Imagine that you were planning a trip. A trip to someplace you haven’t been before but have always wanted to go. Would you just hop on any old plane and hope that you get to where you want to be? When you get to your destination would you just wander aimlessly around and hope that you get to see all the sites that you have been wanting to see? I didn’t think so. Obviously, if you are going to spend money going on a vacation, you will want to be sure that you have a plan. You want to plan for how you are going to get there, what hotel you will stay in, where you will eat and what places you visit. By getting a handle on all those details you will vastly improve your odds of having a great vacation. When it comes to a marketing plan for your business why would you do anything less?
If you have a solid business plan in place you may feel covered but you simply are not. You need a solid marketing strategy. You see, a business plan covers many of the essential details of setting up and running a business. That is why having a good business plan in place is so important before starting a business. Having a strong marketing strategy in place is equally important. Creating a marketing plan allows you to focus on the most important aspect of your business- your customers. After all, it is your customers who bring in the money to make your business a success. It is your customers that your business is there to serve. The goal of a marketing plan is to identify potential customers, turn them into actual customers and retain them as loyal customers.
What does an effective marketing plan do? It helps you identify your sales goals. It creates a path for you to follow in meeting those goals. It lists the tools you will need in order to meet your sales goals. You start with what the product or service you are selling is. Then you identify who the target audience for your product or service is. Finally, you figure out ways to uncover leads that will turn into sales. Best of all, a marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be effective. You might need a sophisticated marketing plan if you are trying to raise funds for your business but, otherwise, you can be concise.
You want to find a marketing strategy that will dominate. One that will draw customers to your business the way that flowers draw bees to them. In this article we are going to take a look at five steps you should follow to create a dominating marketing strategy.
Step one: Identify where your company is right now with a situational analysis.
You want to begin your marketing plan by getting back to basics. Ask yourself what your company has to offer to your customers. What makes your products and services unique? How do you stand out from the herd?
Think about your competitors and their products and services. What are you up against? Why should potential customers choose you and not them? Thinking about that will help you identify your specific place in the market. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, you need to know where your products and services fit within that industry. That is how you begin to figure out your target audience.
Creating a situational analysis involves looking closely at your company. You need to be clear-eyed when analyzing your company. Look at your weaknesses and consider what outside factors pose a threat to your company’s health. You might find weaknesses like inadequate staffing or operating in an over-crowded market. Once you have identified your weaknesses make a detailed plan for overcoming them. On the other hand, don’t just be negative. Look at your strengths as well. Consider the traits that make you shine. Traits like a product made with better materials or extra services that your competition doesn’t offer.
Let’s talk about your product. You want it to occupy a specific and lucrative position in the marketplace. That means you need to figure out what features of your product set it apart. Once you figure that out you can figure out what potential customers are most likely to buy your product. What is it that they want? Do they want high-quality materials? Something that is sturdy but cheap? Something designed to make their life easier? When you know what your customers want you can plan how you will give them what they want.
Step Two: Hit the Bullseye with Your Target Audience.
Close your eyes and make the connection between your products and the people who will consume them. Profile them. You can do it in just a paragraph. Typically, it can be a demographic breakdown of their age, sex, number of family members, salary and lifestyle. What are their personality traits and how do those traits influence whether they buy your products? How often are they likely to buy your products and how many are they likely to buy? By asking all of these question you can have a clear picture of your target customers and what their needs are.
What if your marketing plan involves marketing to other businesses? Then you want to consider similar traits to the ones you considered with individual customers. What does your target audience look like? What kind of business are you targeting? How large or small is the business? Who runs the business and who do you need to talk to in order to make a sale? Where is the business located? You want to be specific about your target audience here because it will influence where you put your advertising dollars and it will shape your campaign.
Step three: Set up the goalpost for your marketing game.
Now is the time to ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing plan. First create a list of goals- for example, you want to boost sales in a certain geographical area. Next make sure you can measure the results to see if have met that goal. Once you do that, you can start to tailor your marketing plan to meet those goals.
Step four: Get strategic and create a detailed marketing plan.
Now is where the rubber meets the road. You have done the foundational work of identifying your products, your strengths and weaknesses, and your target audience. You also figured out your goals and how to measure your success. The next step is to go into detail about the tactics you intend to employ in order to reach those goals.
When going into detail about your strategy you should keep in mind that there are distinct stages to the sales cycle. You have cold prospects. These are potential customers you need to introduce yourself to. Traditional advertising, direct marketing and public relations are great methods for reaching them. You have warm prospects. These are potential customers who have seen your marketing before and may even know you and your business. They can be reached with loyalty programs, special customer appreciation events and the use of e-mail (once they have given you their e-mail to use). Finally, you have your hottest sales prospects. You know them and they know you. They have demonstrated familiarity with your advertising and your products. They are ready to buy. The personal approach works here. Follow up with them by phone or e-mail. A little extra infusion of advertising might also be appropriate and help you seal the deal.
Keeping the different stages of the sales cycle in mind, you should next create an outline of your marketing strategies. Here you can identify the tactics you will employ to draw in potential customers. Be sure to use the mix of tactics outlined above to reach your customers at those different stages. Don’t forget to include a mix of more traditional advertising (such as billboards and flyers) with advertising online and on social media.
Don’t forget to focus on your target: your customers. Your marketing plan should use the type of media favored by the consumers that you want to bring into your business. Where do they turn to when they are looking for information? Make sure you place your advertising where it can help you the most. You want your marketing to reach customers at the right time and in the right place.
Step five: Show me the money (in your marketing budget).
You can’t avoid spending money on marketing. There is no way around it. In order to attract customers, you must develop a marketing plan and figure out how to pay for it. You need to look at your projected gross sales. Then figure out what percentage of it you are going to set aside for marketing. This can be particularly tricky when you are just starting your business. You may need to use money you borrow or funding you raise from investors. You might even need to use your own money at first. The good news is that, thanks to a mix of online advertising, social media and traditional media, you can use a variety of marketing approaches and tailor a marketing plan to fit your budget.
Don’t get discouraged! You can make marketing affordable. You aren’t stuck with your initial marketing plan. If you find that you can’t stick to your marketing plan you can rewrite it. Make the changes that you need to have a plan that allows you stay within your budget. Above all, don’t quit. The more expensive marketing techniques can wait until are making the money to pay for them. Just keep working with your plan and advertising your business. Let people know how great your business and your products are and sales will follow.