By Pamela Schott

What, exactly, determines success in the IT consulting marketplace? While there isn’t one easy answer to this question, it is true that every successful IT consulting firm has at least one thing in common: a tailor-made, custom-fit marketing plan—which should consist of complementary advertising, media, and public relations strategies.

In the recent past, ambitious dot-com start-ups that failed miserably were criticized because they dove headfirst into e-commerce without a corporate marketing plan—sinking faster than the Titanic, minus all the hype. Learning from the mistakes of their brethren, more IT companies are looking to incorporate a marketing plan into their overall business strategy. A wise decision, to be sure, but not always the easiest thing to do.

Four rules to follow
Assuming that your firm has marketable services to offer, however, much of the inherent challenges that are part and parcel of creating a marketing plan for your business can be overcome by following these four guidelines:

  1. Shop your needs around. Find a consultant or firm that you’re confident will help you through the long haul, which may mean anywhere from 30 to 90 days or more, plus however long the implementation process may be, to create the plan that’s right for you. Once the plan has been devised, stay with it and be patient. Commit to ironing out even the smallest of details before the plan goes into action. Doing so will make all the difference in the world.
  2. Test the plan. The perfect marketing plan, no matter how slick, precise, or painstakingly formulated, always contains hidden holes. And it’s the tiny, temptingly easy-to-neglect strategy flaws that can turn into major financial disasters if not caught and addressed early on. Test your plan before you take it to market. Demo a handful of the advertising ideas that are part of the plan for a small, targeted consumer audience. Float your public relations angle to a local business-news writer, and see what happens. Is your audience receptive to your product or service? Does the reporter respond enthusiastically to your idea? What sort of feedback are you receiving? Take to heart the ideas, comments, questions, and suggestions your testing provides, and adjust your plan accordingly.
  3. Don’t settle for second-rate. Take care to ensure that the tools you will use to support your marketing plan are of the highest quality. Today’s marketplace is as competitive as it’s ever been, and it’s not going to get any easier. Using the best advertising venues for your industry and targeting the right media and public relations outlets will help you deliver your well-considered marketing plan to the right audience and increase your chances of making a lasting and memorable impression.
  4. Get reliable help. Align yourself with an experienced marketing source that will help you make adjustments to your strategy after it’s launched. Unseen changes in the economic climate often call for immediate and levelheaded responses. Even if your company has its own full-time marketing support, partnering with an outside consultant who can bring objectivity to the table may be a wise investment.

Taking these four guidelines to heart involves a commitment of time, finances, and the wherewithal necessary to see the plan through. Following them, however, can make sure your marketing strategy doesn’t lead you down a road to ruin.

Pamela Schott is a marketing expert and freelance writer based in Louisville, KY. When she’s not strategizing with clients, she is busy devising stage plays.

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