How to Produce Your Small Business Marketing Plan

...Without Bloodshed

by Arturo F Munoz

small business marketing plan roman style

As a business owner, you are the commander, the captain of your own ship. Your small business marketing plan is your map across the furies of a tempestuous sea. But like the Romans of old, the market has but little mercy for a defeated general.

In the days of Caesars and gladiators, and even earlier than that with the likes of Greek Spartans, the cry was for total victory. "Come back with your shield - or on it" Plutarch tells us did mothers holler to their sons on their way to battle. Those who died in battle could expect their mothers openly to rejoice. Those who survived knew they'd bring only shame back to them. What's your case?

Are we much farther from those days today?

If you fail in your small business venture and switch back to wage slave status, will your relatives openly rejoice? If you have nothing to show for after years of building an online presence and trying to sell your products and services through the Web, will former work colleagues respect you more? Will you be able to convince another businessman to employ you to lead his business to victory if failure is all you've reached yourself?

Is The Roman Way Also Your Way Of Stimulating Victory?

"Now listen to me, all of you. You are all condemned men. We keep you alive to serve this ship. So row well, and live."
So said Quintus Arrius, the Roman fleet commander in the movie Ben-Hur. He believed that service was best stimulated through hatred. "Hate keeps a man alive. It gives him strength," he said.

But strength for what? What stimulates you to remain active in your daily battle when your business is not performing according to plan?

"Hatred of failure," you might answer.

"Yes," I may reply to you. "But why win then?"

Do you row well just to be alive and pointlessly suffer all along? What if there was a better way? What if you could reach victory at sea without useless suffering? What if to do so all you needed was to add one key ingredient to your small business marketing plan? Would you keep from spilling your own guts even if your ship went down in the fight?

You bet you would, that you may live to fight another day! And this is what a USP gives you. It gives you the highest potential of victory and a reason to try for victory again and again, were you to fail in your first attempts at success.

A Small Business Marketing Plan Without A USP Is Like Your Business Dying By Crucifixion

We've forgotten what death by crucifixion is like. It's slow and painful, yes, it involves asphyxiation. But it is all this by design. When you fail to have a USP as the heart of your small business marketing plan, you are condemning your business to a slow, torturous death by your own design.
The crucifixion itself is unmatched throughout history for the severity of torment it brought. Without USP you get crucified

The condemned man was affixed to the cross with nails driven through his wrists and feet. Through experimentation and the study of anatomy the Romans had discovered the medial nerve located just above the wrist joint and the center of the foot. The weight of the body caused the nail to press against this nerve shooting horrific pain throughout the nerves of the body.

The weight of the body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the intercostal muscles in the position of inhalation. The only way the man could exhale was to lift with his arms and push with his legs to hold himself up for a few seconds to allow the air to escape from his lungs. To avoid suffocation the man was forced to cause his own excruciating pain by putting more pressure on the medial nerves.

The average life span of a person on the cross was three to four days. After four days the soldiers would help the person to die quickly by breaking his legs so that he could not use them to push himself upward to exhale. After a few hours, the muscles in the shoulders would lock and the man would die from exhaustion asphyxia or suffocation.

Why make such a big deal about this?

I want you to remember the point graphically. A USP is that important.

And So, At Long Last What Is A USP?

A USP is what keeps a customer from ignoring you, from confusing you with your competitor, from your getting lost in the noisy crowd and sinking pennyless into oblivion. A USP magnetizes you. It makes you irresistible to your ideal client. It more than identifies you as valuable. It makes you invaluable to a specific group of people obsessively seeking for exclusivity, for devotion and for custom-fit satisfaction from their providers.

As a provider yourself, the heart of all your small business marketing is your marketing value proposition, also known as your unique selling proposition, also known as your USP. EVERYTHING in marketing for your business depends on it. And your USP starts with your choice of target audience. It starts with its wants and how whatever you do for it will individually benefit its members enough to fulfill those wants in full.

If you get too far ahead of your USP, like by trying to do what I call "inbound marketing" (e.g. SEO, content generation, Yellow Pages) or "outbound marketing" (e.g. emailing campaigning, telemarketing, advertising) or any PR and community outreach, or anything else that marketers love to do in lieu of having a reliable USP first, then you've put the cart before the horse and you're not going to grow. You will plod through at best. Most likely you'll just go broke. Guaranteed. If it can happen to PalmPilot from U.S. Robotics, it can more so happen to you.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, here's the #1 reason why the PalmPilot crashed, leading to Palm folding and Hewlet-Packard salvaging the pieces:
Palm never gave anyone a reason to buy the Pre instead of an iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android phone. This was a failure across Palm's engineering, design, and marketing teams. And it's not like Palm is the ONLY company to have this problem.

But if Palm was going to have any chance to compete with RIM, Apple, and Android phones, it needed SOMETHING important that was better, that Palm's marketing people could communicate was better to would-be buyers.

It didn't have that. Everything was too little, too late.
This is called a failure in having a unique selling proposition. Marketing directs engineering on what engineers should deliver to the market. Marketing's plan failed to establish the benefit-laden distinctiveness that Palm needed to compete against the colossal iPhone and the ubiquitous Android. Sixteen years of leading, visionary performance slowly down the drain! The culprit?

Not technology but Marketing.

Watch this if you don't believe me.

Are you going "Huh?"

Precisely! This is exactly what a USP is not! This is why Palm went under.

And it was all Marketing's fault. Just read what Donald Melanson, Sr. Associate Editor with AOL Tech, had to say about it.
As far as we've come in the 16 years since the release of the original Pilot, it's also remarkable how much hasn't changed. The screens have gotten better, the hardware has gotten sleeker, and everything has gotten far more connected, but we're still carrying around handheld devices that supplement our main computer, help us stay organized, and have a simplified operating system with apps displayed as a grid of icons. Add in some WiFi, 3G and a decent web browser and we could almost see ourselves getting by with one of these [PalmPilots] today -- and that's quite a testament to Palm's original vision.
Yes, it was Palm's last will and testament! In vision and technology that business was not far from competitors. In fact, it had a lead. But they blew it with their marketing. They created no unique selling proposition and got crucified.

Fail in creating your USP and you will fail in your small business too. It's that simple. And it will be painful, because you will struggle against all odds to survive, and yet, you will die.

So, in this upcoming weekly series I will devote myself to explaining the 10 pivotal characteristics that define a profit-generating USP for a small business and how you can produce one. Last week alone I analyzed no less than 25 online businesses, whose owners sought in my reviews for insight about their marketing value propositions.

In the words of one of them, "You're making me, and I'm sure a lot of other people as well, look at our web sites with completely new eyes. Looking outside the box, so to say." Come back every week and see if the same will apply to you, else subscribe below to receive my 10 tips on creating the best USP you possibly can, commander.

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