Creating a great marketing plan is integral to business operations and strategy. While many entrepreneurs pay little attention to this step, it’s crucial to understand who your customers are, what information they seek and how to engage them.
A great marketing plan must be well researched and properly articulated to keep your company focused, and should identify the unique aspects of your business and how to leverage them.
Below we’ve outlined a 5-step plan that will help you create a working business strategy and put your company on the path for marketing success.
1. Identify your product or service
You would be surprised how many companies cannot define what they sell. Sure, if you sell clothes or widgets, it’s pretty easy to define your offer. But if you sell a service – that is a whole new story.
Even at RGA, we often find ourselves stumbling over the question – what do you do? We have spent the past year truly looking at our products and services and examining not only what we do, but what we enjoy doing the most. Think about it. If you offer a service, are there aspects of that service that you prefer over others? Narrowing down what you are best at and focusing your efforts and messaging on that particular part of your business will help to set you apart in the marketplace.
For example, if you own a consulting business, figure out what challenge you answer for your client and then how you fix it.
At Definity Partners, a manufacturing consulting firm, their team of consultants help to improve operations and increase bottom line revenue by not only evaluating a facility’s processes and procedures but also by working side-by-side on the floor with the line leaders and managers to implement the actual suggested changes. They take their business one step further by also offering education and training courses to teach the employees processes and procedures that will help reduce cost, eliminate waste and improve production times. That is a high level explanation of what Definity Partners can do for a manufacturer, but that should give you an idea of how you need to explain the pains, or challenges (i.e. improve operations and increase bottom-line revenue) that your service helps to solve and how you do it (getting down and dirty with the line leaders).
2. Identify target customers and competitors in your niche
The world is full of people with different tastes and preferences. As an entrepreneur, it’s your duty to identify what groups would benefit or take interest in your product or service. Once identified, learn more about them! Figure out what they like (and what they don’t) and create a detailed description of your target base.
Create a character, or persona. Envision someone with the character traits of a potential customer to fully understand and appreciate their lifestyle. If you have several target audiences for your products and services, narrow it down to 3 to start and really get to know those potential prospects. Everything you do and say (your messaging) should focus with your character in mind. Every initiative should be focused on connecting to your prospect. Is he looking for you in this space (i.e. on Facebook), does he have this challenge (i.e. weight loss challenges), etc. B2B and B2C have different things to consider and questions to answer but remember, any time you are trying to sell something – you are working with a person that you need to connect with on an intellectual and emotional level (I would call that B2P marketing!).
3. Set marketing goals and objectives
You know what your products and services are. You know your target audience.
Your business goals and objectives should indicate the core requirement they intend to meet. In addition to business objectives, state what you want to achieve with your marketing plan. Do you want to attract a global or local customer base? How are you going to bring in these new clients? There are many ways to articulate a marketing plan’s objective, but it must define action and brand positioning strategies.
Start with this!
WHY do I have this business? (To make money is not an answer!)
What is the goal of my business?
What products and services do I sell?
Where do I want to be in 6 months?
How many clients and from where?
What revenue dollars?
How do you plan to attract these new prospects?
What does my team or company look like in 6 months?
Where do I want to be in 18 months?
How many clients and from where?
What revenue dollars?
What does my team or company look like in 18 months?
4. Outline communication strategies (Hey, I’m here!)
How do your customers hear about you? A great marketing plan shows exactly how you intend to get your message out, loud and clear, that you exist and provide a better product than the competition. Building or updating your website, setting up social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn should all be considered depending on what you are selling) and email are all great places to start.
Make sure your website is up-to-date and polished. Old, tired websites will make your brand (and inadvertently your products and services) look dated. Consider a website refresh and bring new life to your business! Be sure to partner with an expert who can help you design a site that will not only attract new customers when they land on one of your pages, but also a site that is search engine friendly. If you plan to be in business a long time, a site that is is ranked high on the search engines will not only bring in business organically (you won’t have to pay to get to the top of Google) but will help you sell while you sleep.
Social Media is HUGE and growing. No matter what you are selling, there is a social media platform that will help you boost sales. First, get your pages set up, start posting regularly (weekly at a minimum) and then consider advertising on your platform of choice. Believe it or not, Facebook advertising does great for both B2C and B2B – it’s all in the approach and the message. Pull your readers in with compelling and engaging content — anything from videos, to white papers, to testimonials – let them know you care about them and have a product or service that can make their life better. After all, who doesn’t want a better life?
Although social media seems to be a dominating factor these days, email marketing is still the ultimate tool for growing your business and increasing sales. A good email list is key to your success and the future of your company. Do whatever you can to gather email and names from anyone and everyone who may have an interest in your product or service. By building an authentic email list, you will develop trust, grow your brand and have a captive audience at your fingertips with the click of a mouse.
No matter what you do to market your business, remember – competition is inevitable. There will always be other businesses in the same niche, so make sure you are good at articulating why your offer is different or better and strategically position your brand.
Identify at least 3 unique selling propositions for your business
Maybe you offer the best price?
Maybe you offer a unique service on top of the product purchase? (i.e. private training or a Facebook community)
Maybe you have the best location?
If none of these attributes hold true, maybe you have the best quality (be able to have the numbers to back it up) or best customers service, or maybe YOU are the expert in your field with over 20 year of the school-of-knocks experience. Whatever makes you stand apart from the crowd – use that to your advantage.
5. Identify opportunities for long-term development
What’s down the road? More than just drawing them in, a good marketing plan must show exactly how you intend to keep customers. Customer retention is one of the key attributes of a successful enterprise. A business owner must have foresight, with a plan to survive competition by being the first to leverage opportunities.
For B2B this might mean creating a training series or offering a private Facebook group to clients that will give them a sense of community and also give you and all of the members a chance to share new and different ways they can use your product to improve their business.
For B2C it might mean making them part of a study to help you determine what’s next or you could offer a member only program with special discounts or loyalty points for every purchase or referral that earns them free items or rewards.
With any business, you have to spend money to make money. However, you can create a plan to make the most of it. If you aren’t sure where to start, consult an expert. The more you know before you spend, the better decisions you will be able to make. Keep in mind, start small and test, test, test.
Create a budget for all expenses. A clear marketing budget shows where all funds are allocated: collateral, social media, Google AdWords, print advertising, etc. A budget also acts as a guide for potential investors, who will want to know how their investment is being spent.
Remember, planning is key to your success, but doing is what makes you successful. Don’t fail to plan, but get out there and start marketing! And be flexible and agile while keeping site on your WHY and your goals. Ensure you keep these tips in practice to increase your business’s chances of success.
RGA Creative is a brand and digital marketing agency focused on small business. Let us help you get your brand in front of your audience at the right time, in the right place with the message they need to hear from you.
For more information on marketing your business, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.