_marketing plan essentials
The right marketing activities ultimately lead to the sales that support your business.
A marketing plan can help facilitate the understanding and targeting the activities that will serve you best and keep you on the right track. According to David Frey, author of The Small Business Marketing Bible, the plan doesn’t have to be complex and you don’t have to kill a tree to get there. He outlines the following steps, which can help you create a “marketing road map” to the activities that will help you succeed.
The Marketing Road Map Steps
Know Your Market, Know Your Customer.
You might have an excellent product or service, but unless you understand your market and your customer, it may never sell. It’s that simple.
A profitable market consists of people who have specific wants that are being unmet, so much so that they will jump to buy your solution, product or service. To get an understanding of your market you should ask yourself:
• Are there segments in my market that are being underserved?
• Are the segments of my market for my product or service big enough to make money?
• How much of a share of that market do I need to capture, to just break even?
• Is there too much competition in the segment of my market to be competitive?
• What are the weaknesses in my competition’s offering that I can capitalize on?
• Does my market want or value my unique competitive offering?
Knowing your customer intimately is the first step to easy sales. Until you know who your customers are, what they want, and what motivates them to buy, you can’t prepare an effective marketing plan. To really get to know your customers you’ll need to ask yourself such questions as:
• How does my potential customer normally buy similar products (e.g. in a store, on the web, door-to-door)?
• Who is the primary buyer and the primary buying influencer in the purchasing process? (e.g., husband or wife, purchasing agent, project leader, office manager, etc.)?
• What kind of habits does my customer have? For instance, where do they get their information (i.e., television, newspapers, online, magazines) ?
• What are my target customer’s primary motivations for buying (e.g., looking good, avoiding pain, getting rich, being healthy, eating well, needing more space etc.)?
Pick a Niche.
If you say that your target customer is “everybody” then nobody will be your customer. The marketplace is packed with competition. Carve out a specific niche and dominate it. You might be a “lawyer that specializes in child accident liability,” a “CPA for used car dealers” or a “dry cleaner for the Heritage Park subdivision in West Oaks, California.” Your niche is your key point of differentiation.
One caveat: Make sure to choose a niche that interests you and that is easy to contact. There’s nothing more destructive than picking a niche that you can’t communicate with or that costs you a ton of money to contact.
Develop Your Marketing Message.
Your marketing message not only tells your prospect what you do, but persuades them to become your customer. You should develop two types of marketing messages. The first should be short and to the point. It’s your “elevator pitch” and your response to someone who asks you, “So, what do you do?”
The second is the complete marketing message that will be included in all your materials and promotions. To make your marketing message compelling and persuasive it should include the following elements:
• an explanation of your target prospect’s problem;
• proof that the problem is so important that it should be solved now, without delay;
• an explanation about why you are the only person/business that can solve your prospects problem;
• an explanation of the benefits of your solution;
• examples and testimonials from customers you have helped with similar problems;
• prices, fees and payment terms; and
• your unconditional guarantee.
Determine Your Marketing Medium/Media.
When selecting the communication vehicle(s) you use to deliver your marketing message, it’s important to choose a marketing medium that gives you the highest return on your marketing dollar. This means that you want to choose the medium that delivers your marketing message to the most niche prospects at the lowest possible cost.
From newspaper ads, door-hangers, yellow pages, trade shows and billboards, to e-mail, newsletters, postcards, public speaking engagements and much more, you have an array of options from which to choose. As simple as it seems, the key is to match your message to your market using the right medium. It would do you no good to advertise your retirement community using a fast paced, loud radio spot on a hip-hop radio station. Success will occur when there is a good match between the market, message and medium.
Set Sales and Marketing Goals.
Goals are critical to your success. A “wish” is a goal that hasn’t been written down. If you haven’t written your goals, you’re still just wishing for success. When creating your goals, you might want to use the SMART formula. Ensure that your goals are 1) Sensible, 2) Measurable, 3) Achievable, 4) Realistic and 5) Time-specific.
Your goals should include financial elements, such as annual sales revenues, gross profit, sales per salesperson and so on. They should also include non-financial elements, such as units sold, contracts signed, clients acquired and articles published.
Once you’ve set your goals, implement processes to review them either monthly or quarterly with your team.
Develop Your Marketing Budget.
Your marketing budget can be developed in several ways, depending on whether you want to be more exact or to develop just a quick-and-dirty number. It’s good to start out with a quick-and-dirty calculation and then to support it with further details.
First, if you have been in business for over a year and tracked your marketing-related expenditures, you could easily calculate your “cost to acquire one customer” or “cost to sell one product” by dividing your annual sales and marketing costs by the number of units sold (or customers acquired).
The next step is to take your cost to sell one unit or acquire one customer and simply multiply it by your unit sales or customer acquisition goal. The result of this simple computation will give you a rough estimate of what you need to invest to meet your sales goals for the next year.
Set aside uninterrupted time to develop your marketing plan. Outside of your business plan, it could well be the most important document to which you and your team will ever refer.