Many small business owners, even after the excitement of startup and in their growth phase, don’t realise the value of having a marketing plan.
I think deep down inside they think that marketing is something that “happens” when they start their business. They have something good to sell. They believe in the vision and values of their business. Build it and they will come – and if they don’t come as quickly, ok, then we might advertise.
But advertising is not marketing.
Marketing is a whole system of supportive components around your business that should be designed to attract customers who are the lowest hanging fruit. Advertising is only one component and is part of the message that you broadcast. A marketing plan designs that system to work together and the reason you need a marketing plan is to make sure that you design the system right. You need to aim with a precise focus on your target customer, not fire off a scatter-gun and hope you hit somebody!
Out of 192 small businesses surveyed by us in 2018, and again in 2020, 18% said their businesses grew year-on-year over the previous 3 years. Eighty-two per cent said that their growth was sporadic and unpredictable, or they struggled to see any growth. Unsurprisingly, all of the businesses who said their businesses had grown in the previous 3 years all had marketing plans. Only a handful of the others did.
Marketing plans work for a number of critical reasons.
Having a marketing plan commits you to actually do something rather than wait for the sale – unless marketing is a prime focus, it just becomes something else to do in your busy day.
Small businesses without a marketing plan were most prone to waiting for customers to approach them. Small businesses with a marketing plan did something at least once a week to approach the market. In most instances, this was because the marketing plan committed them to a timeline of strategies. Implementing the strategies in accordance with the schedule in the plan means that you consistently do something to approach your market.
Marketing plans also define and focus on a target market. They focus on low hanging fruit, potential customers who have a need for your product or have heard of you, and target them in marketing initiatives.
Small businesses without a marketing plan attempt to market themselves inconsistently and when they do, attempt to market to everyone with a heartbeat. The problem is, if you market to everyone, you reach the attention of no one. People only listen to marketing messages that ring home to them. In their busy lives, their brains are always filtering what might not apply to them. Unless you focus on the messages that mean something to them – that is, unless you hone in on people who are most likely to buy from you – they will ignore your messages.
Think of a business selling luxury watches, without a marketing plan. They place ads everywhere. Their messages in the local suburban newspaper are wasted – who can afford them? Their messages in luxury goods magazines are ignored – who can believe their luxury label if they are also advertised in free newspapers?
A good marketing plan identifies your target customers, those who need or want your product or service. This means they are already motivated to buy your product or service or something similar that resolves their issues or problems. The marketing plan is then about how to make them see you as the supplier of their solutions.
The marketing plan does this because it gets you to really understand why your target customers need your product – it’s not about how you see your product, it’s about how your customer sees it as their solution. Nobody buys a hammer because they need a hammer. They buy a hammer because they need to drive a nail in a piece of wood as quickly and comfortably as possible.
Once you understand that, you stop sending messages to your target customer about how your hammer is made of titanium steel and lasts a hundred years. Instead, you will send the right messages and tell them about how comfortable it is in your hand, insulated from shocks, and is heavy enough to drive that nail in within three strokes. Nail in wood. Quickly. Comfortably.
Once you know who your target market is and why they need your product, marketing plans set out the best way to reach them.
The analysis provides you with the right messages about hammering that nail into wood quickly and comfortably. It also helps you decide between alternative marketing initiatives so that you get the best return on investment – where can you best reach the people who need to drive a nail into wood?
Good marketing plans map out a timetable of continuous activity and thus provides consistency about reaching out to the market. It’s often said that a sale needs six “drips”. Each “drip” is a contact with a member of your target market, taking them on a journey of knowing that you exist, that your product provides them with the solution to their problem, and that you are the best supplier of their solution. The theory is that your target needs to be contacted at least 6 times, through different marketing initiatives like advertising, handouts, email,. freebies and offers, before they are ready to investigate buying from you.
If you follow this theory, then you need to be consistent in your marketing and not just roll out a new initiative once in a while when you think about it.
To prepare your marketing plan, you only need to take 7 steps.
Watch this video to follow the 7 steps:
You can start the process by getting our no-obligation free Report and Video Training on how to win more customers. Try out the process for free.
To summarise, the 7 steps are:
- Get to really know your product or service from the viewpoint of your customer. What are the benefits that it gives your customer? What needs does it fulfil?
- Get to know your ideal customer. Where do they come from? What’s their profile? Why do they need your product? What are their personal traits and emotional triggers?
- Set up your whole business, not just your product, to meet the customers’ expectations. How do they like to receive your product? What happens after sale? What responsiveness must you have? Do they like the experience gift-wrapped or just off the shelf?
- Utilise the right pricing strategy – make money, but set your price so that it attracts the customer. Should it be priced as a luxury category or a cheap one? Do you price for the unique experience or to compete?
- Choose the appropriate marketing activities. Are they appropriate for the stage of the sales funnel you are pitching at? Are they appropriate for your market and the characteristics of that market?
- Schedule the campaign. Build your marketing activities so that they reinforce each other, not some random set of happenings.
- Put it together, and while doing so, make yourself accountable with inbuilt monitoring and measurement systems.
If you want to know more, click here to read about my SMART Marketing Planning system.
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