Last week we helped you get started in writing your business plan. Today we’re going to cover what could be the most crucial part of that business plan – your marketing plan.
Your marketing plan is not just important; it’s completely and utterly 100% necessary. An old Chinese proverb says: “To open a shop is easy. The difficult thing is to keep it open.”
If you enjoy doing business and would like to keep your doors open for years to come, you must have a clear idea about who exactly is your target market. In knowing how you will reach this audience, you’ll keep them coming back for more.
A smart marketing plan will help you spend your hard-earned marketing dollars more wisely and efficiently. It will help you establish a clear way to reach new customers, thank the repeat customers you have, and most of all, it will help you do business in a unique way that will make your audience want to buy from you… not from your competition!
Marketing plans are much like business plans – they will look different from one business to another. Your marketing plan could be a simple three-page summary or it could be several hundred pages. It all depends on your company and what you’re selling. There are many marketing templates online available to help you.
I’m going to outline a simple marketing plan that will work for most home businesses. If you want to expand on this plan…great! I encourage you to add to it and make it work for you in the fullest.
Five easy steps to writing your own marketing plan:
1. Do your research first.
Think about the market you’re in. Research the environment in which you will be doing business. Start by analyzing a few key areas:
- Who are your customers?
- What do they like to buy?
- Who is the competition?
- What makes them they buy from the competition?
- When and where do they prefer to buy it?
- Why would they buy your product or service over the competition?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can then begin to create ways to advertise your product or service that will effectively put you in front of the competition and snag you more business.
2. Write your goals down.
You need to know what you want to achieve with your marketing. Choose specific, measurable goals that you can track over time. It isn’t enough to set a goal to get more business. Rather, a measurable and specific goal would be: “Get three new clients each month this year.”
Your goals should be attainable and realistic; otherwise you’ve just set yourself up for failure. Please don’t mistake me – I want you to dream and dream big! Just be smart about it. Don’t set goals you can never attain, yet at the same time, you need to learn to stretch yourself. Otherwise, it’s likely you’ll never grow very much. Set both long-term and short-term goals for your marketing.
3. Target your markets.
You’ve already established who your customers are. But now you’ll need to categorize that market into smaller groups. This allows you to prioritize exactly who it is you’re seeking out. You’ll need to determine what markets have your highest potential for profits, what markets have the least competition, and so on. You may not want to waste your time on a small market that won’t bring in much business. It may be wise to write a few “target client profiles” in this section; write down exactly who it is you want to attract your way.
Marketing experts often talk about the “Four P’s” when it comes to strategizing. The four P’s are: Product, Price, Promotions, and Place.
- Product: what you choose to sell
- Price: how much you charge for your product/service
- Promotions: different ways you’ll communicate with your customers
- Place: the channels you use to distribute your product (online, storefront, direct shipping, wholesale, retail, etc.)
As the marketer, the good news is you can control each of the four P’s. But to find the optimum approach, you’ll want to periodically mix them up and try different combinations. That way you’ll maximize your ability to reach every market you categorized above.
In this section you’ll also want to set your marketing strategies and tactics. Look back at your goals. They are the foundation from which you build everything else. Next you’ll want to think about your strategies. A strategy is an idea, or possible ways the goal could be achieved.
After you set your strategy, you’ll create a list of marketing tactics to help you meet those goals. Simply put, a tactic is an action you take to execute the strategy. Confused? Don’t be. Just remember: Goals first. Then strategy. Then tactics. Here’s an example I used earlier:
- Goal: Get three new clients each month this year.
- Strategy: Increase awareness about the services we offer.
- Tactics: Host a community lunch & seminar, conduct two open houses, offer free half-hour consultation, be a guest on local morning show, begin sending a weekly e-newsletter to current clients, offer referral bonuses.
5. Execute the plan.
First, you’ll need to decide if your marketing work will be done completely in-house or not. Once you decide that, determine if you’ll hire an employee or two to help you with your marketing, or if you’ll outsource your marketing to an agency or freelancer. You’ll need to analyze what this will cost you and include it in your overall business plan and budget.
Stay the course.
Now that you’ve invested the time and energy into writing a great marketing plan, it is essential that you stay the course. Be patient. Resist the temptation to tinker with your goals, strategies, and tactics before you get a chance to test them. There will be time to sit down and evaluate your plan and make changes, but you must give it adequate time to “do its magic.”
Next time, I’ll give you some insight into how to conduct market research all on your own.