Marketing plans come in all different shapes and sizes. As something of a marketing geek, I COULD spend days researching and putting together a weighty tome for pretty much any business, large or small. There’s one big problem with that: no one will ever read it.
Business owners are just too busy. I know that. I am one.
However, if you’ve never written a marketing plan for your business before, make this year the year you start. It doesn’t need to take long and it doesn’t need to be complicated. But taking a couple of hours to think and plan now will give you some direction, help you focus and save you time and money in the long run by avoiding costly mistakes. The simpler you can make the plan, the more effective it’s likely to be as you’ll actually stand a chance of using it!
Hopefully these pointers will make the task a bit less daunting.
Step 1: Be clear who you are, what you do and who you want to reach
Start with the basics and answer these questions:
- Why am I here? (I’m not talking big, soul-searching ‘why am I here?’. I mean what is your business here to do?)
- What sets me apart from my competitors?
- Who is my ideal customer? You can read some more tips on knowing your customer here.
- What is most important to my customers when they’re buying what I’m selling?
- How can I reach these people? (Think about associations they might belong to, social media channels they might use, places in your local community that they congregate, publications they read…)
A couple of lines for each will do. It’ll help focus your mind and make sure you’re planning on saying the right things to the right people throughout the rest of your plan.
Step 2: Set some goals
What do you want to achieve for your business through your marketing this year?
These goals will be linked to your business goals for the year, but try to make them as specific as possible.
For example, if growing your revenue by 15% in 2015 is part of your overall plan, think about how you can do that through marketing. A marketing goal linked to this might be:
- Expand market into new territory A, so it accounts for 5% of your revenue in 2015, or
- Reach 100 new customers in the 18-30 age bracket by December 2015, or
- Convert 20% of existing customers to a new service plan…
Don’t go too mad. Five or six goals should be plenty for most businesses. It’s a good feeling to look back at these goals at the end of the year and tick those which you achieved, so try and make them measurable.
Step 3: Set a budget
I’ve written a bit about marketing budgets before. As a guide, look at allocating 5% of your net projected revenue to marketing to maintain your market position, 10% to grow your business, and up to 20% if you’re launching a new product or are operating in a particularly competitive environment.
The main thing is to be realistic and only spend what you can afford. But don’t be afraid of spending money on marketing. It’s an investment that you will see a return on, if you take the time to plan and spend it wisely.
Step 4: Write a to-do list
This is a simple way to think of your marketing tactics. Essentially, it’s a list of things you’re going to do, using the budget you’ve allocated, to achieve the goals you set. The questions that you’ve already answered should help give you some ideas. You may need to do a bit of research too, particularly around costs, but what you’re aiming for is a list of specific actions you’re going to take.
- Run an advert in February in Accounting Today magazine
- Send press release to local newspaper in March about new product launch
- Send direct mail in April to local businesses in Norwich about new product launch
- Launch Facebook page in May with competition to win a weekend break and post new message each week
- Have a stand at county show in August.
It’s important to remember that you should never rely on just one marketing channel, but make sure that there is some consistency to the messages you’re sending out. Remember to always include a clear call to action which tells people what you want them to do as a result of coming into contact with your marketing (for example, call you or redeem a voucher).
It’s also good to have an idea of what you will call a success for each piece of marketing, be that making a 200% return on your investment through direct orders generated, or generating five phone calls. That will help you know whether to repeat that activity again in the future.
This step is probably the most time-consuming as there are lots of possible channels that might work for your business and it might be difficult to know where to start. Keep your target market and your goals front of mind and that should help.
You might also find that allocating some of your marketing budget to working with a marketing professional will really pay off. In the same way as you might pay an accountant to look after your accounts, paying a marketing person to look after your marketing can ensure you’re doing the right things and getting the best out of your investment as well as saving you the time and effort of having to do it yourself.
Step 5: Review
Throughout the year, things will change in your business which might mean that you need to revisit your plan. Having one to revisit is a good start, but don’t be afraid to make changes to it as you go. Your plan should be flexible.
Keep track of your results as you go. If one advert worked particularly well for you, you might want to revise your plan to repeat that activity rather than another which proved less successful. That’s all part of the process and the only way to improve your marketing and make sure it continues to work for your business.
Now, just do it!
It’s easy to put off writing a marketing plan until tomorrow. But if you do, before you know it, you’ll be halfway through the year and will have thrown your entire marketing budget down the pan on poorly targeted adverts. So come on. Schedule some time in your diary and don’t move it.
There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer, but I hope these tips will at least help you take the first steps towards a more thoughtful approach to your small business marketing. If you need a bit more help, just get in touch.