Hmm, let me think. When was the first time I ever created a marketing plan? I can tell you exactly when that was. I created mine right about the same time most small business owners do; far, far too late. Creating a marketing plan you will use and love is so vitally important for your business. These tips below will definitely help you get started.
In the excitement of ramping up your new business, your new “baby” as we will call it, you might be tempted to just go out and try everything! Your plan is to simply sell to everyone and anyone and basically just kind of . . . go crazy with it.
Let’s not get crazy just yet.
Sit down and draft a well-researched, thoughtful approach to marketing your business. I’m such a firm believer in taking the time to create a great marketing plan, that I even have a few quotes to share with you.
How about —
“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
Or maybe that old Eisenhower chestnut —
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Wait, what? That last one may seem to counter my point. Didn’t I just say that plans are useless? Yes, they can be. If you make them once, never refer to them, or try to adhere to them rigidly, they usually are. But the planning stage is so very crucial.
What kind of marketing plan should I create?
The marketing plan I suggest you create should be a living, breathing document, one you will constantly be referring to, tweaking, and improving. The one you will spend time with and time on, because you love to.
You should love your marketing plan. Far from a dry business document, this kind of marketing plan is going to help organize and energize you to reach as many of your customers as possible. How can that be anything but exciting?
The Players and The Time
I won’t lie. Creating a thorough marketing plan will take work and time. Some people take months creating and fine-tuning their plan. Some templates out there say they can help you create your plan in one day.
The how and the when is up to you, but don’t forget the who, too — meaning, don’t forget to first consult with and gather information from all the key players in your business. From your customer service reps, to your sales team, to your partner or co-founder, you should get as much information and input before you sit down and begin to create your marketing plan masterpiece. This is, after all, meant to be the guiding force of all your marketing activity for the foreseeable future. Don’t you want to make sure you have all the facts first?
Now that we know what a marketing plan is and who should be involved, its time to break it down into sections. You can tackle one section a day, or one per week, depending on how complex or large your business may be.
Either way, I highly recommend getting into one different ‘head space’ at a time and staying there until the section is complete, then move on to the next one. Jumping around from section to section will only serve to confuse and muddle the results. The game is focus people! Now, let’s get started.
The Perfect Components to Create a Marketing Plan You Will Love
Piece by Piece
The Executive Summary:
This is a classic case of beginning with the end in mind. You might actually want to write this section last, since it’s what it sounds like: a summation of the plan. It’s a broad overview of your plan and a sound byte way to discuss your entire plan.
This is a data and research driven section. No room for hopes and guesses here! This area should list out specifics like what the competitive landscape looks like and who your main competitors are.
You should list out things about your market: what are the demographics, what’s the dollar size of the market, where are you selling your products, how do you sell and distribute, how have your products or services performed so far, etc. Again, this section is all fact based.
What makes your company different? What’s your “Unique Selling Proposition?” You should be able to distill down to a few sentences (or much less), exactly why customers should buy from you versus your competition.
Threats & Opportunities:
Time to think of worst case/best case scenarios. Don’t just limit your threats section to listing out your competitors. Include any trends that may be working against you or any new product types that could harm your progress. In the opportunities area, think about it the other way. What kind of “tailwinds” might be favoring you in the marketplace? What kind of things are your competitors doing that might help you in any way?
Your Marketing Objectives:
What do you hope to accomplish with your marketing plan? Get descriptive but also set hard and fast, quantifiable goals. Do you want to increase your market share by 4%? 8%? 20%? How do you, broadly speaking, hope to achieve that?
Within this section you should break down your marketing on a more granular level. What specifically are your offers and discounts and free trials? What kind of online marketing strategy do you have? What kind of marketing materials support your efforts?
This is a big one. If you are successful in reaching the amount of consumers you wish to reach, how do you plan on converting them into paying customers? What tools (testimonials, more persuasive web copy, etc.) will you employ to lure customers into whipping out their wallet?
Referrals and Retention:
Once you have turned that prospect into a consumer and made him a happy customer, how you are going to make sure he tells his friends how happy he really is with you? How do you intend to incentivize your customers to become evangelists for your company?
What kinds of offers and programs are you going to put in place to ensure he comes back, again and again, to buy from you? You want to make sure you find ways to not just sell someone once, but to retain him or her!
Partnerships and Joint Ventures:
This is where you list out whom you intend on partnering with, either by mixing your companies in some manner, or simply by sharing leads and working on the same promotion. A good way to develop this list is to think about your customer holistically.
What else do they tend to buy, beyond your product. Be creative and soon you’ll have a substantial list of partnerships that have a similar consumer base, but aren’t in the least bit competitive!
Budgets & Controls:
What’s that old saying? It takes money to make money? Unless you are selling hot air, you are going to have to spend money while you’re building and marketing your business. This section is where you literally ‘really get down to business.’ List out how much everything – and I mean everything – is going to cost.
Rent, labor, office supplies, advertising budgets, travel, equipment, all of it. If it comes out of your business account, list it on there. This is a daunting section but a powerful one, where you really can get a realistic look at where your money is going.
Once you set your initial prices, what plans do you have for eventually increasing them? Will you find new ways to increase your per-transaction price, or ways to bundle your products to increase order size? List that out here.
This is a summary of ROI. What kind of return do you plan on making with your marketing efforts and budget? This is where the estimating comes in. These projections might not be dead-on accurate by the end of your year but it’s important to at least put some projections to paper.
Now let’s hear from you about marketing plans. Do you have one already? Why or why not?
What’s the most intimidating thing to you about creating a marketing plan for your business? Do you have any useful tips or tricks to share?
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