The Entrepreneur’s Marketing Checklist
Steve Jobs was one of the greatest conceptual thinkers—and creators—of all time. Lots of entrepreneurs can visualize a product or service and produce it.
IBM made computers. Bill Gates makes software. Steve Jobs closed the loop. He not only oversaw every aspect of the hardware and software, he got inside the head and under the skin of the users, thought what they thought, felt how they felt and literally became a user.
Jobs was what I call a “Method Marketer.”
As a result, Steve Jobs was a consummate marketer as well as an entrepreneur. For example, Jobs told Walt Mossberg that he was intimately involved in the design of the Apple retail stores right on down to approving “tiny details like the translucency of the glass and the color of the wood.”
Marketing Is NOT an Afterthought
The Internet crash of 2000 was caused by legions of entrepreneurs—high-tech wizards—who developed spectacular products and services, but had no idea how to monetize them. “This is a new medium and a new paradigm,” we geezers were told. “The old rules of marketing don’t apply. This is an era of new rules and we make ‘em.”
As a result, the dot-commers burned through billions of investors’ dollars. A number of people grew very, very rich cashing in on the bubble. Many more lost fortunes and many hotshot 20-somethings found themselves forced to move back in with their parents, becoming what’s known as the Boomerang Generation.
The Better Mousetrap Fallacy
I grew up with the old saw that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door.
At direct marketing conferences you’ll hear versions of the mousetrap dictum by presenters. “Tell, don’t sell,” was one of the popular mantras some years ago.
Others quote from Field of Dreams—the memorable Kevin Costner film—“Build it and they will come.”
“Build it and they will come is bullshit,” said the late real estate developer Willard Rouse. “Build it, sell the hell out of it and they will come.”
“People love to be sold,” said my first boss in business, children’s publisher Franklin Watts.
The Marketer’s Challenge
Over the past 45 years, I have been called in by entrepreneurs and marketing consultants to create copy and design for new products and services.
Often the product was new magazine that existed only inside the head of the editor. My task was to create a dry test—a mailing that offered subscriptions to this publication that did not exist and would never exist unless a predetermined number of people responded to the dry test and agreed to “take the first issue free and, if they liked it, would pay $9.95 for 11 more issues.” (Or they could write “cancel” on the bill, owe nothing and be under no further obligation.)
My job was to make the thing seem so real, so vibrant, so exciting that the prospects would flood the mails with orders. Whereupon I would write a “delay letter” to the new subscribers and the venture capitalists would pony up cash to start the magazine.
The dry test is a lot cheaper than staffing up to publish a magazine (or create a product) and then—as an afterthought—figuring out how to sell it.
The greatest problem marketing consultants and agencies face is getting complete information out of the client, primarily because they do not know what to ask.
For example, it’s impossible to come up with an offer without knowing the business model of the client and the revenue/cost structure of the product/service.
It’s impossible to come up with a successful offer without knowing who the competition is and what the competition is doing. Put another way, if a marketer blasts out an offer that is profoundly less compelling than that of a competitor, he looks like a chump.
For marketers, advertising agency account executives, creatives and P.R. consultants what follows is a checklist—questions you need answered before you can formulate marketing plans.
Ideally, every entrepreneur should think through the questions asked in this checklist and use it for guidance in every stage of development.
Denny Hatch’s Marketing Checklist for Entrepreneurs
NOTE: This can be tweaked to fit any industry sector—fund raising, pharmaceutical sales, auto manufacturing, financial services, etc.
Who Are You Marketing To?
- B-to-B, B-to-C or both?
- Who are your prospective customers?
- Demographics of prospects?
- Psychographics/behavior of prospects?
- Estimated size of the universe—maximum number of potential users?
- Can it be sold internationally?
- Will you sell direct to the end-user, via wholesalers and resellers or all three?
- Do you know what mailing lists and email lists are available to reach these prospects?
- What publications do these prospects read?
- What websites do these prospects frequent?
- What TV networks and TV shows do they watch?
- Who and what do they listen to on the radio?
What Is Your Product or Service?
- The name of your product or service
- What is it conceptually? What does it do?
- Make a list of the features. Include tangential features, such as "Made in USA."
- What is the benefit to the user of each of these features?
NOTE: Features vs. benefits: A $1 million life insurance policy means when you die, your heirs will receive $1 million. An insurance salesman will tell you that the benefit is $1 million. Actually, $1 million is the feature. The benefit is that you can sleep soundly at night knowing that if anything happens to you, your family will be able to stay in the house and pay the bills, and that they will always remember you with love.
- Rank the benefits in in order of importance—with No. 1 being the most important.
- Does it arrive on its own or does a person or team need to install it?
- Is it ready to use immediately? Can you: put it on and wear it, plug it in and watch or listen to it, hang it on the wall, etc.)?
- Does it require instructions?
- Have you created fulfillment material?
- Are the transmittal, welcome letter and instructions so simple that an idiot can understand them?
- Supply samples of fulfillment materials.
- Who and what will your new product/service be competing against?
- List the websites of your competitors.
- Estimated share of market of each competitor.
- Strengths of each competitor’s product/service?
- Weaknesses of each competitor’s product/service?
- Difference(s) between your product and the competition.
- What are the competitors’ prices?
- What are the competitors’ offers?
- How do competitors reach their prospects? Space advertising? TV? Radio? Direct mail? Couponing? E-offers? Pay-per click? In-person sales efforts?
- Can you supply samples of your competitors’ ads and sales and promotional materials?
- In your opinion what is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? What is the one—or at most three—overpowering benefit(s) that makes your product/service stand out in the field and makes it superior to the competition? Hint: Chances it is the top benefit that you described above.
Current Status of Your Product
- Will this be a dry test or a wet test?
- Has it been beta tested?
- Results of the beta tests?
- What feedback from the beta tests?
- When will it be ready to ship?
- Projected launch/release date?
- Suggested retail price (MSRP).
- Raw cost of goods sold.
- (Excluding amortization for research, development and start-up.)
- Cost of shipping and handling.
- Will you sell direct or do you have a sales force?
- If you have a sales force, presumably you will need collateral sales material.
Additional Revenue Opportunities
- Continuity shipments over time.
- A yearly contract (maintenance, updates, etc.).
- Add-ons or upsells.
- Licensing arrangements.
- Revenue-share deals with other marketers.
- Related products and services.
- A yearly renewal.
- A membership offer might be more effective than yearly renewals. “In my experience membership renewal is regularly ten points above subscriptions levels,” wrote the legendary guru Dick Benson. “This is the result of billing for dues rather than asking for a renewal of membership.”
Crafting an Offer
“As direct marketers, we’re not here primarily to make a sale; we’re here to get a customer. Sales are important, of course. (Where would marketers be without them?) But the name of the game is repeat sales rather than one-shots. And to have that, you need a customer.” —Joan Throckmorton
- Does your company fit the Joan Throckmorton business model above?
- In other words, can you break even or lose some money on the initial sale knowing that the new customer will spend money with you over the coming months and years?
- Can you offer a free trial?
- Can you offer one or more premiums—kicker(s) that will grab immediate attention and move the fence sitters off dead center?
- Cash with order (credit card) or “Bill me later?”
- Please assemble all relevant artwork that can be used in marketing.
- What is your guarantee?
- Who signs and stands behind the guarantee? Is it the corporate “we” or does a real person say “I guarantee this”?
Your Company and Cred
- Your background—brief personal CV.
- Brief company history.
- What other products/services do you offer?
- Are current customers likely candidates for this new product?
- What is the average lifetime value of your current customers?
- Do you have testimonials from happy customers?
- Do you have reviews (positive and negative) about other products?
- Assemble a care package of promotions for other products.
• Mail, space, broadcast, e-commerce—winners and losers—with results.
• Fulfillment material and instructions for other products
- Is there a company spokesperson? Who signs sales letters, stands behind guarantees, talks to media and goes on the stump?
Your Marketing Budget
The total dollars set aside to launch the product.
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P.S. Free. You are invited to read the first 8 chapters of my fourth novel, "COLDCOCKED: A Novel of seven murders, the media and the law," just released on Amazon.com.
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