A good marketing plan is a roadmap for how you define, present, and promote your business. It will guide future advertising campaigns, the contents of your website, and where you spend money to grow.
It is not unusual to see marketing plans for large, established businesses to run into the hundreds of pages. This does not mean that your small business cannot develop an effective plan that runs less than a handful of pages.
What is important is what your plan covers. It is also necessary to understand that no two marketing plans are likely to be the same. Your marketing plan should be unique to the needs, strengths, and resources available to your business. That said, there are elements which all marketing plans have in common.
Who Is Your Customer?
The most important part of your marketing plan is to identify your customers. For example, if your business is a pet store, are your customers dog-owners…cat-owners…both, or perhaps none of the above. Maybe your business focuses exclusively on exotic birds! The point is that to efficiently market to your customer, it is absolutely necessary that you define who that customer is. Do this by:
- Defining the type of customer you serve. Are your customers consumers? Parents? Other businesses? Clearly define the broader audience as it will impact the tactics you ultimately use.
- Select two to three personas. Within the broader audience, identify two or three personas who represent your ideal customer. As a pet shop owner, your ideal persona might be a young, unmarried professional with several cats. Or it could be a parent of two children who recently got their children a new pet. Know who you want to reach.
- Define the pain points your audience faces. Based on your audience and personas, what are the most common questions, concerns, and problems they face? Marketing materials, including anything you write, should speak to these pain points.
The 4 Ps
Your marketing strategy should cover the four Ps: price, product, place, and promotion. Each component must be carefully defined so you can set budgets and measure results against expectations. Considerations include:
- Pricing – Research is required to decide upon the optimal price at which you can successfully offer your goods or services. You will need to understand what your competitors offer and what the demand for your product or service is likely to be.
- Product – What exactly are you selling? For many small businesses, this feels like a no-brainer, but have you actually sat down to outline exactly what your primary value proposition is and why customers buy from you? Ask questions about what the primary pain points your product resolves, the advantages it has over the competition, and where it fits with existing products your customers have.
- Place – Where will you sell your product? Online? Trade shows? Storefront? Especially in the digital age, product placement can have a substantial impact on how you promote your business.
- Promotion – Lastly, you must consider how you will promote your product or service. This means determining what your target customers are likely to respond to and what financial resources are available to promote your business.
Your budget will be divided between brand development and promotion of your business (e.g., advertising, events, and campaigns). In this category, no two businesses are the same. Allocate what you feel is needed to make an impact and tweak it as you go along. There are strategies that small businesses can employ that cost very little money. Examples include:
- Content marketing, better known as blogging. High quality content that speaks to the needs of your audience can establish your brand as a thought leader that prospects turn to for insights. Articles can offer advice, commentary on the news, announcements, or how-to walkthroughs.
- Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Small businesses should be active on any social media channel that fits your audience. A pet store should post regularly to the major channels highlighting upcoming sales, spotlighting rescue animals up for adoption, and running contests or discussing community events. A local law firm, on the other hand, should invest more heavily in LinkedIn – a platform for professions.
- Using holidays to leverage advertising campaigns or events – Whether it’s a big sale for Cyber Monday or a seasonal promotion around the 4th of July, use holidays to your advantage to attract attention and promote your products and services.
- Guerrilla tactics like news-jacking, which leverages breaking news stories by redirecting their momentum. For example, a story about a Burmese python escaping from the local zoo might be redirected in a manner that highlights the reptile selection in your pet store.
No marketing plan is flawless from the start. Experience will dictate what changes need to be made as you experiment with different strategies. Even when you have a clear plan outlined, revisit it regularly to evaluate performance and make adjustments. Be open to change and alert to new opportunities. You never know when the chance will arise to promote your business in new and exciting ways.