Why Develop a Marketing Plan?

Even though you may know your market well and are very enthusiastic about your products and servicess your business online and offline won’t survive without developing a marketing plan.

We are all very good as business people at reminding our friends and colleagues about having a plan for doing this and that, but find it very difficult to produce that “umbrella” plan that will ensure that we make the very best use of our time and resources.

A Marketing Plan doesn’t have to be a long multi-page document. In fact you can easily produce your first plan in a day on a few pieces of paper by following the eight steps I’ve outlined below.

The Eight-Step Marketing Plan

The steps below are particularly relevant to a business operating both on and off-line. Some of the steps are not as relevant if you market solely online.

You can develop an initial marketing plan for your business in less than one day. Once you’ve finished you’ll have a document that’s a template for all your marketing and sales activities.

1. Investigate and Understand Your Market and Your Competition

You may have a really great product to sell, but have you chosen a marketplace that’s got a big demand for your product?

Start building up your knowledge and understanding of your marketplace by asking questions such as:

  • What are the segments (niche markets)  in my marketplace
  • Are the buyers in these segments able to find and buy products like mine?
  • Are the segments I might be interested in big enough for me to create a business?
  • What share of the total business could I achieve in each segment?
  • What’s the competition like in each segment?
  • What are the weaknesses of my competition?
  • What unique selling points  (USP) do I have to enable me to win market share?

 2. Understand Your Customer

You can’t begin to start selling until you’ve done this.

Gain a good understanding of your customers by asking questions such as:

  • How do the customers I am targeting currently buy products like mine? (On the internet, in a store etc.)
  • If I am selling to a family or organisational unit, who does the buying? (Husband, wife, purchasing manager, project manager)?
  • What are the buyers habits? Papers they read, clubs they go to, TV they watch etc.)
  • What will motivate the buyers to buy my products? Pain avoidance, self esteem, desire for health etc.)

 3. Find a Niche in Your Market

Don’t make the mistake of believing that everyone in your marketplace is a potential customer.  Each buyer will assess and judge your product in a different way. Some will decide to purchase, others won’t, even though you might think they have a need for it.  In addition, your market place probably has lots of competition (make sure you build up a file of information on your compatitors).

Your best strategy is to carve out a market niche and aim to dominate it.  When you’ve done that move on to another niche and dominate that.

Make sure that in the niche you’ve chosen you can easily contact your buyers.  If they are remote and difficult to get hold of you’ll need to spend a lot of money and time on additional marketing and sales activities.  However, don’t walk away permanently from a niche that you think looks very promising because of this.  Put it on one side and select an easier one first.

4.  Develop Your Marketing Message

Your marketing message is a bit like a slogan. It tells your marketplace what you do, and if it’s a really good slogan it will start to persuade individuals in your marketplace that they should look at what you’ve got to sell.

Good marketing messages are short and to the point. You’ve probably been to meetings where you’ve been asked to give your “Elevator Speech”.  Your marketing message is a bit like that.

 5. Determine Your Marketing Communication Methods

We’ve already established that your niche should be contactable.  The marketing communication method (sometimes called “medium”) is the means/vehicle you use to deliver your marketing message.

 Here are some examples:

Telemarketing Website
Newspaper ads Ezine ads
Classified ads On-line articles
Posters Social Media
Banners Sales Letters/eMail Letters
Card decks Social media
TV & radio ads Web 2.0
Doorstep Drops/Card Decks Gift Certificates/Vouchers
Trade Shows/Exhibitions Window Displays
Newspapers & magazines Meetings/Public Speaking
Charity events PR
Networking Catalogs
Telemarketing Agents & Partners
Fliers/Brochures/Postcards Business cards

You’ll need to make sure that the marketing messages you use match the media you’ve chosen. Also make sure that you keep a close record of everything you spend so that you can work out the ROI (return on investment)  for each media campaign you run.

 6. Set Marketing & Sales Goals

Make sure these are SMART:

– Sensible

– Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Time- specific

You’ll need a mix of goals, some financial and some not.  For example, you should set monthly revenue goals, but you may also want to set goals for types of products and categories of customer as well.

 7. Develop a Marketing Budget

If you don’t set yourself a budget when you develop a marketing plan you’ll soon run into trouble. Start your budgeting with some approximations and build up to a more detailed and accurate budget later.

–  Work out how much money it’s going to cost you to achieve your goals. You may need to make some guesses initially about some of your marketing activities.

–  Use a simple spreadsheet to calculate how much it’s going to cost you to win one customer.

– Calculate the value of an average sale

– Compare estimated costs and sales. Will you make an acceptable profit?  If not, adjust your marketing and sales budget until you do (or look for another niche).

Review your budget as the year progresses.  You may need to reduce your spend if your monthly sales goals are not being met.

8. Set a Date to Review and Update Your Marketing Plan

When you have developed your marketing plan set a date to review your progress. Start with monthly reviews and then move on to quarterly reviews. When you carry out your reviews note down your progress and make amendments to your plan if necessary.

Sunmmary

If you follow the eight steps I have outlined to develop a marketing plan you should feel more in control of where your business is going. Your first marketing plan won’t be perfect, but make every effort to follow it and ammend it as you go along. And if you reach a stage in the growth of your business when extra money is required to accelerate growth your marketing plan will help you negotiate a bank loan on good terms!

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