by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator, SBA.gov
Have you ever written a marketing plan for your business? Do you keep putting off the task?
Whether you are launching a new product or promoting your latest offer, a marketing plan is worth taking the time to complete. Why?
As a small business owner, it’s likely that you not only own the task of coming up with a strategic plan, but also the act of executing it (writing email copy, hosting events, etc.). If this is you, then a plan can help you direct your day-to-day activities, guide your approach, and ensure you are making the most of the available resources.
The good news is that a marketing plan needn’t be encyclopedic or overly time consuming to prepare. In fact, in my experience, the simpler the plan, the more effective it can be (bog yourself down in too many details and you’ll quickly lose focus). A simple plan also gives you the flexibility to quickly adjust your tactics if you need to.
Here are five tips for developing a basic marketing plan that can be applied to discrete activities such as a product launch or promotional campaigns.
1. Build a Precise Picture of Your Ideal Customer
Identifying your target market is the first step of any marketing plan and it’s essential that you are as precise as possible. If not, you run the risk of a scatter-gun approach that will dilute your message and drain your budget. Instead, think about your target market in terms of specifics – who in your current customer base is the right fit for your product or service? What have they purchased from you before? Do their purchasing patterns suggest they might be a good target? Are they the kind of customer you even enjoy doing business with? What about reaching new customers outside your customer base?
The more specific you can be, the easier it will be to craft the right message and tactics for reaching that audience. Read 5 Ways to Find the Right Niche and Target Market for your Small Business for more tips.
2. What do you Want to Accomplish?
Again, be specific. Stating that you want to increase brand awareness about your business/product isn’t really specific enough. Think about what actions you want them to take after they are made aware of your campaign or promotional activity. Do you want them to register for an event, take advantage of a special offer, upgrade an existing product, invest in training, or request a quote? There may be multiple actions that you want them to take. For example, a webinar could be positioned as a free training opportunity and your initial action goal would be to get your target market to register for the event. However, once the event is over, you may then want to circle back with attendees and see if they are interested in receiving more information (such as a one-on-one product demo or quote for a product or service).
These actions will drive your messaging and delivery methods.
3. How Can You Reach your Targets?
Now that you know who you want to reach and what actions you want them to take, you’ll need to identify the best ways to reach them and with what message. To do this, consider the following about your customers and prospects:
What associations do they belong to?
Are they active on social media?
Do they subscribe to your email marketing?
What print or online media do they read?
What are their pain points (how can you help address these)?
What types of messages or call to actions have they responded to in the past?
Why should they care about what you have to offer (what’s in it for them / in what ways will they benefit)?
4. Work Out Your Budget
When it comes to planning your budget, either start with a figure that you can afford, or determine your tactics, price them out (my preferred method) and prioritize where necessary. You can always adjust your budget as you go, so be flexible. For tips on calculating your marketing budget read: How to Set a Marketing Budget that Fits your Business Goals and Provides a High Return on Investment.
5. Plan Your Tactics
Your tactics are the actions you need to take to help you reach your target market and accomplish your goals. These include specifics such as direct mail, email marketing, print/radio/online advertising, blogs, social media, case studies, webinars, events, sponsorships and so on.
Never rely on one tactic alone. An integrated approach that delivers a consistent message across multiple, targeted platforms is the best way to ensure you reach your target market and get the most out of your budget. Refer back to who it is you are trying to reach, where they are, and what you want them to do.
Above all, be flexible. Track results and adjust your tactics and messaging as you go. I’ve seen many campaigns start out with one message and close out with a completely different one. Try out new email subject lines, test social media messages, and keep a close eye on what works and what doesn’t.
Don’t forget a call to action – whether it’s taking advantage of a coupon, downloading a white paper, or attending an event. Use a unique code for each medium so that you can track where your leads are coming from. This blog offers some tips: 8 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Offers and Calls to Action.
Lastly, don’t forget to include internal elements to our plan such as sales training or briefings about your campaign or new product offering.
Good luck! For more help, contact your local Small Business Development Center. They offer training, counseling and support for business owners in all areas of business planning and operation.
Additional Resources: For more marketing tips, check out SBA’s extensive archive of marketing-related blogs.
5 Tips for Writing a Basic (and Un-Daunting) Marketing Plan | SBA.gov.