In this complex and noisy world of too many choices, a small business can stand out from the competition by creating a simple marketing plan. Whether you are a new business or one that’s been around for a while, 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.
Benefits of a simple marketing plan
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.
Having 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.
1. Define your mission and vision for the business
Your mission is what you want to accomplish as a business. It should guide, focus and direct your organization towards your ultimate destination.
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.
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.
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.
Read about mission and vision in Mission, Vision, Goals, Strategies and Tactics
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
When you pick the right target market, you become focused on addressing their particular challenges. It 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.
Read about defining your ideal client in: Target Market Strategy – Finding Your Ideal Clients.
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.
If you are trying to wear too many hats, you will never be able to demonstrate your expertise. Being too broad makes it difficult to find a viable target audience. You will also have a hard time explaining what you do in a clear and concise manner.
Read about differentiating your business in: 8 Ways to Differentiate Your Business.
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.
Read about creating your value proposition in: Is Your Value Proposition Helping or Hurting You?
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.
Read about defining your marketing goals in: Marketing Goals – Your Pathway to Success.
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.
Read about how to craft your message in Create a Powerful Marketing Message.
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.
Read about packaging and pricing in: Service Bundling Strategy – 7 Benefits for Your Small Business
8. 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.
Read about marketing communications channel strategy in: Marketing Communications Channel Strategy.
9. Create an action plan
A marketing action plan defines a realistic set of activities based on your resource limitations. It also prevents you from doing random activities that create haphazard results. An action plan takes your marketing plan one step further and assigns dates, topics and responsibilities to each activity. This eliminates the guess work and ensures you always know what you should be doing and when.
An action plan also helps you select the marketing activities that will help you achieve your goals. Not all marketing strategies will reach your ideal client. There are plenty of options available especially in the digital marketing arena. We need to be selective and spend our precious resources on what will get us the best return on our investment.
Once you have decided on the best marketing activities for your business, be disciplined about how you spend your time and money. It’s easy to get enticed by empty promises and activities that don’t pay off for you.
Read about creating an action plan in: Marketing Action Plan – Action Steps to Achieve Your Goals
Take control of your marketing
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.