How to Write a Marketing Plan
10 steps to writing a small business marketing plan for the over 50 entrepreneur, looking to become self-employed.
Is a marketing plan necessary for a small business?
You’ve got a great business idea, written your business plan to secure some funding and are eager to get your great idea to market to start making some cash.
It’s precisely at this stage that you need to write your marketing plan. Simply put the whole idea of doing one is to try and understand your customers and take action towards delivering your product or service to them. It will help focus your energy, inform your direction and ensure that any activity you carry out is to achieve your objectives.
In a small business it is very easy to get distracted with peripheral activity that may cost precious ££ and that may not help you achieve your objectives.
Writing a marketing plan is vital but I would advise the following
- Keep it brief
- Don’t over think it
- Create a program that combines sales activities with marketing tactics
Key steps before you even start
1. A completion date: Set a deadline for when you want to complete the plan. It is very easy to get distracted with other operational issues and tempting to just launch into things. Giving yourself a completion deadline will help keep you focused.
2. Who is going to do what: Establish who is going to do what and by when. It is important that your team’s roles and responsibilities are defined at the start.
3. Budget : Establish how much money you have to spend. As a small business with limited funds this is especially vital as it will help inform the strategies you decide to implement.
Writing the Plan
1. Create a vision statement
Sounds grander than it is. It’s about defining what you are trying to achieve in the long term and the attributes of your product or service that define your brand and its long term positioning.
2. Do a SWOT analysis
Identify your strengths and weaknesses both internally and in the market place. Understand the opportunities and threats facing your business.
This includes the 4 C’s: understanding your consumer, channel, company, competition and climate.
Do your research so that you fully understand your point of difference and the opportunity you have in the market place.
Research is often overlooked and perceived as too expensive for a small business but is vital to give areas of focus to your plan.
It doesn’t have to be a high cost and good sources of information are trade associations, chamber of commerce, media organizations and local business groups.
4. Scope the competition
Understanding your competition is a key part of your SWOT analysis. You need to know who is out there selling something similar to you, particularly if they have a similar consumer. You will need to persuade consumers or businesses to switch to your product and service so it is important you understand the areas in which you can beat the competition.
5 Define your unique selling proposition: What makes your product /service and business unique?
Now you understand your key competition you need to identify what will set you apart from the competition.
Ask yourself : Why are your products and services desirable v the competition?
Your unique selling proposition is the statement that defines why your products or services are different from the competition and what makes you a better choice.
If you don’t take the time to define this you will most certainly be wasting time and ££.
6. Target Market: Who are you trying to reach with your product/services?
This is the group you are trying to sell to. The more you know about your target market , the easier it will be to build an effective plan.
Find out :
- Where you can find them
- What they value as important
- What they are worried about
- What they need right now
Once you know this you are able to personalize your marketing message to best meet their needs.
Pricing will probably already have been worked out as part of the business planning process. However in a marketing plan it’s all about how you work your pricing strategy into your marketing strategy.
Your consumers need to know the value and benefits of your product or service to help them make their purchase decision.
8.Define your objectives
You should now have a vision, understand the opportunities and threats facing your business , understand what makes you unique v the competition,who you are trying to reach and at what price.
Now you can start defining your objectives. These should be SMART ie specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound.
This is the creative bit and defines how you will get the message about your unique product/service out to your target audience.
Most small businesses have limited marketing funds so it means being creative. One of the most effective ways is to a program that combines sales activites. This will add value as it also provides the opportunity to interact with prospective customers. This might be something as simple as offering to distribute material for an up and coming event.
Other promotional activity could include :
Advertising Direct sales Packaging Public relations Social media marketing Sales promotions
In the beginning don’t try to do too much, try to focus on about 5 things that you believe will achieve your objectives and learn from them.
As well as paid for activity also consider how you can leverage free sources such as speaking at a relevant conference to position yourself as an expert or trade association networking events.
10. Measure and track results
Whether it’s cross promoting your business with other local businesses, creating a facebook page or having your car painted with you business logo and contact details, it is important that you track if something is working or not. In this way you can change tactics and move to another activity that is more effective.
Alison Cressey is a leading brand and content strategy expert. Alison has held a number of senior UK and global marketing roles working on mega brands such as Harry Potter and Star Wars. She has also run a $300m business across Europe.
Alison now helps businesses and individuals develop brand and content strategy, digital strategy and advises on routes to commercial success.