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Let's All Plan To Have a Fun Year

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February 2005 - By John Waiveris

"Perhaps the world's second worst crime is boredom. The first is being a bore." - Sir Cecil Beaton, Photographer

Are you with me? Most of us run a small business, and well, some months aren't as fun as the others. Right now it's flu season and time for cold fingers. Just going outside can be tough.

On the other hand, who are we waiting for? It's up to us to create an environment that our customers enjoy. If we are excited, looking forward to something, and smiling, they will be too. If we are stressed, tired, and stuck in a rut, well...they'll find somewhere else to go.

Step 1: Stay Ahead of the Game

Step 1: Stay Ahead of the Game
Unless we're throwing a big party or something special, most of us plan only days to weeks ahead of time. For example, we think about Valentine's Day (if we're smart) when we start seeing ads for it.

But, what if you wanted to PLACE an ad for Valentine's Day? Given time to think, design, place, print, etc. - you'd be well on your way by early January! Sure, you can scramble and pull things together faster...but that just makes it tougher and more expensive - and less likely that you'll do it in the future.

"Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together." - Vincent Van Gogh, Painter

Step 2: Plan it Out

Step 2: Plan it Out
To plan the year in advance, you probably need to spend a quiet hour with a pen, paper, and a calendar. Figure out when the important holidays are, when the seasons change, and when personal events like your vacation and traditions occur, etc. (visit www.holidaysmart.com to see a list of popular holidays.)

Next, pick a few things to try and think them through. For example, maybe you'd like to place a newspaper ad - get the price sheet and choose a cost effective option. It makes sense to spread them out over the year...and don't go overboard. Just pick a few things you can get excited about.

Last, create a few small deadlines for yourself and make sure you'll see them with the right amount of lead time - like "call graphic designer about postcard - 555-1212". This way when it comes time to plan the event, you'll be ready.

If you really want to do things right, you'll even set a budget. Remember, people get excited about parties, free things, and attention. Your marketing dollars might be best spent on a buffet of good food or something to give away.

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." - John Steinbeck

Step 3: Track The Results

Step 3: Track The Results
Once you have a few things planned, figure out what works. A gut feeling is nice, but numbers on paper are even better. Basically, all you need to do is treat it like an experiment. Start with a "baseline" (the number of visitors in a normal week) and compare it to the results after the change. Also, remember that learning what DOESN'T work is just as important as learning what does.

Websites are useful because it is easy to get tracking data. If you place an ad and traffic levels go up, it was successful. Are there good ways to track results in your business? (sales, new customers, visitors to the store, etc.)

If you are clever about it, special offers can generate automatic tracking. For example: placing an ad with a coupon allows you to easily count the number that came back. Just be sure to set an expiration date to avoid surprises later on.

"Begin somewhere; you cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do." - Liz Smith, American Gossip Columnist

Tip 1: Try a Mix of Different Things

Tip 1: Try a Mix of Different Things
Most small businesses rely on just one or two methods to market themselves. This is mostly because once one started working, the others were ignored. In the long run, you'll do better by trying something new every year.

"You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take." – Wayne Gretzky, Legendary Hockey Player

Tip 2: Enjoy Yourself

What you do doesn't matter as much as how you do it. You can spend thousands of dollars to hire a marketing firm...but if you aren't personally engaged, it will be obvious and people won't be excited either. Create a year you can get excited for and enjoy.

John Waiveris writes about small business and online marketing for Invisible Gold, LLC.
For more information call 1-860-285-0172 or visit www.invisiblegold.com

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