Time to create your marketing plan. Bleh, you say.
Just the words, marketing plan, sound so dry and conjure images of lengthy word documents, online research, and possibly some sort of matrix.
Completely understandable. But, what if there is a different way?
What if we take that complex process, boil it down, and only use what small business owners truly need? The single most important elements and a workable plan. That doesn’t sound so bad. Because, really, once we take out all the mumbo jumbo, we’re left with four parts:
1. Evaluate Existing Foundation
2. Know Your Target Audience Precisely
3. Create A Workable Plan
4. Measure Everything
Evaluate Existing Foundation
In order for any amount of marketing, advertising, or public relations to work, the marketing foundation must be solid. Your marketing foundation includes: logo, tagline, Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and customer service. If your company has been in business for more than a year, you have your logo and your tagline. If it is solid, let’s not tinker with it. We are not on a rebranding mission. But, the other elements, the USP, and your customer service…let’s talk.
1. Unique Selling Proposition – Ah yes, the USP. When used effectively, it’s a beautiful thing. The USP is a concise statement that bundles the top reasons why people should buy from you. It should be brief, it should be distinctive, and it should be yours – no copy-cats allowed. If you already have a fantastic USP, great! It should be included in every business material your business puts out into the world, even your invoice. If you do not have a solid, compelling USP, start talking to people. Find out from your customers why they do business with you, ask your friends, get feedback, and write a single sentence that is packed with conviction.
2. Customer Service – Customer service is an essential element of the marketing foundation. If you make a guarantee in your USP, be sure to follow though with your customer service. “We answer the phone on the first ring!” Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring, “Press 0 to speak to the operator.” Guess who just hung up? Not to mention, that caller will probably tell 10 people about the experience.
It is not enough to treat customers and potential customers with respect, they must actually like you. They have to feel good when they interact with you or anyone else in your business. Your customer service must run like a well-oiled machine for marketing, PR, or advertising to improve your business.
Know Your Target Audience Precisely
A common mistake made by small businesses is to cast a wide net when trying to attract customers. Although your products or services are probably suitable for a very broad audience, it is important to target precise segments because it gives you more of a marketing punch! In addition, you can be more choosy about who you want to do business with.
When you segment your target audience, you are able to have a deeper conversation. A target audience of, “women, age 25-54,” for example, can be segmented to, “women, age 30-45, with a college education, household income of $65K per year, married, own a home, have children in the public school system, busy with work and family activities, eat-out once a week, concerned about saving money.” With this new information, you are able to write a marketing message that will speak to these women:
Restaurant Print Ad – “Take a night off from the grind and treat your family to a night out. Enjoy family-friendly live music and receive 20%-off your meal when your kids present their school I.D.”
Jeweler Promotion – “Join us for ‘Ladies Evening Out.’ Enjoy wine tasting and cheese plates. Make out a Mother’s Day wish list and we’ll send a personalized card to drop the hint. In addition, anything purchased off the list in the month of May will be 20% off.”
Accountant Promotion – “Dear Busy Moms, It’s time to relax. Schedule an appointment to for your taxes in the month of February and receive a free manicure while your taxes are being done!”
Segmenting the target market creates opportunities to engage potential customers and show an understanding of their wants, needs, struggles, and goals.
Compare these ideas to fishing. A small business casts a huge net and catches some fish; however, they also catch algae, seaweed, a rubber tire…a boot. On the other hand, if you know what you are fishing for, you can attract the fish you want with the perfect bait. The results are fewer, less costly casts and more of the fish you want! The main goal is to pinpoint the precise type of customer you are seeking and attract them by showing a deep understanding of their needs.
To determine your target audience precisely, think of your number one customer or client. Who are they? What’s their business like, what are their interests, and how do they purchase your products? Think about what they look like and how they act. How do they want to be perceived? What’s their M.O.? What is there home life like? What kind of music do they listen to? Get personal. Get down to the nitty gritty details. Paint a picture with words. Once you have written down your description, your goal is to find more people like this. This is your target audience, your perfect fish, the fish you should bait and cast for in every marketing effort.
Once you know who you are targeting, it is much easier to create a workable plan. Keyword: workable. Be mindful of how much time and money you have to invest and do not extend beyond this. The workable marketing plan can, and should, be simplified. It should be as simple as a 12 month calendar.
Look at the big picture: 12 months, 52 weeks, 4 seasons.
At the beginning of the year, or during your planning period, create goals for your business. An example: obtain 10 new clients, secure 10 speaking engagements, and position the business as the go-to company in the region. Then, start making plans to accomplish the goal by creating tactics that support each goal.
Let’s keep working with our example. The first goal is to obtain 10 new clients. You have a clean marketing calendar in front of you. Think, what times of the year does my target market purchase my products or services? How do they buy it? How do they hear about me? What types of activities are happening in the lives of my target market? Then, jot down ideas based on months of the year. Perhaps you send a direct mail piece, one for each new season (winter, spring, summer, fall), with a direct response coupon, and follow up with a personal phone call. Or, maybe you place a print ad in a local newspaper for a free sample, and follow up with a packet of information for the people who respond to the ad. Write down a targeted tactic for each quarter, and when you place a marketing tactic in a certain month, work backwards to make sure you plan and execute the work needed to get it off the ground. If you send a direct mail piece in March, the task for February is to create the piece, get it printed, and decide who you will send it to.