If you plan to start your own business or if you have already started, you should develop a full marketing plan for your new startup.
Long ago Peter Drucker, a famous business consultant and author said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
Creating a marketing plan doesn’t have to be difficult. It may take some time, but if done correctly you will be happy to learn more about your business, your competitors, and your customers.
Steps to an Effective Marketing Plan
1. Conduct market research
Market research doesn’t have to be expensive. Many large companies may spend more if they are rolling out a new product or service. But as a first-time entrepreneur for your small business, you can save money by doing it yourself.
First, conduct primary research. You should survey potential customers. You can either hire someone to conduct focus groups or conduct this research yourself. Send out surveys by email, regular mail, or conduct telephone interviews. People liked to be asked what they want from a business. Ensure you don’t just ask your friends for this information – ask the community.
Questions could include items such as what they like or don’t like about their current products or services? Would they buy this type of product or service? What would they pay for this product or service? Research the best questions to ask and ensure you don’t ask too many. People will not answer if it takes more than a couple of minutes. Make it multiple choice and allow a section for comments.
Second, conduct secondary research by visiting your local library. Ask your librarian where the business reference section is located. Some sources to look at are Standard & Poors, IBISWorld,ThomasNetHarris, and Hoovers. They can help you look at your competitors, find manufacturers for your product, and identify consumer buying trends.
By visiting your local library, you will more information than those who just search online.
2. Identify your target market
Your target market is your customer. You should list everything such as ages, income levels, areas they live, etc. With a clear target market, you can determine where to spend your marketing dollars.
You should look at your current customer base and your competitor’s target markets. Look for opportunities to offer services to different customers in a niche market. For example, if you own a janitorial service, could you offer janitorial services using green and environmentally approved products?
You should analyze each product and service you offer. Then, you will list the benefits it will offer to your customers. Try to identify the benefits which stand out the most and offer the most competitive value to your customers.
Identify the personal characteristics of your target market and how they shop. Once you do that, analyze all the information you have discovered to determine if your customer base is big enough.
3. Conduct a competitive analysis
This is where you thoroughly research your competitors. By completing a good competitive analysis, you will determine exactly what you need to do or what changes you may need to make.
By analyzing everything about your competitors, you will be able to identify ways to make your business unique.
You should list your competitors, how they market, where they market, and who are their customers. List their content areas such as if they are blogging, what social media channels they use, and what they are doing good and what they should do differently. Also, research changes they made. What did they formally do to market their products or services and what are they doing now?
Know their strengths and weaknesses. For example, if they are listed as one of the top placements on search engines, research their content on their website and blog. Learn what keywords do they use and how often are they blogging?
What would you do the same and what would you do differently?
4. Find out what is your position in that target market?
Market positioning is an effort to influence consumer perception of a brand or product relative to the perception of competing brands or products.
You should ask yourself a series of questions to help you determine your market position. You should determine exactly who you are trying to sell to and what you’re selling. For example, if you want to start a landscape business, do you want to sell to homeowners or commercial businesses? Do you want to mow or offer intricate landscape designs? Identify what makes your product or service unique.
Finally, you will write your positioning statement. It should say who the target market is, what they will be buying from you, how you will market to them, your competition, and what is unique about your product or service. This is called USP or unique selling proposition.
Your positioning statement is used to communicate to your customers. It will help you create your marketing materials to reach your customers.
5. Set Goals and Identify Your Strategy
After you have completed the steps above, you will have the information to create a marketing strategy. This is where you identify exactly what your competitors offer and what you will do differently to get a competitive advantage.
But first, you should set your marketing goals. What do you want to accomplish and what is your timeline? For example, do you want to rank higher on search engines? How do you rank on search engines and what do you need to do to get higher on search pages? List the action items you need to reach those goals.
Using all the information you have gathered and your goals, this is where you can develop your thorough and complete marketing strategy. It is the summary and strategy of all the information compiled.
Research best practices and identify your top opportunities.
6. Determine your budget
Once you have determined what you want to do, determine your cost. List everything you want to do and how much it will cost. You should only focus on your marketing costs and determine if you can afford to do everything you would like to do.
This line item will go in your overall budget for your business and you should plan to adjust it for future growth.
7. Determine if your marketing plan meets your Return on Investment (ROI)
Once your marketing has been running for a couple months, determine if you are getting the ROI you wanted on your timeline. You may need to adjust and change it if you are not seeing any growth or sales.
Don’t be afraid to change what you are doing, but ensure you are giving your strategies and plan enough time to work.
Before starting your business, it is imperative to ensure your product or service will sell. By creating a good, thorough marketing plan, you will be much more knowledgeable about your potential small business.
Your marketing plan includes everything you will do to promote your business. It is included in your business plan and it doesn’t have to be big. It should give you clarity and enough information to develop and implement a competitive strategy for your new business.
Author: Kimberley Kay Travis
Kim Travis has over 20 years of experience in business, human resource management, and leadership roles. She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, small business growth, leadership development, workplace safety and health programs, and writing business content.