When you started your business, you probably had a few areas you knew would be important.
A big idea? Check!
A funding plan? Check!
A business plan? Check!
A marketing plan…. Wait what? What’s a marketing plan?
Unlike a business plan, a marketing plan focuses on both gaining and keeping customers; it’s strategic and includes real numbers, facts and objectives. A good marketing plan spells out all the tools and tactics you’ll use to achieve your sales goals. It’s your plan of action: what you’ll sell (going deeper than just the product or service lists), who’ll want to buy it (as much info on demographics is important here) and the tactics you’ll use to generate leads that result in sales. BIG NOTE: Unless you’re using your marketing plan to help you gain funding, it doesn’t have to be lengthy or beautifully written. Use bulleted sections, and get right to the point.
Sound like something that will move the needle for you?
STEP ONE, TAKING STOCK: ♩♬ Started from the bottom, now we’re here♩♬
To figure out where you’re headed, you need to acknowledge where you are. And be honest – this is only a tool to help you. Don’t sugarcoat. Don’t project record breaking everything forever and always à la Donald Trump. Take stock of your resources, your limitations, and your current state of affairs.
Make your situation analysis a succinct overview of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths and weaknesses refer to characteristics that exist within your business, while opportunities and threats refer to outside factors. To determine your company’s strengths, consider the ways that its products are superior to others, or if your service is more comprehensive, for example. What do you offer that gives your business a competitive advantage? Weaknesses, on the other hand, can be anything from operating in a highly-saturated market to lack of experienced staff members.
STEP TWO, FIND YOUR AUDIENCE: ♩♬ Ain’t nobody better, oh baby, baby we belong together♩♬
Consider your ideal customer, or better yet, create up to three customer avatars – fully imagined pretend clients who will use, buy, and learn about your company in different ways. You cannot sell to “everyone” because in the marketing world “everyone” is no one. A smaller audience you intentionally target, one you work to delight, will do more for your business than a hundred thousand people who ignore you because you’re not talking directly to them.
Focus on three ideal client avatars for three different uses:
- Money Avatar: These clients pay the bills but don’t light you up. They have bigger pockets and can be systemized to death. You need these people. If you sell products, these are your wholesalers versus your retail market. If you sell retail these are investors versus buyers. For us, these are government or large corporate clients.
- Soul Avatar: These ones light you up but don’t have the budget to be your entire marketing plan. They have limited budgets but they make you feel so good to be doing what you do. They are likely to be easily-bought brand ambassadors who would be over the moon with free product. These customers keep you going emotionally when the grind gets to be too much.
- You-vatar: These are the ones that are the easiest to talk to because you know you really well. But while this is the easiest group to talk to, they are a danger zone because they might not have a great reason to buy and they might not be the people who will buy the most from you – quite the opposite, in fact. So get them in, and measure their profitability.
Developing a simple, one-paragraph profile of your ideal customer is your next step. You can describe prospects in terms of demographics – age, sex, family composition, earnings and geographic location – as well as lifestyle. Ask yourself the following: Are my customers conservative or innovative? Leaders or followers? Timid or aggressive? Traditional or modern? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what I offer? In what quantity? And where do they hang out?
STEP THREE, YOUR GOALS: ♩♬ Tell me whatcha want, whatcha really really want♩♬
If we were to wave a magic wand and give you exactly the sales numbers, business successes, and projections that would make your soul giddy with gratitude, what exactly would that look like?
Be specific. If you’re a home builder who wants to build 5 multimillion dollar houses this year, you’re going to market differently than your competitor who wants to build 35 average priced homes.
Be optimistic. Goal setting is about potential, possibility, and about leaping before there’s a net. Don’t let your current situation dictate how big your goals are…the point is to be better off than where you are right now!
Be realistic. If you’ve just started your business and have yourself as your only employee, don’t expect to be taking in 7 figures. If last year’s sales were down 40%, don’t expect to rebound and add another 50% on top. While optimism is great, set goals that excite you, that motivate you – not ones that scare the heck out of you.
Have a few goals. Setting both short- and long-term goals will keep you motivated, keep you moving, and keep moving the needle.If your 5 or 10 year goal is to have 15 employees and have 60% of your sales in exports, then match your short term goals to support that. Setting achievable milestones will keep your goals from become depressing “should haves.”
STEP FOUR, THE TACTICS: ♩♬ This is how we do it♩♬
This is the roadmap, the how to, and in my world, this is all about the digital, baby. Once you’ve figured out who your customer is, you need to know where they hang out online because no matter what happens to Mark Zuckerberg, for the next few years digital will be the only way to go.
Research frequency, channels, blogs, website content, and make sure you assign each tactic to a person and have them schedule it into their week. If you want to do this stuff yourself and you assign or don’t set aside the time, your tactics will stay perpetually at the bottom of a to-do list.
A good marketing program targets prospects at all stages of your sales cycle. Some marketing tactics are great for reaching cold prospects. Warm prospects – those who’ve previously been exposed to your marketing message and perhaps even met you personally – will respond best to permission-based email, loyalty programs and customer appreciation events, among others. Your hottest prospects are individuals who’ve been exposed to your sales and marketing messages and are ready to close a sale. Generally, contact (whether in person, by phone, or email) combined with marketing adds the final heat necessary to close sales.
STEP FIVE, THE BUDGET: ♩♬ It’s all about the Benjamins, baby♩♬
You’ll need to devote a percentage of projected sales to your marketing budget. Of course, when starting a business, you might need to use borrowed funds, or even self-finance to get your marketing off the ground. Just bear this in mind – marketing is absolutely essential to the success of your business, and shouldn’t be left the scraps after the rest of the priorities take over. And with so many different kinds of tactics available for reaching out to every conceivable audience niche, there’s a mix to fit even the tightest budget.
As you begin to gather costs for the marketing tactics you outlined in the previous step, you may find you’ve exceeded your budget. Simply go back and adjust your tactics until you have a mix that’s affordable. Creating your own content and handling some of the basics yourself will cut costs, but then you’re trading time for money, and that only lasts so long.