Building A Marketing Plan That Makes Sense

coffee and pencils

**As first seen in the Paducah Sun’s Business Journal and


“Where do I start?!” We are well into the new year, but this question stops many from developing their annual marketing plan.

There are very important questions to tackle before you put your plan into motion:

  • What avenues should you explore?
  • What should the timeline look like?
  • How do you choose what to say?
  • Where should you say it, and when should you deliver the message?

But, back to the original question. Where to start?

Think of your marketing plan as a road trip. Surely, the first thing you are going to do is choose a destination. The same should be true for your marketing plan.

First, ask this: “What are my goals?” Before you can execute, or even really develop an effective marketing plan you need to determine your short term and long term goals.

Once you have defined your goals, then the pieces needed to achieve them should begin to fall in place. You have a starting point, and you have determined where the finish line is, all you need is the gas to get there and the route to take along the way.

Rules of the road:

The next step you will need to undertake is determining the best possible path to get to your finish line. Just like a traditional road map, every destination has many possible routes. But some will make more sense than others. When creating your route, follow these rules of the road:

  • Define your audience. Who’s coming along for the ride? More specifically, what area of your business or target demographic are you driving toward that destination? Understanding who you are trying to reach is imperative to a successful marketing campaign. In order to understand your audience, you first have to get to know them. There are many digital metrics at your disposal, especially if you have a social media presence, to help you understand your audience. It might require doing a little digging (and maybe a little math!), but the answers are always out there.
  • Develop your message. Once you’ve defined your audience, you then need to craft a message tailored to them. If you can pinpoint your target audience to a specific location, demographic or platform, then you can gain an advantage through messaging by appealing to a more similarly minded audience.Whether that is through sales by targeting a digital keyword campaign, or the style of posts you craft to speak on your social media platforms, keep your target audience in mind. What type of message are they going to respond to?
  • Determine your vehicle. Think of marketing as a giant garage that houses all kinds of different vehicles, all with different uses depending on the situation. Distance, terrain, weather and passengers would all factor in to which vehicle you chose to make that trip. Much like choosing that vehicle for your trip, you should similarly choose the vehicle for your marketing. Your audience and your message will help to determine if you should go in heavy on social media, spread your budget over traditional print media, or take aim with television.These decisions should be calculated, as there are metrics that measure trends for different platforms, as well as how those platforms are being engaged by demographic. This is why it’s so important to define your audience before you decide how to allocate your marketing budget.
  • Head toward the finish line. Once you’ve set a goal, you will automatically create a benchmark to which you can effectively judge your strategy. While you are on this journey, you can periodically assess the marketing vehicles you chose and the path you ultimately took to see what is working, and more importantly, what isn’t.


Marketing done right never involves doing the same thing forever. Regardless of what your business may be, the landscape is always evolving. It is your job as the business owner to keep an eye on how customers react, as well as how useful those tools were at reaching them.

For this new year, as you begin to dig into your marketing budget, make sure you aren’t just “going for a drive.” Decide what your goals are for the year, then plan out your route from there.

Who is Your Audience? Let’s Brainstorm

who are you blog

Fundamental Marketing Question:  Who is your audience?

You probably have a general idea of who your audience is, or at least who you think  your audience is. But, when was the last time you really sat down to define it?

This isn’t something you can do quickly or even in an afternoon. It takes some serious research.  But, you can get the ball rolling and at least start to build a basic understanding of who you are trying to reach for your business.


So, why do you need to know who your audience really is?  Let’s look at this analogy:

Think about how you talk to people throughout the day. Do you talk to your children the same way you talk to your spouse? What about your boss and coworkers? You use the same language, inflection and urgency in all of those conversations right?

Of course not!

You may not vary your voice much, but you do talk differently to different people.  It’s not that you want to treat people differently, it’s just that you know all of these different people really well, and you know HOW to talk to them. Everyone receives and understands information differently, that’s why we vary our communication styles when talking with the different people in our lives.

With marketing, it’s no different!

Once you know your audience, then you can start building the right message. You can talk directly to them in a way they understand and can relate. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We need to start with your audience.  

Easy mistake!

Don’t be like “most businesses.” A common mistake is that they assume their customer feels and experiences things the same way they do. That may not be true.  So, be the oddball out and start making decisions based on your audience and NOT on your own emotions.  
brainstorm with your team on who your audience is


Over the next few months we’ll be exploring practical ways you can determine who your audience is. But first, get with your team and have a brainstorming session.  You may not know the exact answers, but start to think like your customer.

Start with these three questions:  

-Where does your audience go? (physically and online too)

-What do they see everyday?

-What problems are they facing?

Next month we’ll continue exploring ways to understand who your audience is and how to answer some of these questions. 


Life Imitates Art, Imitating Life

Mad Men Heinz Blog Thumb

Where the line between what is and isn’t real on TV, the internet, and especially in advertising, has been blurred beyond recognition, we’ve finally come full circle. It’s hard to believe that it took this long for such an occurrence to take place. But low and behold, it finally has. And in the most glorious of ways.

Last week, the advertising world took an interesting turn when Heinz, the classic condiment connoisseurs, chose to run an ad campaign echoed practically verbatim from a fake ad campaign created for a TV drama. In what seems to be a half marketing/half PR stunt, Heinz proposed their latest marketing effort: a series of ads originally pitched on an episode of the show Mad Men.

While we (of course) have to admit it isn’t really at all that far-fetched, it is indeed, a fantastic example of life imitating art, imitating life. In 2007, AMC introduced us to the world of advertising as it was perceived in the 1960’s. It wasn’t just a drama, it was an in-depth look into what was the burgeoning world of Madison Avenue in its heyday. Though while the companies were real, the ad pitches were merely script.

For those who watched the show, they’re sure to remember the infamous pitch presented by Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce darling Don Draper. He and artist Stan Rizzo boldly suggested a campaign in which the product they’re selling is never shown.

Pass the Heinz Ad
Heinz/David Agency

The spots featured close-ups of french fries, a cheeseburger, and a cut of steak against a simple white background adorned with the phrase “Pass the Heinz.” It was one of many very good ad campaigns the show presented not from the actual history of advertising, but rather from the minds of the show’s writers.

While the fictional Heinz execs from the days of yore initially passed on the campaign, the more open minded real execs of today are finally running with it nearly 50 years after Draper’s initial presentation would’ve taken place.

David Miami, who currently represents Heinz, pitched the idea with a clever marketing ploy – accrediting the original founders of the SCDP advertising firm, as well as Mad Men writers Matthew Weiner and Erin Levy. They can be seen in the campaign credits provided to Adweek (who originally reported the story), cleverly presented in vintage typewritten copy as they might have been in 1968.

The campaign is sure to be a hit with Mad Men fans, who’s premiere will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this summer.

The ads can currently be seen on billboards in Times Square, Vanity Fair, The New York Post, and, much to the chagrin of Mad Men purists, social media. Your move, art.

Pass the Heinz Cheeseburger
Heinz/David Agency
Pass the Heinz Steak
Heinz/David Agency

Two Most Important Marketing Questions [VIDEO]


So, as the new year begins, here’s some quick marketing tips from Innovations Branding House to you!

There are two main questions you should ask as the new year begins.

Are you ready?

Here they are:

  1. Have you built a marketing foundation?

  2. What’s next?

These two questions are simple to ask, but not always simple to answer. Let’s dive into what we mean.  

Have you built your marketing foundation?

Your marketing foundation includes all the pieces that collectively establish your brand.  

Those pieces include things like the following:

-brand slogan
-business cards

Branding Tools

Yes, creating these items is marketing. But, the purpose of them is to establish your brand in the mind of your customers or potential customers.

Why is this important? Here’s a few scenarios to consider:

-Logo inconsistency

If your logo isn’t the same everywhere, your loyal customers may become confused as to the business they’re buying from.  If the variation is vast enough they may actually think you’re a different company altogether.  

 Not good!

-Poor website design

Did you know that around 65% of all media time is now spent on mobile?  That means people are on their phones or tablets searching for products, watching videos and engaging with friends.

What if your site isn’t mobile friendly, but you have the information they’re looking for.

Do you think they’ll go find you on their desktop or go to the next Google search option?  

I think you know the answer.

There’s many more scenarios that we could go over, but the key point is that you need to have a marketing foundation for your business before you can begin building your marketing campaigns.

That brings us to the second question you should ask in the new year.  

What’s Next?

This is actually the question you should NEVER stop asking. This question will drive your marketing plans for the next month, the next three months, even the next year.

You want to build short and long term marketing goals. Think of it this way, if you’d only built the concrete foundation to your business’s building, you wouldn’t have a business right?

Same with marketing.  The foundation establishes your brand, but now it’s time to let people know you’re ready for business.

How do you do that? By creatively answering these questions and building a strategic plan around it.

-How will you drive traffic to your business?

-How will you nurture current customer relationships?

-How will you invite new customers to work with you?

So, as you build your marketing plans for 2017, remember these key points:

-Marketing never stops.

If you want to continue driving traffic to your business, then you need to continue telling your customers who you are and the benefits you bring to them.  

-Marketing is different for every business

The business next door has a different target market than you, so he may have different tactics to use than you will.  Remember, you want your business to stand out, so get creative!

-With creativity comes a little risk

When you try something that’s never been done before, remember there is a little bit of risk involved. But, there could also be exponential reward for trying something new!

So, whether you need to build your marketing foundation or begin asking “what’s next?”, the new year is a great place to start!

To learn more about marketing like a brand, download our free guide below.  Or check out these other resources! 


Pokémon Go and the Hidden Potential for Your Business


You may have witnessed in the last month, the phenomenon one mobile application sparked around the world: Pokémon Go.

Love Pokémon and own a business? Keep reading!

Don’t care about Pokémon and own a business? Keep reading!

This game is exciting for some generations to play, but it’s also exciting because it’s introducing the potential of augmented reality technology.

It’s the first time that we’ve been able to actually integrate augmented reality into our everyday surroundings. Plus, this application actually got people out of their home to socialize! Facebook and other applications have tried to encourage their fans to do this with some success, but nothing to the extent of Pokémon Go.


What real life implications does this new technology have on us? 

  • Think of the training possibilities for virtually any job, especially dangerous jobs such as firefighting.
  • Think of how this could be used in the future for marketing tactics. What could this look like for businesses?

There’s a lot of potential in the things we don’t understand.

As business owners and marketers, what things exist that we might be turning a blind eye to? When new ideas surface, do you immediately shoot them down without exploring them fully?

Your employees and your marketing team may have what seem like crazy ideas, but before you dismiss them, look past the surface and understand why they would or wouldn’t work. Look at research, past endeavors and judge the idea based on your understanding and not the fear of something new.


  • Download the Pokémon Go App.  You may have no idea what Pokémon even is, but that’s ok. Download the app and simply experience what this new technology can achieve.
  • Write down a list of things you don’t understand right now about marketing or business tools. Send this to Todd Duff, CEO of Innovations Branding House and he’ll get back with you!  Email him at

Marketing tactics can change as technology changes. This doesn’t mean every new piece of technology fits with your marketing plan, but you should never ignore it. Always strive to understand what you don’t know, because as we have seen here, that’s usually when the best ideas come to fruition.




Innovations Insights: What is Your Competitive Edge?


What is your competitive edge?

Do you ever find yourself in conversations with potential new clients or customers and find yourself having to play some kind of defense regarding competition?

Or the client asks things like, “What makes you better than ABC-type company?”

During the early stages of strategic marketing planning, we regularly have to help our clients figure out what separates them from their competition.

What’s Your Competitive Edge?

So, here’s a pop quiz. What separates you from your competition? I’ll give you a few seconds.

Here’s a clue: It can’t be quality or service. Everyone is saying that.

It has to be something that truly separates you from your competition.

So that’s kind of a tough one. Besides quality and service, what other things are your competition saying?

So one example might be a plumbing company that says “We show up on time! We do the work correctly!”

When what really separates them is the fact that they perform background checks, regular drug testing on all their employees – all the people that will be coming into your home.

Another example is an IT company. A lot of IT companies say that they fix things quickly and that their staff is friendly.

However, when that company takes the time to dig down and find that thing that truly separates them, they discover that they’re the only company who gives their cell phone numbers out to their clients.

It’s not always easy to figure that out, so good luck!


Signs Your Marketing Firm Isn’t Working

Blindfolded business man

You’ve been working with a marketing firm for six months and though they’ve produced some creative items, you aren’t sure if it’s really working.

There are a lot of factors to consider if you feel your marketing efforts aren’t successful. One, is to examine the relationship you have with your marketing firm.

Here are signs your marketing firm isn’t working for your business’s best interest.


They don’t understand your business/brand


Have you ever been in a meeting and felt like they were giving you the cookie cutter answer they give every business?

Realize, if your best interests aren’t addressed at the beginning, don’t think that will ever change.

Top priority for your marketing firm should be understanding your business and developing a plan to reach your ideal customers.


Ideas aren’t based on Data


A great marketing firm isn’t just made up of creative ideas. It’s a mix between creativity and research.

Each decision surrounding your marketing plan should be based on data: social media statistics, testimonials, complaints, website traffic etc.

There are so many factors to look at and examine to culminate the full picture of your business. Your marketing firm should be looking at all of these facets, and more. This way, they’re able to build a creative plan that makes sense for your audience.


Lack of Communication


Examine the feedback you’re getting.  Communication should be a key component in your relationship.

They should communicate realistic timelines for your marketing plan.  Knowing approximately when content will be ready helps you plan the way sales can work with the current marketing campaign.

They are the marketing experts and should be leading the charge, but you should still be involved in the process.

Stay in the loop. Your knowledge of the industry’s trends and changes are invaluable to the marketing direction.


YESThey say “Yes!” to everything

When your marketing team says yes to every idea, they aren’t looking out for your best interests.  They are worried more about pleasing you, than enhancing your success.

Some can find this concept rude or backwards from how most businesses operate.

But, let me ask you a question.

Would you listen to your contractor if, while remodeling, he says taking out a wall isn’t a good idea? Or will you ignore that it’s a supporting wall for the home and tell him to take it out anyway?

It’s the same with your marketing firm. They may say, “no” to an idea, but they should also present to you why it’s not right for your target audience. It may be a great idea…but just for a different audience, in a different market.


Is your current marketing firm working for your business’s best interest? Are they branching out and trying new things because of something they discovered in the research process?

Working with the wrong marketing firm can be detrimental to your goals.  But, working with the one that fits your business can be a great experience..



How to Develop A Marketing Strategy

You perform marketing tactics, such as buying a newspaper ad or tv commercial. But, how are these tactics working? Are they successful?

You may feel like you are doing marketing “just because,” without any real direction or focus.

Businesses every day address strategic planning and tactile everyday operations. Planning and purpose are ingrained into every other part of the business…but many make the mistake of not approaching their marketing in the same way.

A strategic plan can give your guesswork-style marketing a framework.  Here are the basic principles on how to develop a marketing strategy.


Develop an ideal list of people you want to hit with your message.


Break this list up into fictional characters that represent your target. You may want to reach millennials who love to exercise. So we’ll call them, Exercise Eric.

This allows you to focus in and learn all you can about that specific target. Then, every marketing message you create is directed straight to Exercise Eric.


Craft Your Message

Your message should include things that separate you from your competitors. Remember it should talk straight to your target markets.  You want your message to be creative and focused on reaching your ideal customers.


Determine how you will measure the success of your marketing tactics.

Marketing isn’t always easily measurable. But, as technology improves, real time data is becoming more readily available. As you build your plan, ask yourself, “How will this marketing activity be tracked?”

When you work with the right tools, tracking your tactics is possible. You can track how many leads the tactic creates, and then dig deeper to determine how many of those leads became paying customers.


There are many more steps in developing an effective marketing strategy. But, this will give you a jumpstart in building a strategy to help you keep the big picture in mind and increase your odds of hitting your growth goals.



The Difference Between A Marketing Team vs. A Marketer

Often times, when asking a business owner about how they market themselves, they respond, “We have a marketer.”

While the role of the marketer is a crucial one, it is unfair to expect them to behave like a superhero and assume all of the roles a successful marketing campaign often requires.

While a marketer might suggest a print piece, a commercial spot, or even a new web design, they won’t be the ones doing the actual work.  And that is the way it should be.

Instead, they coordinate with a web designer, print company, or video production team to create their vision.

How is that different from contracting those jobs individually?

Sure, you could divvy out these jobs accordingly, but what does that result look like? Most likely, you will end up with three individual materials completely independent of each other.

The role of a marketing team is to make sure all of these things are working together in unison. Collectively, each member will bring his or her skill set to the creative table. Together, they will craft an overall strategy from the information provided by the marketer.

Individually, they will work on their aspects of the campaign, but with the bigger picture in mind.  The videographer will have the website in mind when creating the storyboards. The web designer will have the print pieces in mind when laying out the design.  And so on.

Ok, so why do I need a marketing team, then?

A campaign is not just a collection of individual pieces thrown together.

When you work with a marketing firm, they should make a calculated effort to combine all of these individual creative elements into one very strong, cohesive message. Your website, videos and print pieces should be strong independently, but even stronger as whole.

Make sure you are managing your expectations.

It is important to manage your expectations for your marketer. While they will play an important role in deciding strategy and methodology, it is unfair to also expect them to be able to execute each tactic on their own (i.e. video, print materials, design).

When your marketer and your marketing team are working together, the sky’s the limit. Having a collective of creative minds can be the difference between a mediocre campaign and one that generates results.

Who Should Steer Your Marketing

Summer break is upon us, and for you, leaving the business for a week may be out of the question.

So, let’s take a little vacation together over the next few minutes…from a marketing standpoint.

You may be a little hesitant to allow a firm to lead your marketing plans. But, what does it look like if you have the right team driving your marketing from start to each destination?


Here’s why marketing firms should steer your marketing:


Everyone loves to dream of travel. Taking a poll of our creative team here at Innovations Branding House, some want to go to Australia, Alaska, Austria, or anywhere where there’s a beach.

It’s the same with business goals, everyone looking toward a different destination. In your business, it’s good to dream of where you want to go. Remember, it’s ok if you’d rather take your company in a different direction than your competitor or others in the industry.

Dreaming about the future is the first step towards forming concrete goals.

Let your marketing firm in on those goals because that’s their first step in understanding what you really need.  

So dream big and then work with your marketing firm to hone realistic goals for your organization.


Making the Itinerary

Once you’ve set your goals, this is when you decide what your trip will look like. Will you drive, fly, take a train? You plan out your overnight stops and any detours you want to make along the way.

You’ve calculated the mileage, set your budget and are making your goals a reality!

This is where a marketing firm takes the lead. They’ve listened to your goals and now they’re creating the best itinerary for how to get you to your destination.

They’ll start talking about strategy and the individual tactics that will best reach your audience.


Trusting the GPS

Your itinerary is set, you’ve put your destination into the GPS and now it’s time to hit the road!

As you drive, the GPS may change direction. Sometimes it’s a malfunctioning GPS. But, in most cases it’s discovered construction, a road closure or some obstacle up ahead and is rerouting you.

The original directions aren’t wrong, they just aren’t the best choice as new information comes in.

In relationship to marketing, your plan is just a guideline. As life happens, these plans may have to shift.  

Throughout the entire process, your marketing team should be evaluating each step to ensure it’s still the best direction to steer your business.


You’re There! 


*Whew!* You’ve finally made it! You’re now drinking in the ocean breeze or the breathtaking mountaintop view. But, does the fun stop there? Are you ready to get into your car and drive back where you started?

I didn’t think so.

Same with marketing. Once you’ve reached some of your goals, and your plan has succeeded, you don’t stop. This is where the real fun begins.

You begin to build on the foundation you planned and created.

You don’t pull back the momentum, but kick it up a notch.  

You now focus on keeping current customers happy while starting the search for new leads.

The marketing cycle continues.  


Marketing isn’t a one time destination, it’s more like a world traveler’s journey. Each stop is a milestone. Then the dreaming of what’s next can begin.


Ready to talk about how innovations can help steer your marketing in the right direction?