The online marketplace has become very crowded. If you want your small business to stand out from the competition when someone is searching for your products and services, you need to implement marketing strategies that are right for you. Whether you are a new business or one that’s been around for a while, creating a simple marketing plan customized for your small business can help you make intelligent decisions on where you should spend your time and resources.
Not all businesses are the same. Even if you are in the same industry, what you do for marketing may or may not be the same as your competitors. But creating a simple marketing plan can help you determine whether a marketing activity is appropriate now, later or never.
Why is a marketing plan important for a small business?
Customers are looking for simple solutions to their complex problems. No one has time to sort through complex messages, confusing web design or too many options to find what they need. Customers are looking for simplified experiences throughout the buyer’s journey. The business that can deliver their solution with clear messages and a simple pricing and packaging model will win the customer.
A marketing plan outlines all the important pieces needed to successfully and consistently market your business. A marketing plan does not have to be lengthy or complicated. Creating a simple marketing plan is something every small business should have to guide your efforts and keep you focused on your goals.
A simple marketing plan helps small business owners:
- Choose strategies that are focused on attracting your ideal client within your target market
- Focus on what works for them
- Avoid activities that are random and ineffective
- Eliminate marketing overwhelm that creates paralysis, guaranteeing that nothing gets done.
- Create simpler messaging and user experiences for the customer
- Identifies a roadmap for the business that helps you be consistent with your activities
Many small business owners don’t really think having a marketing plan is important. But with so much distraction in our day-to-day activities, we need to put structure around marketing. This helps us focus on achieving our goals. We only have so much time to devote to marketing, so let’s use that time wisely.
How to create your small business marketing plan
Spend time thinking through each of these sections, especially if you’ve never done this before. The more you understand your business, the better your marketing will align with you and your ideal clients.
1a. Define your mission
Your mission is what you want to accomplish as a business. It should guide, focus and direct your organization towards your ultimate destination.
Your mission is a concise statement of what your business does, developed from the customer’s perspective, and aligned with the vision for the business. It should answer these three questions:
- What do we do? Specifies what you deliver to your customers, not in terms of process, but by the real needs that are fulfilled for your customers when they do business with you.
- How do we do it? Defines the type of products and services you sell and deliver to your customers.
- For whom? Identifies the target market that is most likely to buy your products and services.
Knowing the answers to these questions provides focus for your business and helps you move from the present into the future.
Think about why you started your business in the first place and the value you provide your ideal clients. Your mission is not about the products or services you sell. It is more about the experience you create and the result of your efforts.
1b. Define your vision for the business
Your vision is a vivid description about what you want your business to be. It’s purpose is to inspire and motivate you. A well-defined vision creates a mental picture of the business that you are striving to build. It is also the key driver of your marketing.
A clear vision statement benefits your business by:
- Serving as a compass to keep you heading in the right direction.
- Enabling you to assess the many opportunities that are presented to you and make decisions based on whether the opportunity helps you get closer to your vision.
- Helping you measure your progress, set goals, establish priorities, and know when to say no.
- Enabling you to focus on what needs to be done to get there and eliminate anything that wastes time and takes energy away from what is valuable to achieving your dream.
If your vision is to grow your business, then your marketing will be very different from a competitor who wants to stay the same size and keep the pipeline full. Knowing this helps you make decisions on how much marketing is needed. It will also help you make decisions about what to do to keep moving towards the vision you have set.
2. Identify who you serve
Do you enjoy working with your current clients? Or is there a group that would better appreciate what you do and make your passion come alive?
Knowing who you ideally want to work with and how you can help them makes marketing a lot easier. You eliminate wasted time and money on activities that are random and unfocused. This helps you know what they want and why. You can then incorporate clearer messages into your marketing, which increases visibility to a broader market.
Service businesses such as marketing, business coaching, construction, IT, home improvement, legal or financial services benefit from creating a niche that you can dominate and become known as the expert. Why?
- You can be more visible in a niche market than in the general market
- You can market your services with more clarity
- People pay more for services from experts
Knowing who you want to work with and understanding the needs of this unique group of people or businesses allows your business to provide tremendous value to those who need it the most. You will know with certainty what problem they are trying to solve or what need they wish to satisfy. This allows you to speak precisely to your target audience. You can be extremely clear about the value you offer and why your ideal clients should work with you. This clarity attracts the right audience, which empowers you to turn away those clients that drain your energy.
Successful small businesses understand that only certain types of customers will buy their product or service. If you determine who those people are and target your marketing efforts toward them, you develop that trust relationship that will in time, turn them into customers.
3. Understand what makes you different
The secret to understanding how your business is different is knowing what your ideal client really wants and delivering it better than anyone else. Don’t be fooled – this exercise is not easy to do. It takes a lot of thought, brainstorming and sometimes some trial and error to see what works. Sometimes we are just too close to our businesses to see that differentiating quality that makes us stand out.
What do you uniquely offer that your clients find amazing? 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?
Usually what makes us different need not be a complicated process or service. In many cases, you may offer something that is simple but has extreme value to your clients. We are taught to believe that things of value have to be hard or complex. Just because these things we do are easy for us does not mean they are easy for others. You need to become consciously aware of this value you provide and use it to your benefit.
4. Identify the value you offer
Your target audience will have different issues, goals and needs. They will be looking for a solution that works for them. You need to define your value proposition so that there is no doubt in their mind that you can help them solve their problem.
Remember that your value proposition is the value you promise to deliver to customers after they buy from you. It describes the benefits your customers can expect from your products or services. It should clearly convey:
- Value. The specific benefits you provide your ideal client.
- Relevancy – How you solve your customers’ problems.
- Unique differentiation. Why customers should buy from you and not your competition.
Remember to say who you work with, how you will help them and why you are the best to deliver on this promise. Don’t underestimate what you do. The value you offer may be something simple for you but complicated for others.
5. Refine your goals
Do you have marketing goals for your business? If you try to market your business without properly defined goals, the result is ineffective marketing. Without goals that can be tracked and measured, you never know if you are successful.
It’s easy to lose sight of your goals when things get hectic. Setting realistic and measurable goals helps you focus on efforts that produce the results you want. This helps you eliminate activities that waste time or direct your attention elsewhere. Goals also help you make decisions about whether to spend resources on a marketing activity. If the activity doesn’t get you closer to your goal, look spend time elsewhere that does.
6. Simplify your message
Once you know what makes you different, incorporate it into your message about the benefits of working with you. Figure out what your ideal client wants and focus on the most important point that you want to communicate. Let your audience know what problem you solve for them and why they should work with your business. A captivating message speaks directly to the needs of your ideal client, allowing you to connect with them.
Avoid drowning your prospects with too much information about what you offer. Remember that your potential customer only cares about what you can do for them. Present your solutions simply and in their language so it is easy for them to make a decision. Clear messages can help them move swiftly through the sales process.
7. Review your pricing and packaging
Pricing and packaging is an important aspect of marketing that needs to be carefully planned and executed. If you are a service business, people pay you for what you know and how you solve their problems. How your ideal clients perceive the value of your services is a critical component to being paid what you are worth.
- Review your service offerings to be sure they appeal to your ideal client
- Create packages that are easy to understand what is included
- Price your services so that you get compensated for your time and expertise but your ideal client feels good about the value these services provide
Be unique and offer your services in a way that makes you stand out from your competition. This makes your business memorable and credible. You want a prospect to quickly and easily understand what you do and what sets you apart from your competitors.
8. Select which marketing strategies you will implement
Marketing strategies are the different ways a business will reach its customers. Each will have a goal and actionable steps that are needed to effectively implement them. There are many different types of marketing strategies, so how do you choose the right ones that will work for your business?
Marketing strategies include:
- Content marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Event marketing
- Advertising (online and traditional)
- Public relations
- Affiliate marketing
Not all of these strategies will work for your business. You need to understand your target audience to know if a strategy will effectively reach them.
9. Determine your marketing communication channels
Before you start implementing any of your marketing strategies, you need to determine which communications channels are right for your business. Communication channels are how you deliver your offer to your audience in a way that helps them understand the value you provide. It is just one element of a successful marketing campaign, albeit an important one. Combined with your messaging and the right creative for the channel, it can resonate with your ideal customers and encourage them to do business with you.
Although there are different types of marketing communications channels, they all should provide the same outcome – create brand awareness and generate leads. But for every business, not all communications channels are going to work the same. Some businesses may benefit from a well-run paid ad campaign. Others may find that content marketing works better for them.
The best channel for your business will be determined based on your goals, budget and target audience. But regardless of what channels you choose, make sure you deliver a consistent brand image and message to your audience.
9. Create a road map for achieving your goals
You wouldn’t take a trip without planning your route. Marketing your business is no different – you need an action plan to guide you towards your destination. This plan defines the marketing strategies and the tactics within each strategy that you will use to achieve a particular goal.
Your 90 day marketing action plan:
- Eliminates random activities that create haphazard results.
- Defines each marketing campaign project in detail and assigns resources, dates and topics to each activity so that it eliminates the guess work.
- Reminds you of what you need to do to keep moving forward.
- Prevents you from getting distracted by all the opportunities that are constantly coming your way.
- Keeps your progress visible. If you are accomplishing tasks and finishing performance-based projects, you can better measure whether what you are doing is working or not.
- Tells you if you are trying to do too much in a short period of time or if what you are working on is not helping.
Working on the right projects and focusing on what is important can help you get to your goals faster and with less stress. Having a plan that you review every two weeks, tracking completed tasks and adding new tasks to projects as needed, ensures you know quickly if you need to pivot or stay on your current path.
Take control of your marketing
Most of us built our businesses around our passion and in doing so enjoy our work every day. However, if you are in business to be successful, then you need to view marketing as an investment and take the proper steps to ensure you are maximizing your resources. A simple marketing plan with an action plan to help you be consistent ensures you are focusing on the success of your business.
Simple marketing has benefits for both your customers and your business. It ensures you are consistent with your marketing activities. Plus it helps your ideal client understand why they will benefit from working with you. So create that simple marketing plan to help your business uniquely standout from the competition.
With all the hype around digital marketing and social media, business owners forget that online is simply a new channel that helps you reach your ideal client. Before you can get the digital channel, or any marketing channel to work for your business, you need to get back to marketing basics.
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