Setting up your business for success is a tall task. There are many different steps that cover a range of issues, including accounting practices, hiring, purchasing equipment and advertising, just to name a few. One of the most essential of these startup responsibilities is marketing.
Creating a marketing plan for your new business is one critical aspect in building a business that survives its first year. If done correctly, your marketing plan is so much more than a budget and strategies. It can serve as your guide to identifying and reaching your customers and staying engaged with them. It should also outline ways to adjust your methods as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
Let’s look at what is included in a marketing plan, and the steps needed to create a great one.
Defining a Small Business Marketing Plan
A small business marketing plan can be as robust or as lean as you want. At the minimum, it should include a description of who your customers are, how they get information and where you can reach them.
To start this process, complete these four steps first.
1. Determine Why a Customer Would Come to You
This means more than just restating your product’s or business’ mission statement. You want to clearly define the purpose behind a customer choosing you over a competitor. Is using your product or service related to social status, everyday living, convenience or something else? You should know and understand why a customer would choose you over a competitor.
2. Identify Your Target Customers
Target customers are different than your target market, and you should really know both. Your target market refers to the area (geographic or otherwise) that you will serve, while your target customers are the people who are most likely to purchase your product. In the world of marketing, determining who these people are normally comes down to a combination of demographics and psychographics.
Demographic information is fairly easy to find. This includes age, gender, household income, marital status, home ownership and more. Your best, free resource for demographic information is the U.S. Census Bureau. The Small Business Administration’s website also offers links to a handful of online resources for demographic information.
Psychographic information is a little harder to come by without a membership to an analytics organization such as Nielsen @Plan or Kantar Media. Psychographic data measures audience behavior (i.e. why a customer might buy something). This could include any number of factors including a person’s lifestyle (e.g. healthy, active), social class, activities and hobbies, values, attitudes and personality.
3. Identify the Competitors That Target Your Customers
The most important competitors you’ll face are the ones who are directly targeting your ideal consumer. Conduct an honest assessment of your competitors and what they have to offer that you don’t. Also take some time to analyze how they might react to your business. Are they prone to discounting, aggressive advertising or special offers? You can be assured they will use a combination of all of the above once you flip over your open sign.
4. Draft Your Brand Positioning Statement
You need a clear idea of what sets your company apart because that is what will bring customers through your doors. You can use the information you uncovered in step three to guide you, but these positioning statements should be single-minded and focused.
How to Create a Small Business Marketing Plan
Now that you’ve completed your data collection, you need to actually formulate your marketing plan. Here are the key features to include.
1. Situation Analysis
This is an overview of your company’s current state. Include a strength, weakness, opportunity and threat (SWOT) analysis as part of this section as well.
2. Target Audience
You’ve done all the work to understand who your target customer is, so spend time writing out a description of this target audience. It should be descriptive and as succinct as possible. Don’t forget to include any psychographic data you might have as well.
3. Marketing Goals
Draft your marketing goals. Besides writing out goals that directly address the things you want to accomplish (i.e. an increase in sales), make sure that these goals are all measurable. Almost as important as your marketing plan are the results. You need to make sure you can measure it so you can determine success or failure.
4. Strategies and Tactics
Using your marketing goals as a blueprint, determine the strategies and tactics you will use to achieve them. These will include the different types of media you want to use and the different advertising or outreach tools you will use. This is the meat of your marketing plan. Spend time looking at your audience and determining the best way to reach them. Not every customer can be reached the same way.
5. Marketing Budget
This is the last and likely trickiest piece of the plan. Your marketing budget will need to strike a fine balance between being high enough to make an impact, but low enough not to wipe out your startup fund. Gather costs for the tactics you outlined in step 4. If you have the option of working with multiple media outlets, gather quotes from a few so that you can compare and contrast their services and value.
Don’t overlook the importance of your marketing plan. If done well, your marketing plan can easily become a rallying point for you and your employees; something to strive towards and succeed at. It can also be a way for you to focus if you ever find yourself uncertain about what to do next. Take the time to create a marketing plan that works.
If you’re interested in determining whether your marketing plan is paying off or not, read our article on how to measure return on investment.