It is imperative that, as a small business owner, you create a marketing plan. It’s also imperative that you realize your businessmarketonline is going to be a work in progress. Your plan (and you!) must be flexible enough to change and adapt to the current market conditions, changes in the economy, advances in technology and so on.
Here are 6 great tips to keep in mind when you begin creating your own small business marketing plan:
1. Establish Goals
Your small business marketing plan should be very goal oriented. Being able to visually see what your intentions are for your business can often help you plan and organize in a way that will help you reach your goals quicker and more efficiently. Before beginning your marketing plan you should sit down and write out exactly what goals you intend to reach.
Next, figure out a rough idea of how you plan to reach these goals. Be as specific as possible; include exact numbers (number of clients, number of products, number of websites, etc), exact dollar amounts (amount of sales, amount of profit, amount of affiliate commissions, etc) and exact dates (when your website will be completed, when your sales calls will be made, when your products will be released, etc.) There is no way you can draft an outline of what you plan to do with your business unless you really know what you want out of your business.
2. Identify Yourself
Though many small business owners do not see the point in creating a brand for themselves, you are creating a brand whether you realize it or not. So why not do it deliberately? Include in your marketing plan exactly what you want your customers’ and the market’s perception of your business to be. What personality will your business take on? What do you want to be known for? What do you want the “gossip” about you to be about? This should be spelled out in your marketing plan and should be something that you actively strive for on a day to day basis.
3. Develop a Budget
Be sure to include in your yearly marketing plan the budget for the year as well as your plan for achieving this budget. Though there will always be additional financial documentation separate from the marketing plan, it helps to include exactly what your goals are for spending, budget, and earning. This way you have a perfect example to look at; and remember to always leave room for flexibility and editing of your marketing plan.
4. Describe Your Product or Service
One of the greatest things about your small business marketing plan is that it will come in very useful as your business grows. You’ll be able to hand it off to your new team members and they’ll have a perfect sense of where the business is going and how it’s going to get there.
But one of the funniest things I encounter in working with small businesses is that many of the ancillary team members can’t exactly tell me what the business they work for does. Since they’re only involved in a small portion of the business, they’re not familiar (or have never been told) the big picture. This is especially true with consulting businesses and service providers.
So be sure to describe in detail your product or service and how it will improve the lives of your customers. Many small business owners skip this step, thinking they already know exactly what they do. But remember, you’ll have a larger audience than just yourself for your small business marketing plan – and you might be pleasantly surprised at useful this step is to you and how you view your future marketing activities.
5. Describe Your Target Consumer
You should make it abundantly clear within your marketing plan who your business is aimed at and how you plan to market to that particular group. Clearly targeted customers are vital to a business or marketing plan. Your plan is all about articulating who, what, when, where, and why. This is the “who” and it helps to make it clear to everyone in the business (especially you) what sort of person you are targeting as a potential customer or client. By having a very clear description of your target customer, when you set out to advertise, promote, or change a product, you’ll know exactly where and when to do that. You’ll know where to spend your advertising dollars, you’ll know how to phrase your messages, you’ll know what type of graphics to use, and on and on. Don’t be tempted to skip this either – again, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at a useful it is to get your target market profile down on paper.
6. Tell What Makes You Unique?
Being able to set yourself apart from all of your competitors is a huge part your small business marketing challenge. You need to clearly separate yourself from the crowd. This is called your “unique selling proposition”. What makes you different? How do you stand out from other businesses that are selling the same product or offering the same services? Create a clear and coherent statement on this differentiation within your marketing plan. Not only does this help to improve confidence in your product, but if a prospect asks why he should do business with you, you’ll have a clear answer to give him.
Can’t find anything that sets you apart? Be sure to spend the time creating something! Schedule a brainstorming session with your staff members, your best clients, even your family and friends. Often times, these people already know what sets you apart, and it’s usually something that you’ve taken for granted all along. And one last word of warning: avoid using Price as your unique selling proposition. There is always someone willing to undercut you or use your product as a loss leader, trapping you in a never-ending game of sales and price reductions.
Despite their best efforts, small businesses and professional services companies sometimes find that they just do not achieve the results intended or their business marketing plans cannot be fully implemented. Marketing plans can fail or miss the mark for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons, however, can be found in the business marketing strategy and not in the action plans.
Here are five tests of a business marketing strategy that must be met if your marketing plan and your activities are expected to succeed.
1. Alignment with Business Strategy. It is absolutely essential that you align your business marketing strategy with your business strategy. The marketing strategy needs to flow from the business strategy. For example, if your growth strategy is to increase business by adding a new product, you will be working at cross purposes if your overall strategy is to focus on selling your existing products.
2. Budget Sensitivity. The budget establishes the boundaries for your business marketing strategy. No matter how great an idea seems, if you have spent half of your budget and you need the rest to meet your goals, you simply cannot pursue the new idea without additional funds.
3. Comprehensive. Your business marketing strategy should outline all of your marketing goals, as well as the tactics you will use to accomplish them. It needs to encompass all of your marketing activities – traditional, internet, mobile, point of sale, etc. But it also needs to allow just enough flexibility to permit you to make some changes in order to take advantage of an unanticipated opportunity with a very high chance of success.
4. Balanced. It is unlikely that you will be reaching out to a single, narrowly defined demographic within your target audience or that you will use a single marketing tactic. A successful business marketing strategy will include ways to reach several segments of your target audience and will speak to those people through more than one medium.
5. Audience Determined. A good business marketing strategy will reflect significant research into the desires, needs and preferences of your target market. It will, then, use the tactics most likely to reach that audience where they can most commonly be found. It will reflect your understanding of the message they need to hear and the communication medium they prefer.
If your business marketing strategy can pass these five tests, you will be well on your way to crafting a winning plan that will achieve your goals and grow your business in the strategic direction you want the business to go.
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