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Everyone knows you need a marketing plan, and it can seem like a daunting process — but if you are running a small business, it doesn’t need to be that complicated. It really just boils down to establishing goals and writing a to-do list that will help you achieve them.
Section 1: Goals
What are your business goals for the calendar year? Be specific yet succinct. They can be things like “to sell 1,000 widgets in London” or “for 1,000 new customers to visit my restaurant at least once.” You can see that those are clear and specific goals — it’s important that they be more specific than “to make more money” because the more specific they are, the easier it will be to work backwards and figure out exactly what you need to do to achieve them.
Section 2: Your products and/or services
What products and services do you offer? This should be a fairly simple inventory. I know it seems obvious, however, it is important to have this list on hand to address the next steps.
Section 3: Your target audience
Who needs your products/services? You should answer this question from the perspective of need, and not just who you’d like to sell to, since need is what drives sales. Need is usually driven by a specific problem. An example of this could be “30-50 year old single professionals who own pets and go on at least one vacation per year.” Why do they need them? Again, be specific and succinct. For the example above, we could continue: “to provide safe and engaging pet boarding for stays of more than one week for pets who may experience separation anxiety.”
Section 4: Your competitors
Who are your relevant competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can you compete with their strengths, and take advantage of their weaknesses? I go into detail on how to easily determine this information in the article I wrote for the NCET series last year about how to conduct a competitive analysis here.
Section 5: Your USP (unique selling proposition)
Considering your target audience, their problem, and your competitors, what makes your products/services unique as a solution to a problem for your customers? Expressing how your product or service solves a problem for your target audience in a unique way is now the USP that will drive your strategic and tactical decisions moving forward.
Section 6: Your pricing
How will you price your product? When you looked at your competitors, was the full spectrum of premium, average and budget pricing covered, or was one of those missing? There may be an advantage if you are the only budget-priced option in a specific market, or the only premium option in a market where many competitors are undercutting each other in a “race to the bottom” that cuts corners on quality.
Section 7: Sales and support
How will you sell the products/services? What is your geographic market — it is a city, a region? Or is it sold online to anyone, anywhere? Does it require ongoing service? How will you wrap ongoing service into an initial sale?
Section 8: Marketing tactics
How do people hear about your products/services? This should be determined by identifying the behaviors of your target audience. What do they watch/read? Where do they move throughout the day? What are their habits and preferences? Younger audiences don’t watch much over-the-air daytime television, so a commercial on local TV would be less effective than running targeted ads on social media, for example.
Section 9: Budget
How much money do you have to promote the product effectively? Once you have defined your tactics above, divide your available funds into the most effective tactics first.
Section 10: Action plan
In what order will you execute your tactics? How will you handle incoming leads? How will you determine which tactics are working? What will you do to follow up with leads that may have entered your sales funnel, but didn’t get fully converted to sales? What will you do after the tactics are executed to turn sales into repeat customers — retaining a customer is much cheaper than gaining a new one on your next marketing cycle.
Please join us next month as we discuss how to design and build a website and secure appropriate social media accounts.
Wesley McQuillen is principal at ALTER Strategies (www.alterstrategies.co) and creates marketing strategies that help age-restricted and highly-regulated businesses to increase sales and stand out in a crowded field while navigating complex regulations.
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