It is imperative that, as a small business owner, you create a marketing plan. It's also imperative that you realize your marketing plan 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 visibly 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 agreements, 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
Although 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 kindly? 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. Although 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 learning. 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 not 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 greater 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. Do not 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 of 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 not 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.
A small business marketing plan is essential to your business. It does not have to be something large and cumbersome; you'll get more use out of a marketing plan that is flexible and easy to follow. So I challenge you to set away a few hours over this upcoming weekend and begin drafting your small business marketing plan. You'll be amazed at how helpful this step is to the growth of your business.