust where necessary. Creating and sticking to a timetable will help keep you from falling behind in implementing your marketing program.

A final note: Many people think December is a "dead" month when it comes to marketing. They reason that because everyone is so busy with the holidays, any marketing efforts will be time and money poorly spent. Although it's true that the last month of the year boasts a disproportionate share of diversions, it is not true that December is necessarily a marketing wasteland.

While it may not be the best time to transact business, December can be a perfectly good opportunity to continue laying a foundation for the future.

So even though 1999 is already half over, declare your own marketing New Year's celebration. Revel in reformulating your marketing plan, and delight in carrying out what you've come up with. Raise a glass of bubbly and toast "Happy New Year!"

After all, it is June.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Corp. consultancy. She can be reached at Berman@Berbay.com.

Entrepreneur's Notebook is a regular column contributed by EC2, The Annenberg Incubator Project, a center for multimedia and electronic communications at the University of Southern California. Contact James Klein at (213) 743-1759 with feedback and topic suggestions.

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