In order to successfully grow your small business, you’ll need to attract and then work to retain a large base of satisfied customers. Marketing emphasizes the value of the customer to the business. Marketing programs, though widely varied, are all aimed at convincing people to try out or continue to use particular products or services. Business owners should carefully plan their marketing strategies and performance to keep their market presence strong.
Marketing takes time, money, and lots of preparation. One of the best ways to prepare is to develop a solid marketing plan that will ensure you’re not only sticking to your schedule, but that you’re spending your marketing funds wisely and appropriately.
Having a marketing plan is an essential planning element for a new small business. It describes the products and services of the business, identifies the customers and creates a strategy by which to market the business. A marketing plan typically covers the business one year at a time, though it is a continually evolving document that changes as determined by industry circumstances.
In order to craft a marketing plan for a new business, an in-depth understanding of the business as well as the business budget is necessary. The following steps outline the necessary steps to gain the insight needed to develop your plan:
Identify the Market Situation: The market situation for a business includes analysis of the industry as a whole. In order to write an effective marketing plan, you need to identify your competitors and be able to point out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each of the main competitors. Identifying this will help you to recognize your business’ competitive advantage. This is an area where you can show where your business is stronger or better able to serve the market than the competition and set it apart in the market.
Identify the Target Market: An important element of the marketing plan is to identify the target market of your business. Many businesses make the mistake of identifying a market that is too broad. The target market must be broken down to identify potential customers based on who meets the parameters or will best benefit from using your product or service.
Identify the Four P’s of Marketing: The four p’s of marketing are product, place, price and promotion. The product is what the business is selling and may be a tangible product or a service. The place describes how the product will be distributed to the customers. The price of the products is based on the attributes of the product, and what is needed to make a profit as well as what the market will bear. Promotion is how the products and services will be promoted to the target markets – i.e. advertising and social media.
Create the Marketing Strategy: The marketing strategy will outline how you will promote your business’ products and services. It should be detailed to specify exactly how the business will be marketed – i.e. if print advertising, include specific publications, demographics targeted/reached, ad size, frequency, etc.
Formulate the Marketing Budget and Timeline: The final section of the marketing plan should provide an overview of the marketing budget. This should include any direct or indirect expenses that will be charged as a marketing expense. This part of the plan should also include methods of measurement and timelines such as a weekly or monthly calendar that shows the promotions the business will implement.