Ten Steps to a Great Small Business Marketing Plan - dummies

Ten Steps to a Great Small Business Marketing Plan

By Barbara Findlay Schenck

A great marketing plan is focused on your target audience, market environment, and competitive situation. When creating a marketing plan, be clear about the image and message you want to convey. Choose engaging marketing tactics that pull customers to your business, your products, and your cash register.

State your business purpose

Write your business purpose, such as:

To fuel the success of small business leaders and entrepreneurs by providing big-time marketing advice and tools scaled to fit the clocks, calendars, budgets, and pressing realities of small businesses in today’s customer-empowered, screen-connected world.

Analyze your market situation

Describe the changes, problems, and opportunities that your business currently faces:

  • Your customers: Are they undergoing economic or lifestyle changes that affect their buying decisions? Are they using new communication or purchasing channels that require adjustments in how you reach and serve them? Are their numbers growing or declining in your current market area?

  • Your competition: How much direct and indirect competition do you face? Are new businesses competing for your customers’ dollars or threatening your business? Have competitors closed, leaving a hole that you can fill?

  • Your market environment: Do you foresee economic changes that will affect your business? What about building or road changes that may alter buying patterns or access to your business? Will your company be affected by regional or industry events that can boost business if you promote around them? If your business is weather-reliant, are forecasts in your favor?

Set goals and objectives

Before planning your marketing strategies, establish what you aim to achieve. For example, win three new major clients or increase revenues by 10 percent.

Put your goal and objectives in writing and then stick with them for the duration of the marketing-plan period. Each time a marketing opportunity arises, ask, “Will this opportunity help us meet our goal? Does this opportunity support one or more of our objectives?” If the answer to either question is no, quickly pass on the opportunity.

Define your market

Define your market in terms of geographics (where target customers live), demographics (who your customers are in factual terms such as age, gender, religion, ethnicity, marital status, income level, education, and household size), and psychographics (how your customers live, including their attitudes, behavioral patterns, beliefs, and values), then:

  • Develop marketing tactics that appeal to your target market.

  • Create advertising messages that align with the unique interests and emotions of existing and prospective customers.

  • Select effective communication vehicles.

  • Weigh marketing opportunities based on their ability to reach those who match your customer profile.

Advance your position, brand, and creative strategy

Define your company’s position and brand statements and creative strategy:

  • Your position is the available and meaningful niche that only your business can fill in your target consumer’s mind.

  • Your brand is the set of characteristics, attributes, and implied promises that people remember and trust to be true about your business.

  • Your creative strategy is the formula you follow to uphold your position and brand in all your marketing communications.

Set your marketing strategies

In your marketing plan, detail the strategies you’ll follow, including:

  • Product strategies: How will you add, alter, or promote products to develop customers and sales? Will you introduce products, revise products, or shift emphasis to a certain product or package of products?.

  • Distribution strategies: Will you alter the means by which you get your product to customers? Will you partner with other businesses or open outlets for off-premise sales? Will your website play an expanded role in getting your message or product to customers?

  • Pricing strategies: Over the marketing-plan period, will you adjust the pricing strategy of your business — by, for instance, moving up from low-cost pricing or adding more affordable alternatives to your current premium-price position? Will you announce new prices or payment options, a frequent buyer pricing schedule, quantity discounts, rebates, or other pricing offers?

  • Promotion strategies: How will you use advertising, online communications, public relations, and promotions to support your marketing strategies?

Outline your tactics

The next section of your marketing plan details the tactics you’ll employ to implement your strategies. For example, if one of your strategies is to introduce a new product, the sequence of tactics may look like this:

  1. Select an ad agency and develop product identity and ads.

  2. Establish a direct-mail program and direct-mail list.

  3. Create sales literature and product landing pages.

  4. Develop a publicity plan.

  5. Place ads.

  6. Implement social media and blogger outreach programs.

  7. Send direct mailers.

  8. Generate industry and regional-market publicity.

  9. Train your staff.

  10. Unveil the product at a special event.

  11. Track results.

  12. Adjust communications prior to a second wave of communications.

Establish your budget

Your plan needs to define how much your business will devote to its marketing program. Start at zero and include costs for ad creation, media placements, direct mail, website and new page designs, trade show fees, displays, packaging, and other marketing tactics. If you require additional staffing to implement your plan, incorporate those costs into your budget. Then add a contingency of 10 percent to cover unanticipated costs.

Most businesses invest a combination of marketing dollars and marketing hours to achieve success. The more time you invest — in networking, social media, and one-to-one outreach — the fewer dollars you’ll likely need to budget.

Blueprint your action plan

One easy way to prepare this blueprint is to create an action agenda in calendar form. Begin by entering all key events that affect your marketing plan, such as trade shows, community events, and major buying season launch dates. Then use the calendar to detail the marketing actions your plan requires, along with the budget for each action, the deadline, and the responsible party.

Think long term

In the final section of your marketing plan, list growth opportunities to research over the coming year for possible action in future marketing-plan periods, such as:

  • New or expanded business locations to serve more consumers

  • New geographic market areas outside your current market area

  • New customers different from those in your current customer base

  • New products or product packages that will inspire additional purchases

  • New pricing strategies

  • New distribution channels

  • New customer-service programs

  • Mergers, business acquisitions, recruitment of key executives, and formation of new business alliances

Choose one to three opportunities to explore and commit to producing an analysis before development of next year’s marketing plan begins.