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Ask SCORE - Make time for marketing

July 13, 2008|By BOB POOR

Q: One of my friends attended the SCORE How to Really Start Your Own Business Millennium Seminar Series at Hagerstown Community College and speaks about a "marketing calendar" that was included. Can you please explain what it is and how I can use it in my small business?

A: Happy to! One of the major reasons so many small businesses fail is that they do not allow time and resources for marketing. If you wait until you need more customers, it will probably be too late. If you are a seasonal business, market ahead of the season. Keep a chart of your monthly sales results so that you can visually see, from the ups and downs, just where money spent on advertising will give you the biggest "bang for your buck."

Veteran consultant Paul Terry understands the tendency to procrastinate: "When we are busy, we don't remember to market. And that generally happens because we do not have a plan or a procedure that kicks in on a regular basis. When we use a certain number of copies in the copy machine, something kicks in. The cartridge says, "You are out of toner - replace me." So we don't have to write down somewhere "remember to replace the toner" because the machine takes care of that for us. However, the marketplace for our business does not necessarily come back to us and say, "Oh, by the way, you haven't contacted me lately. Pay attention to me!"

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So, enters the marketing calendar to start scheduling your marketing activities. Any size calendar will do ... many prefer a big wall calendar. Your marketing calendar thus becomes a visual system for reminding you to take planned action in a timely fashion. When you are busy, it is tempting to neglect marketing. Inevitably, then, business will slack off and you will wish that you had marketing activities lined up. Plan activities throughout the year, leaving enough time to make them fun rather than a chore.

Prioritize your ideas and set deadlines for turning them into action. At SCORE, we arrange for billboard advertising in March and September, annually. I have to remember to order the printing one month before the billboard company needs it. The reminder to do that goes on my marketing calendar every year. Once you have decided on dates, prepare worksheets for each activity, detailing every important step and deadline. For example, when invitations must be at the printers, when the flowers must be picked up, and so on. Note these deadlines on your wall calendar, and hang it where you can't miss it.

If you would like more marketing ideas for your small business, take advantage of free small business counseling sessions at SCORE, 301-739-2015, ext. 103; or call HCC Continuing Education at 301-790-2800, ext. 236, to register for How to Really Start Your Own Business, a four-session series Thursday evenings, Oct. 2 through Oct. 23, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Robert A. "Bob" Poor is a small-business counselor and a regular contributor to the Ask SCORE column. Questions may be e-mailed to him at r.poor@myactv.net or by mail in care of The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741, ATTN: Ask SCORE column. The Ask SCORE column appears every second Sunday of the month.

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