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Why Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Really Need A Solid Marketing Plan?

When I ask entrepreneurs and small business owners, it is not unusual for not having any marketing plan. I once read that Sir Richard Branson never had any marketing plan when he started the 1st Virgin business many years ago. In fact in one study of entrepreneurship (I couldn’t recall the name of the study) was that as much as 50% of entrepreneurs and business owners don’t have a business plan and marketing plan when they first started the business.

What was the outcome? As much as 90% businesses started by entrepreneurs and small business went busted or failed within a year. I experienced one of the many busts few years ago (with my cafe business) because i don’t really have a proper and “the few solid sheets” called a marketing plan.

Coming back to my questions to entrepreneurs and small business owners, many of their answers sounded like this, “I don’t really have one”, “It’s in my head coz I know the business so well” and worse, “I don’t know what is marketing plan”! If you happen to be in one of these categories, rest assured you are not the only one. And to perfectly honest, that’s the ultimate reason why I turned back to my writing board where I was actually in the middle of writing (rather perfecting!) a personal development programs. I dropped that program and quickly drafted and started Marketing Plan Breakthrough S6PEC because many of you need it, seriously.

But, I don’t specifically mean my own Marketing Plan S6PEC Framework because there are so many versions and gurus out there that can give you the benefit of marketing plan. Of course I am going to say mine is a lot better because it’s a practical and practitioner’s guide. Other than being a consultant, I also have performed marketing manager role, entrepreneur role, business manager role, investor and student of entrepreneurship (during my MBA!). But that’s not my main point. My main point is for you to have a marketing plan to guide your business. Which one? Well it is up to you!

So, to put things in perspective; why do you really need a marketing plan?

Guide
- in a marketing you will think, record and document all your ideas, products and services offering, price, distribution channel, programs, sales direction, customer segment and so on. I have experienced whereby I suddenly realized that my business is not going on the right direction because I didn’t follow my marketing plan. Have you experienced that? Or perhaps you suddenly realized that the thing you do know supposed to be done many months ago because you forgot about it? And you forgot because you don’t jot it down and plan for it? This is what I mean that marketing plan as a guide. I cover this in my Marketing Plan Breakthrough S6PEC.

Ideas
- people said the more you talk about your ideas the more refine it becomes. I think this is true. Did you ever experience when you talk to more people you generated a lot more ideas? When people give you feedback it triggers another dimension of your ideas? If you are, so where do you keep all these ideas? It should be in a marketing plan.

Resource Plan
- in marketing, there is only one thing that’s scarce: RESOURCES. Some people have a lot of money but lacked ideas and another group is the other extreme; more ideas and less money. Many of us probably the later than the former! In the marketing plan we will tackle things like people to hire, pricing, distribution plan, sales programs budget and so on.

Strategy
- similar to business strategy, marketing plan will capture strategies required to support your business strategy. For example if your business goal is to achieve 20% increase in sales, your marketing strategy would be to 1) introduce new product, 2) increase price for premium offerings, 3) recruit more distributors and offer commission scheme and so on. Strategy is king. When you can see your business in totality, I can assure you that you will find it easier to manoeuvre. Marketing plan is the place to address all these issues.

Risk
- in our marketing plan we shouldn’t only concern about making money or positive points, we also should address the risk we are taking. for example it is common for a marketing plan to capture things like, “require additional staff to handle sales call”, “additional investment from the management budget will increase chances of increasing 10% sales target” and many more. Imagine if you can factor your risk earlier and think through it, wouldn’t it be better for you?

Pricing
- I once said in my Marketing Plan Breakthrough S6PEC that, “Price is the key determinants of your profits”. I stand firm to keep it that way. In your marketing plan, you will address pricing plan for your distributors, customers, multiple segments (some business charge differently – price discrimination) and cost price i.e. your raw materials and things like that. Not many address price correctly and bear in my mind that we need to standby few pricing plan to respond to the market. Take for example during festive season, if everyone is lowering price and slashed their price or even ignited a price war, what do you do about that? Follow suit or wait? If you want to follow, how far? If you want to wait, how long? You capture all this in pricing plan.

Customer Segment
- this is talked about most of the time, but let’s accept the fact that today’s customers are fragmented to smaller niches. Your product and service will not be consumed by only one segment and at critical mass. it is likely to be consumed by smaller segment and multi. No more critical mass, but rather a solid spread of niches. For example, who buys iPod’s today? If Apple only think about yuppies they are making a big mistake because apparently iPod is also used by women and people with active lifestyle. Another example, who buys from hypermarket? If hypermarket only focuses on households they may not survive or be successful like today. Hypermarket main segment is actually small business restaurant operators that buy in larger quantity compare to households and on daily basis. I’ve been there, I know! LOL

Corrective Plan
- a marketing plan is a living document. Trust me, the moment you have it and experience planning your marketing, you will realize this. Therefore it is a plan that allows you to assess past strategies and results and at the same time allow you to make necessary corrective measures to fit your business growth. for example, who expected the 2008 financial crisis to hit us so badly? No one other than the few so called “economists” but how did responded to it? Severely. Many businesses closed including many giants. But the good thing is, many have a solid marketing and business plans, therefore they make quick corrective actions and moved forward.

Innovation
- I once sat in a meeting of project and business updates and suddenly one of the directors said, actually with all that we have now we can be in the medical device market. Violaaa!!! This medical device company used to service government hospitals and they have all the equipments. It’s just that they never thought of going direct to the hospitals and take the lion share of the business. In that meeting, after going through the company yearly updates, this “innovation” came instantaneously and the next year they are pitching about it to the government hospitals directly.

Imagine if you can do all these and manage all these in a marketing plan? Systematic, organized, well thought, innovative and captured all your pertinent business information, don’t you find having a marketing plan is useful for your business?

One thing about my business, I don’t sell templates. I only sell REAL content. I believe that template is only to give you the general overview of direction but not how-to do it. That’s why I highly not recommended you choose to download or purchase marketing templates because I have seen them i personally think it won’t help you much. Let me share you a recent story about template.

I have childhood friend who wanted to open a small business. I offered him my service at $$$ which is so much below market rate because we have been friends for 20 years. He said no, because he thinks there is another cheaper way to do it or in other words “resourceful is my middle name” kinda thing. So I let him do that. I offered him five days later that, if he needs me to view the marketing plan I will do it for free over tea. He showed me a marketing template he bought for USD 25 and all he got was a template!!! I scolded him and cursed the site that provided such thing. It was just boxes everywhere and not even a paragraph on how to fill those boxes. Well, this is what I mean and I defy being in that business because that’s cheating. By the way i got to do my friend’s job after that.:)

What I offered is much simpler, richer and with all the things you need. Firstly, my blog is to help you enhance and as a source to guide you on the marketing plan you purchase. Well, let’s don’t talk about purchase yet.

Would you want to view the actual content or maybe download the Marketing Plan Breakthrough S6PEC Introduction first? Please send your inquiry to [email protected] Information is FREE. Otherwise please go to http://www.marketingplanbook.com

Annual Marketing Plan

2013 is well and truly here and many of us have already planned our marketing plan for 2013. For others, marketing is just now coming into focus. Often not knowing what to implement into the marketing plan can cause procrastination. Below are a few good points to touch base on when building your marketing plan for the New Year.

Customer Focus

Customer focus should be one of the first things to keep in mind when building a strategic marketing plan for 2013. Keeping budgeting, resources and a direct timeline of implication should always follow suit after gathering detailed information about your customers. Having a solid campaign of adequate customer information not only keeps the marketing strategy on target but also will help save time and money. Many times proper planning and management of marketing practices will help increase sales and definitely help in building brand awareness with the targeted audience.

Reviewing 2012 for 2013 Marketing Plan

Once you have your customer information and research in place, the next best step to take is to look back over all efforts made in 2012. A few questions to ask are;

• Did your sales objectives meet your expectations from a result of your marketing strategies?

• Did you connect with the important people-customers and prospects.

• Did your website connect with the target audience and help bring more awareness about your company?

• Were you able to set more prospect meetings to encourage doing future business together?

These are important pieces of the marketing strategy to take note of what parts of the planning from the previous year worked and what ones did not work. It is at this stage you can start to make adjustments to your marketing planning for 2013.

You may decide that your current marketing plan is highly successful and determine if major or minor adjustments need to be made going forward.

Businesses often find themselves on each side of the coin, but often many businesses fall somewhere in the middle. Many times some techniques worked well and produced decent results, where others were not effective at all.

Often small businesses do not have a marketing strategy at all, and find that without a detailed program, they often just try things as they come, and seem to be flying by the seat of their pants so to speak.

When this is the case, some companies often purchase newspaper advertisements for a short term, advertise on the radio, and even try a low budget TV campaign; because they think they have spotted a good deal at the time. Often this results in low disappointing results that end up a cycle of repeating similar tactics looking for the magic formula.

Marketing Plan Focus

In 2013 companies should focus on marketing plan initiatives that start with foundations that are solid to help attract more customers. In order to do this, companies should understand the demographics and needs of the purchaser.

If it’s a business to consumer sale, it is often easier to make up the customer base by using ready available resources; charge cards, sales receipts and email lists that help narrow down where the customer base is driven from, age group, frequency of purchase and the most popular service rendered or item purchased.

However, business to business marketing can be a little more complex in nature and may need to be a little more creative. Often small businesses face situations where a client sets aside a small portion of their budget to that specific firm, but may be spending a larger amount with a competitor. Misconceptions of products or services, or lack of knowledge of the business offerings often is the cause of this. The business to business marketplace can be more challenging.

By researching the client/customer, you will be able to uncover areas of concerns and successes with your existing customers/clients. By doing a little more background research, you possibly will uncover more important information such as spending habits of purchasers, age, location, and even reading habits. Many times this alone can help form a profile of potential clients by bringing you into new markets or business segments. All this would go a long way in helping you with qualified lead generation.

Customer background alone can help a company create and solidify a business marketing plan. Putting the plan in place with well thought out details is the best practice for creating success in 2013.

Why Do I Need a Marketing Plan?

First, you will need to have a strong desire to be successful because all successful companies have a well planned and executed marketing plan. Many components comprise their marketing plans and they may vary depending upon whether you are a B2B company, B2C company, a manufacturer, a retailer, a service company, a reseller, a non- profit or other specialty business.

Marketing Research will be the first component for your marketing plan. You may be doing this in house or you may elect to hire a top marketing agency, a marketing consultant, or maybe a specific marketing research firm. You need to obtain and capture all data about your business along with your products and services to help you properly facilitate any potential marketing problems. You may also be able to get some marketing data from an industry trade association or from other businesses within your specific industry.

Most of your marketing research will fit into 5 or 6 categories: Surveys, Focus Groups, Interviews, Observations, Secondary Research, or Experiments/Field Trials. We will not go into specifics for each research category on this particular blog.

Regardless of the marketing research methods that are used, you need to uncover who your customers are or will be, you need to uncover what the demand is for your products or services, you need to know every competitor in the marketplace, and you need to know the market share for each company in your industry categories.

Once you have completed your marketing research, you will then be ready to start developing your marketing plan. We will discuss marketing plan components that will fall more general in scope as opposed to focusing on a specific niche category for a business.

  1. You will need an Executive Summary to give a brief synopsis to summarize your marketing plan contents.
  2. You will need to define your goals and objectives. We always encourage companies to make their goals S.M.A.R.T. which means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive with dates attached. Most goals are calculated on an annual basis. However, the more ambitious owners or executives will look ahead at 3, 5, and 10 year goals as well. And if you are in Japan, you will be setting 100 year goals.
  3. You will need to develop or define important information about your company. In your business plan, you should have developed a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, and a Culture Statement. If you did not develop these three items, you must create them immediately before continuing onward. It is vitally important that everyone knows about and buys in to these three company statements with all employee staff so that every person inside the business will communicate these items correctly to all external people outside of the business. You want their belief and confidence as high as the owners or top executives.
  4. You need to know everything obtainable about your customers. This list will get you started. You will need their age, sex, marital status, income levels, education levels, geographic locations, where they shop, if they go to church, if they have kids, ages of children, political affiliation, what they like about your company, what they don’t like, why they shop with you, what they value about your products/services, what they like the most/least about products/services, and whether prospects are unaware of your brand or products/services. Customers want you to know certain things about them and if you do, they will remain loyal to you as you take time to know them.
  5. You must know your competition in and out. Keep your friends close, but keep your competitors closer. You need to know all the things that you learned about your customers except fill in the blank for each competitor on all of those above items. Learn how you are the same/ different. Learn the similarities/differences about each product and service you offer. Learn how they sell or promote their products /services.
  6. You need to define your location with a description of all advantages and disadvantages. I would include the operating hours and scheduling in this section.
  7. You must develop a unique selling point for your business. You will need to provide details about every product/service that you provide and give their features/benefits/values.
  8. You need to itemize your budget with breakdowns for advertising and promotions. Include any design, development for needed materials to facilitate the marketing. List the media outlets that will be used to execute your marketing plan and break out the online, social, e-mail marketing, e-brochures/e-catalogs, TV, print, radio, PR, tradeshows, sponsorships, philanthropic partnerships, direct-mail, telemarketing, and other outlets. I would also identify which components that will be completed in house and whether you will have an outside agency to help with your media buying and planning.
  9. You will need to develop your pricing strategies for all of your products and services. Do you want to be higher or lower versus competitors? Do you plan to include labor/overhead/materials in costs? Be sure to list your pricing strategy for each product or service

A comprehensive marketing strategy will ensure your success because it will tell you how to obtain and keep customers, how to compete in your marketplace, and what resources you will use to achieve your goals and objectives.