As a small business owner, you’ve known what products and services to bring to market from the beginning. But that same vision is crucial when it comes to marketing. An "If you build it, they will come" attitude may work in the movies, but in the real world, you need a clear, executable marketing strategy that encompasses your customer base, your preferred marketing channels and techniques, and a commitment to overcoming the challenges ahead.
Creating Your Vision Statement
The first stage in your marketing strategy process is to create a vision statement that articulates your hopes and plans for your business. Where do you want to see your business in the next five, 10, or 20 years? What’s your goal for the company, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
When you create your vision statement, it’s time to dream — and give yourself permission to dream big. Brainstorm with others who share your vision, including partners or employees who have been with you from the beginning. Start is by thinking about your company’s values — What can you do over the next five to 10 years to help keep you aligned with those values? Ask what problems you might solve for your customer base and how you can meet their needs and help them lead better lives. As you pinpoint what your company does better than anyone else, you can hone in on the specifics, so you don’t end up with a generic vision statement that could apply to any company.
Creating Your Mission Statement
Your mission statement is where you start to get practical. Ask yourself what your business does, how it does it, and who you’re doing it for. In addition, focus on how you add value to your customers’ lives. The process of creating a mission statement can help you clarify your own sense of purpose and values. Include your partners, board members, key employees or investors in the process of developing the statement, and even consider including one or two people outside of your business who are well-acquainted with your goals. Plan on plenty of time to craft the statement — A full day is a great idea, or focus on it during several sessions of a team retreat.
Brainstorming on language and ideas is helpful. Shortcut the process by having everyone involved write a sample mission statement, and then pluck the best thoughts and expressions from everyone’s creations. Choosing your words precisely is important, as is making sure that others outside your company understand what you’re trying to express.
Establishing Marketing Objectives
Now you’re ready to start thinking about marketing your products or services. Yes, you want to develop a viable marketing strategy, but first, it’s important to understand what you want to accomplish through your marketing. These prospective accomplishments are your marketing objectives. A handy acronym to help you create practical and achievable marketing objectives is the word SMART. Your marketing objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based:
- Specific: Does your marketing objective pinpoint the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be exploited?
- Measurable: What metric can you use to determine whether you’ve met your objective?
- Actionable: What steps or performances can your employees accomplish through this objective?
- Relevant: Does this objective actually address the marketing concern you’re dealing with?
- Time-based: What deadlines and benchmarks are included in this marketing objective?
As a small business, you can probably expect to achieve three to four marketing objectives in any given campaign. Make sure you have the financial and human resources you need to accomplish your objectives, and don’t choose objectives that may end up conflicting with each other.
The Final Step: Designing Your Marketing Strategy
Finally you’re ready to design your marketing strategy, which is essentially the map you use to get to your destination. As part of your marketing strategy, segment your target audience into well-defined groups. This allows you to create personalized marketing content to address the needs and problems of each group, providing the solutions they’re looking for.
By analysing what your competitors are doing, you can begin to understand how to differentiate your products and services from those of your competition. You can also identify underserved niches in the market and position yourself as the company that’s most relevant to your customers. As part of developing your marketing strategy, define what makes your company’s products and services unique. As you pair this information with the knowledge you’ve already accumulated about your target customers and their needs, you can start to make choices on the best ways to reach that target audience.
Next, choose the marketing methods that best show off your products and services, whether you plan to focus primarily on e-commerce and internet marketing, direct marketing, or broadcast and print ads on traditional media.
The final step in preparing your marketing strategy is developing content for actual marketing campaigns. As you move through developing your vision and mission statements, you can start to plan for the future of your company. Developing marketing objectives and a marketing strategy enable you to bring your products and services to market successfully.