One of the most common issues we find is that SME business leaders don’t have a clear idea of how to prepare a marketing plan.
Here are five simple steps, which combined with our free downloadable Marketing Plan template should help you on your way:
Step 1: Start by describing your current situation: “situation analysis”
This sounds easy – defining your company and its products or services and the benefits you provide. However it can be very profound. The secret is in looking at this from a customer’s view point and being able to deliver a very succinct summary. Whatever your business, from restaurants to professional services, retail to product distribution, positioning your product or service competitively requires an understanding of your particular market. You need to be able to describe what you market in the context of the competitive environment. And then be able to articulate the benefits your product or service provides and the value it delivers. Getting to a succinct, pithy summary is not easy but worth the effort. For a useful tool to help you in this process look at /looking-at-your-product-or-service-through-the-eyes-of-your-customer/#more-2194
Your situation analysis should also contain a relevant appraisal 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.
The picture below (courtesy of Heartstyles) is a useful tool to help you develop your own view:
Step 2: Describe who you are looking to reach: “target market”
Question to think about: ‘if I had to describe my customers to someone from another planet who knew nothing about humans, what would I tell them to look for so that they could find more customers for me?’
Who will be buying the product/service? What defines and categorises them? Things to think about might include: age, wealth, location, specific issues that they face that your product solves, other interests or activities that characterise them and other products/services they might buy.
Step 3: Define your marketing goals
Your marketing plan should align with your business goals. What do you want to achieve and how will your marketing plan help to achieve?
For example, are you hoping for a 50 percent increase in sales of your product per quarter. Or are you seeking to deliver 20 new leads a month to the sales team?
Write down a short list of goals—and make them SMART. Specific Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.
Step 4: Develop plans to achieve those goals
This section is the kernel of your marketing plan; the strategies and tactics you’ll use to achieve your goals. A good marketing plan targets all stages of your marketing. Sales cycle, for more in depth reading take a look at /the-all-new-marketing-sales-funnel/#more-2550.
- Finding Prospects. Some marketing tactics. For example; social media, advertising, PR and direct marketing can be great for reaching cold prospects.
- Nurturing Prospects. Those with whom you have a relationship may respond better to permission-based email, loyalty programs and educational events.
- Converting Prospects. Your hottest prospects have been exposed to your sales and marketing messages and are ready to buy. For them a sales intervention (whether in person, by phone, or email) combined with marketing may add the final element required to close the sale.
To finalise this step, define your primary marketing strategies and link each to the tactics you’ll deploy to reach prospects at any point in your marketing – sales cycle. Remember to ensure that everything you do has a target and is measurable. Otherwise you will never know what is working!
Step 5: Set your marketing budget
Marketing doesn’t need to be expensive, but it will need a budget. The traditional way is to allocate a percentage of projected annual sales revenue to your annual marketing budget. An alternative for small businesses may be to allocate marketing funds quarterly in arrears, so that you are able to respond quickly to the changing needs of the business.
What’s next? Implement, measure and review! Allocate costs to your marketing tactics and monitor results. You may find you’ve exceeded your budget. Simply go back and adjust your tactics until you have a mix that’s affordable. The key is to never stop marketing—work with what you can afford!
Marketing Plan Articles
This is part of a series of three articles designed to help SME owners get the best out of their marketing. The other articles in the series are:
Smart Marketing for SMEs
Creating a Marketing Plan that Works