You already have a great product or service. Now you need to focus on winning and keeping loyal customers. That’s why a well-researched, strategic marketing plan is essential. It details the tools and tactics you’ll use to reach your sales and profit goals. Bottom line, a marketing plan is your road map for the next 12 months.
Here are five steps to get you started.
1. Take a snapshot of your business now
Start with research. You can’t plan where you are going if you don’t know where you are. You can research. Here are a few things you can research on your own:
- Ask potential buyers what they think of your product or idea and what motivates their buying decisions.
- Document your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Secret-shop your competitors: note their pricing, read customer reviews.
2. Describe your target market.
Get to know your customers by writing a simple, one-paragraph profile of the people who will be buying your product. Start by answering these questions:
- What challenges do your customers face that could be solved by your product or service?
- What do your customers expect from your product?
- How often will they buy your product?
- Where do they shop?
- What do you know about their lifestyle that could have a bearing on your product or how you market it to them?
3. Describe what sets your business apart and what you aim to accomplish.
What gives your business a competitive edge? Avoid generalities like “great customer service” and be specific about how you will deliver on your promises;, for example, “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.”
Ask yourself these questions as you describe your brand:
- Why does my business exist?
- How am I different from my competitors?
- What’s important to my ideal customers, and how will I meet their needs? Be specific.
- What do I want to accomplish this year? What are the top three things that will get me there?
- What will trigger my customers to think of my business? What are the best ways to reach out to them?
- How will I deliver products: through a retailer, wholesale, kiosks, events, website. other etc.?
- What will I charge?
4. Develop your marketing strategy.
Now that you know your customers and what you can offer them, it’s time to create a working plan and budget for marketing activities. List those activities and estimate how much time and money you will spend on each.
Here are some suggestions:
- Paid advertising: TV, radio, print, online publications, websites, billboards, etc.
- Publicity: press releases, testimonials for your sales material, referrals
- Collateral: materials that support sales, such as business cards, signs, brochures and stationery
- Listings in business and telephone directories, association listings
- Sponsorships: community events, local charities, sports
- Networking: joining local organizations, attending events where you are likely to meet customers
- Promotions: direct mailings, samples, coupons, sales, displays
- Internal marketing: sales and referral incentives for your employees
5. Measure the impact of your marketing and look to the future.
Determine which marketing activities are most effective and adjust your plan accordingly. You can do this by asking customers how they heard about you and by tracking which activities seem to generate the most business.
Review your entire plan periodically to make sure it’s keeping up and aligns with changes in your business.