You’ve probably heard it before: Much like having a business plan is crucial to launching and growing a business, having a marketing plan is critical to reaching customers and selling successfully.
OK, great. But now what? How can you develop a small business marketing plan quickly and simply? First know that marketing is not a single action but a combination of steps that your business takes to identify, attract and retain profitablecustomers. It includes everything from market research, advertising, pricing and packaging, to what employees wear, your mix of print and online ads and much more.
In short, marketing is the very core of your business. It’s important to have a plan of attack. For example, can you clearly identify your mission and what sets you apart from your competitors? It’s tough to market without this knowledge.
Marketing plans are flexible but generally include your goals, product or service descriptions, target markets, competitive analysis, pricing, distribution methods (print, digital, mobile, etc.) and action plan. These 10 steps can help you develop a successful small business marketing plan:
- Mission: This is your cornerstone. Write a short paragraph that defines what compelling advantage or value you offer, including how it solves a problem and makes the customer’s life easier. Be specific. Pinpoint the customer “pain” that your product or service will relieve. Before you can effectively market yourself — create an online presence with ads, websites or online campaigns — you must decide what type of problem solver you want your business to be.
- Market research: This is how you identify customers’ needs and wants. Build a detailed, trait-by-trait profile of your ideal prospects. Again, be as specific as possible. Later, when you create your marketing messages, aim those messages at those prospects. The research does not need to be complex or costly. Online research, one-on-one interviews with prospects, informal focus groups and email or web-based surveys are all inexpensive and relatively easy to do.
- Define your product or service: Carefully identify every product or service you offer. Some products or services can be broken into pieces and priced separately. List all the benefits that you can offer. You will want to incorporate those in your marketing message.
- Check the competition: Identify your key competitors – both direct and indirect – including their strengths and weaknesses, and how your business compares. Write down your analysis and make it part of your small business marketing plan.
- Prepare proper pricing: Analyze your pricing structure and avoid the “markup mistake.” That is when a business merely calculates the costs and adds a set markup. Instead, use your market research to establish what customers are willing to pay and build the pricing around that.
- Build a budget and promotion mix: Don’t think of marketing as a cost, but rather as your ace in the hole. This is what gives you the edge over competitors who don’t do marketing or do it poorly. Also, your employees are better motivated when your business is in the public eye. Look for marketing partners that can offer you multiple ways to split your spend through a single provider, or that offer some type of action guarantee.
- Match marketing to your target terrain: If yours is a local market, then that’s where your marketing focus should be. Once you have the basics covered, consider marketing neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block and even customer by customer.
- Marketing metrics: Build testing and metrics into your small business marketing plan. Marketing should not be risky or single-focus. One advantage of advertising online is the ability to track results effortlessly.
- Prepare a marketing message that resonates: Craft a rallying cry – a small, repeatable phrase that becomes the slogan for promoting your product, idea or business. Fine-tune all messages. Edit, revise and hone every word so they are as focused and punchy as possible. Coordinate key phrases in all your marketing materials. For maximum impact, repeat critical messages verbatim whenever you can.
- Include an action plan: Simplify everything; eliminate potential interruptions in the sales process and make decision-making as painless as possible for your customers. Make sure your employees grasp your objectives and strategy and plan to market continuously. Your effort must be ongoing or people will quickly forget.