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How to Prepare An Easy Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

As a small business owner, I imagine you would not have the time to prepare a detailed marketing plan. Some business owners might not have a plan at all. However, I personally think a marketing plan is necessary for the success of your business. But, you do not need a 10-pages-or-more plan. I always develop a plan with no more than 3 pages that highlights major key points. On a marketing strategy level, Tim Berry has suggested a framework of “thinking” on how to develop a marketing plan. Those steps are basic and not difficult. His suggestions should act like a guideline for you to start with. He encouraged you to think about what you want to achieve, your strengths and weaknesses, your unique offerings, your target markets, and how you want people to perceive about your brand.

To make it simple, I would also like to suggest that you incorporate your promotion plan in a marketing plan. This way, you will have everything you need in one place for the whole year. Jeff Williams provided a short list of what you need for promotions in his article – How to create a powerful promotional plan for your 50+ business.

Let’s put all of them into easy-to-develop steps, shall we? In your marketing plan, you might want to split into two main sections: an overall marketing plan and a promotion plan.

Section 1: Marketing Plan. You should at least have the following items in a plan.

  • Marketing Objectives: What do you want to achieve this year? It could be… To generate $ in revenue or To gain 10% market share.
  • Unique Selling Proposition: What make your offerings different from your competitors? Lower cost? Better distribution channels? Price? Products?
  • Target Markets: Please be clear about your target markets. You do not have a lot of resources to invest in mass market.
  • Communication Channels: Your target markets should determine how you plan to communicate with them. It will save you a lot of money if you are clear about who your customers are.
  • Budget: Many businesses determine their marketing budget as a percentage of the total revenue for a year. Alternatively, you might want to set a “ceiling” that your marketing spends would not be higher than $$$$.

Section 2: Promotion Plan. To prepare a promotion plan, you need to understand your business cycle or season. Basically, you need to know when to spend money to boost sales and when to save the money. If you own a restaurant, for example, you might want to spend the marketing money during slow periods e.g. in February or May. What you need in your plan can be as simple as a spreadsheet with the following fields:

  1. Month
  2. Launch date
  3. Promotion: e.g. buy 1 get 1 free
  4. Points of Difference: why should your customers be excited?
  5. Target Group
  6. Communication channels: this is very important. You could have the best promotion in the world but it would do nothing for you if your communication channels are ineffective.
  7. Promotion Budget
  8. Results: e.g. sales volume
  9. Return on Investment (ROI): [(sales volume-cost of promotion)/cost of promotion]. If your ROI is lower than bank saving interest rates, you should rethink about your promotions because it’s easier to get the same return by simply depositing the money in the bank!

Please trust me that if you could list all promotions you need for a year, you would feel so good! It creates confidence, it makes you think, and it helps you identify potential opportunities in advance. Ultimately, it helps you to be ahead of the game. Please also understand that this is an ongoing process. You will need to visit your plan to update it every now and then. Most importantly, you will need to track the results for two reasons: 1) if a promotion fails, you want to learn from it, and 2) if it is successful, you want to replicate it.

So, it’s not too hard, isn’t it? I believe many small business owners would already have a marketing plan in place. However, for those who don’t, why not start preparing it now.

Marketing Plans: Do I Really Need One?

What happens when you go to the grocery store without a list? You typically end up buying a bunch of stuff you don’t really need, spending more money than you planned, and come home to realize you forgot quite a few things. Then you have to go back again to get everything right. This is the same scenario you will face when you don’t sit down and write a marketing plan. It may seem like a waste of time, when all you want to do is jump in and get started, but actually sitting down and writing a marketing plan will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. Here is what a marketing plan can do for your business:

Help you Focus on a Target Market

Without a marketing plan, it’s easy to get caught up marketing to everyone instead of a specific target audience. When you sit down and write a marketing plan, you think about who has a need for your product or service. You look at demographics such as age, gender, location, and education. When you narrow down your target market, you’ll be able to focus all your marketing dollars on an audience who actually has a need for your product or service, and stop wasting money marketing to an audience who has no interest.

Help you Spend Your Money More Efficiently

How do you know how much money you will allot to your marketing efforts, or determine if you are over or under-spending? Generally, around 10% of sales should be spent on marketing. Once you figure out this number and actually get it written in your plan, you will easily see how much you will be able to spend of each marketing strategy, and keep yourself from going over-budget.

Help You Focus on Specific Goals

Are you trying to get more sales? More leads? Increase brand awareness? Without a marketing plan, you don’t have a specific goal to work towards. All of your marketing efforts are going to help you work towards your goal, but if you don’t have a concrete goal written down ahead of time, you may find yourself getting off track in your marketing efforts.

Help You Monitor Your Competition

You know your business is going to have competition, but do you know how you compare to them? With a marketing plan, you take the time to find out exactly how you stack-up against the competition in terms of price, products offered, marketing strategies, etc. When you are able to see a side-by-side comparison, it will help you know what you need to do to gain the competitive edge.

Focus Your Marketing Strategies

Are you going to run a newspaper ad, or send out marketing emails, or focus on social media? There are tons of choices when it comes to marketing strategies, and you can’t do them all. If you have taken the time to define your goals and target audience in a marketing plan, you can decide what strategies will work best to achieve those goals.

Creating a marketing plan requires some effort on your part. You have to do quite a bit of research and planning ahead of time, and it is an ongoing process that will change as your business grows. But a well-written marketing plan is like a map, leading you the direction you want to go and preventing you from getting lost along the way. Take the time to write a detailed marketing plan now and your business will definitely reap the benefits down the road.