Nearly everyone knows to be successful you need a business plan, yet many entrepreneurs don’t realize a marketing plan is just as vital. Unlike a business plan, a marketing plan focuses on winning and keeping customers; it’s strategic and includes numbers, facts and objectives.
A good marketing plan spells out all the tools and tactics you’ll use to achieve your sales goals.
It’s your plan of action – the type of product or service you’ll be offering, the type of person who will want to buy it and the tactics you’ll use to generate leads that result in sales.
Here’s a closer look at creating a marketing plan that works:
Step 1: Begin with a quick “overlook” of your company’s current situation, called a “situation analysis.”
This first section defines your company and its products or services, then it will show how your benefits separate you from the competition.
Target audiences have become extremely specialized and segmented. No matter your industry, from restaurants to professional services to retail clothing stores, positioning your product or service competitively requires an understanding of your NICHE market.
How Are You Going to Provide Better Value?
Not only do you need to be able to describe what you market, but you must also have a clear understanding of what your competitors are offering and be able to show how your product or service provides a better value.
Make a list of the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Strengths and weaknesses refer to characteristics that exist within your business, while opportunities and threats refer to outside factors. To determine your company’s strengths, consider the ways that its products are superior to others, or if your service is more comprehensive, for example; What do you offer that gives your business a competitive advantage? Weaknesses, on the other hand, can be anything from operating in a highly saturated market to inexperienced employees or team.
Next, describe any external opportunities you can capitalize on, such as; is the market for your product or service expanding or decreasing? How will you over-come any threats to your company profits?
You must analyze your product’s features and decide how they distinguish your product from its competitors.
Investigate and describe what type of buyer is most likely to purchase your product. What are you selling? Convenience? Quality? Discount pricing? You can’t offer it all. Knowing what your customers WANT will you create a product or service they will want to purchase.
Step 2: Describe your target audience.
Creating a simple, one-paragraph profile of your prospective customer is essential. YOU MUST KNOW WHO WANTS YOUR PRODUCT. You can describe prospects in terms of demographics—age, sex, family composition, earnings and geographic location—as well as lifestyle. Ask yourself the following: Are my customers conservative or innovative? Leaders or followers? Timid or aggressive? Traditional or modern? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what I offer? In what quantity?
If you’re a business-to-business marketer, you may define your target audience based on their type of business, job title, size of business, geographic location or any other characteristics that make them possible prospects. No matter who your target audience is, be sure to narrowly define WHO they are. This will be your guide as you plan your media and public relations campaigns.
Step 3: List your marketing goals.
What do you want your marketing plan to achieve? For example; are you hoping for a 20 percent increase in sales of your product per quarter? Write down a short list of goals—and make them measurable so that you’ll know when you’ve achieved them.
Step 4: Develop the marketing strategies you’ll use.
This aspect is the NUTS AND BOLTS of your marketing plan. In the previous sections, you outlined what your marketing must accomplish and identified your best prospects; now it’s time to detail the tactics you’ll use to reach these prospects and accomplish your goals.
A good marketing program targets prospects at all stages of your sales cycle. Some marketing tactics, such as many forms of advertising, public relations and direct marketing, are great for reaching cold prospects.
Warm prospects—those who’ve previously been exposed to your marketing message and perhaps even met you personally—will respond best to permission-based email, loyalty programs and customer appreciation events, among others.
Your hottest prospects are individuals who’ve been exposed to your sales and marketing messages and are ready to close a sale. Generally, interpersonal sales contact (whether in person, by phone, or email) combined with marketing adds the final heat necessary to close sales.
To complete your STRATEGY section, outline your primary marketing strategies, then include a variety of tactics you’ll use to reach prospects at any point in your sales cycle.
For example, you might combine outdoor billboards, print advertising and online local searches to reach cold prospects but use email to contact your warm prospects.
Discover exactly what type of media your audience will respond to. Which types of media will reach your audience? Avoid broad-based media—even if it attracts your target audience. If it is not relevant then it’s a waste of time and money. The marketing tactics you choose must reach your prospects when they’ll be most receptive to your message.
Step 5: Set your marketing budget.
You’ll need to devote a percentage of projected gross sales to your annual marketing budget. Of course, when starting a business, this may mean using newly acquired funding, borrowing or self-financing. Just bear this in mind—marketing is absolutely essential to the success of your business. And with so many different kinds of tactics available for reaching out to every conceivable audience niche, there’s a certain mix of methods to reach your target market – even if you’re on a low budget.
The key is to NEVER stop marketing—never stop spreading the word, and don’t concern yourself with the more costly tactics until you earn more profits and they become more affordable.