All small businesses will benefit from having a simple marketing plan that maps out your overall strategy to reach your ideal client and win new customers. Unfortunately many don’t take the time to create this important guide to keep your business on track and prevent you from wasting time and money with minimal results.
A marketing plan helps you focus your efforts on initiatives that align with your business goals. If you do not have a marketing plan for whatever reason – too complex, too costly – you should rethink this decision and develop a plan that determines what direction you should be heading before you start your engines and head out to nowhere.
The 5 Key Parts of a Simple Marketing Plan
Who do you want to work with and what do they need?
If you try to market your products and services to an undefined audience, you most likely will fail. Many small business owners avoid making a decision to target a specific market and try and be “all things to all people” because not making a decision feels less risky. That is far from reality.
Being clear about who you work with increases efficiency, eliminating wasted time and money on activities that are random and unfocused. And despite being a prominent marketing myth, defining a target market will not limit your business. Directing your marketing efforts towards a specific market increases the clarity of your message and heightens your visibility to a much broader market.
What makes you better, different or more valuable than your competition?
Determining what really sets you apart from others in your field and communicating it effectively is not an easy exercise. The secret to identifying what makes you different from your competition is to understand what your ideal client really wants and make sure you deliver it better than anyone else.
Take some time to think about the following and come up with a list of things you do really well. Don’t underestimate anything because you think it is too simple because things that are simple to you just may be very valuable to your clients.
What do you do really well that makes you stand out? Do you:
- Find simpler ways of doing things?
- Serve a niche market better than anyone else?
- Bring a new perspective to challenges that offer unique solutions?
- Package your services in a way that appeals to your ideal client?
- Create systems that help clients learn how to do things more effectively?
With so many companies offering the same products and services, you must identify what makes you uniquely different and use it to your advantage. Stand out by really understanding what you do best and exploit it.
What are your marketing goals?
Goals are crucial to the success of your business. Most business owners understand the value of having marketing goals, but many never take the time to set them, evaluate progress and adjust them as necessary. Then they wonder why their marketing is ineffective and draining their resources.
Select one to three of your most important goals and work towards achieving them. Having too many goals will only set you up for failure and disappointment. Figure out what’s important for you to accomplish in the next 3 to 6 months and go for it. Without goals, you run the risk of wandering aimlessly throughout the year, unfocused and possibly missing opportunities that could elevate your business to a new level.
What strategies and tactics will you use to achieve your goals?
Your plan should define which strategies you will use, on which channel and the associated activities you need to be doing regularly that will lead you toward your goals. The best way to illustrate this is through an example.
Goal: Increase the number of qualified inbound opportunities per quarter to 50.
Strategy: Create an online presence that projects my expertise and helps those searching find my web site.
- Create one blog post per week
- Implement on-page SEO for our website
- Implement Google Authorship
- Develop an opt-in email list
- WordPress website / blog incorporating my brand identity
- An editorial calendar identifying content topics for the weekly blog post
- A content distribution calendar to ensure content is made visible
- An offer that your target would appreciate to attract people to your mailing list
This part of your marketing plan becomes the foundation of your ongoing marketing action plan to ensure you define a realistic set of activities based on your resource limitations.
A marketing action plan eliminates random activities that create haphazard results. It takes your marketing plan one step further and assigns dates, topics, tools and resources needed to each activity so that it removes the guess work and ensures you always know what you should be doing and when.
How will you measure your marketing effectiveness against your goals?
Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing activities will depend on what you are trying to accomplish with each one based on pre-determined key performance indicators (KPIs). Common measurements include click-through rates, email opens, form conversion rates, cost per lead or sales revenue. In all cases, you need to know what success looks like and whether an activity is working and should be continued.
To determine whether your marketing efforts are producing results, you need to:
- Identify what you are trying to accomplish (i.e. more leads, greater brand awareness, more sales)
- Establish a call to action for each activity (buy now, sign up)
- Build a tracking mechanism into each marketing tactic before it is employed.
By determining whether your marketing activities are working, not only do you stay focused on those that produce results, you can lower your budget and eliminate wasted time and money. It’s important to constantly question the value of each marketing activity to determine if you should spend any time on it at all. If an activity or combination of activities are producing results, then keep going. When things slow down, assess the situation and make the changes necessary to re-energize your marketing.
Debra Murphy is a marketing coach and consultant who helps small businesses navigate the complex maze of online marketing. Experienced across all traditional marketing channels, Debra specializes in inbound marketing, a combination of search, social media and content marketing, to help small businesses effectively utilize this new media to gain visibility and generate inbound leads. Debra regularly writes about small business marketing on her Masterful Marketing blog and contributes to thought-leading resources like Business2Community and Social Media Today.