A marketing plan is an essential tool for small businesses. It provides a blueprint of activities that support your business goals and objectives – many of which are focused on revenue and profit growth. It outlines what you will do and how you will do it. While not complicated, an effective marketing plan should answer the following questions.
Who are you trying to reach with your marketing activities? This is the group or target market you want to sell your products or services to. The more details, the better. Go beyond the ‘who’ and consider where you can find them, what is important to them, what they value or worry about and what they need right now. If you are unsure, do a little research. Talk to them!
Who do you compete with and how do you compare? One of the best things you can do to uncover opportunities is to perform a SWOT analysis. Look at who is selling similar products and services. What do they do well and not so well? Now, look at your own company. How do you measure up? Be honest with yourself.
What makes you unique? Based on the analysis of your competition, industry trends and your personal strengths, what one thing can set you apart from others? What do you do so well that you could potentially guarantee it? Your unique selling proposition addresses why your ideal targets should choose you, so give it some thought. Remember you only need one thing to stand out.
What should you charge and why? Your marketing message should work with your pricing strategy as it relates directly to perceived value – a factor in purchase decisions. Don’t ignore this when developing your marketing plan.
How will you reach your target market? This is the substance of your plan and often where most small businesses start. Your promotional plan covers all your communication and dictates how you get the word out to prospects and current customers. Ideally, it combines a variety of activities such as advertising, publicity, direct sales, digital marketing, sales promotion, social media, etc. Remember, quality and consistency matter. So start with 3-5 and execute well!
How much will you spend and on what? A marketing budget serves two purposes. It helps you determine what you can afford and prioritize where you will invest it. Since many small businesses have limited marketing budgets, this is vital. And with technology today, some activities are more affordable than they were in the past. Do a little research. Don’t assume everything is out of reach.
What tasks do you need to complete to achieve your marketing goals? Most marketing activities require a series of steps to go from start to finish. An action list is a critical part of your plan if you want to get things done! It works like the process you use to manage other daily tasks. It includes the end goal along with a series of single tasks required to achieve the goal. For example, a direct mail campaign might include the following steps: clarify the objectives, determine the type of direct mail, hire a designer to create the piece, write copy (or hire a copywriter), develop a mailing list, etc. Remember to include due dates for each step to keep you on track.
What results were achieved and how can you improve? Since you invested time and financial resources to help you grow, don’t you want to know if your efforts paid off or how you can improve the results moving forward? Of course, you do. So you need to track results. The metrics you select will depend on the marketing tactics you use. But some common ones include new leads, web site visits, response rates for your call to action, requests for quotes, new customers or transactions, etc. You don’t need a lot, but make tracking part of your marketing activities.
Additional Tips To Improve Results
- Before you jump into your marketing plan, have clear business goals and objectives.
- Don’t ignore your current customers. Your marketing plan should include activities to generate repeat business too.
- Marketing takes time, money or both. Nothing is truly free.
- Mix it up. Integrate offline and online strategies to get more bang for your bucks.
- Avoid too many tactics. Focus on quality, not quantity. Trying to do too many things at one time becomes overwhelming and more difficult to track.
- Be patient. Marketing results don’t happen overnight.
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