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.
Whether you want to focus solely on inbound marketing or you want to integrate online with off-line marketing activities, there reasons why your small business needs a realistic but simple marketing plan.
A marketing plan is important to your small business because it enables you to:
- Specify a vision for your business
- Define and communicate your mission
- Outline what you want to accomplish
- Describe your ideal client
- Identify what makes you different
- Create a road map for achieving your goals
- Create an action plan for what you need to do and when
- Focus on what is important
- Track your progress
- Remind you that this is your business and not a hobby
Let’s take a look at the key parts of your marketing plan that needs your attention:
Create a vision for your business
Your vision statement is a vivid description about what you want your business to be so that it inspires and motivates you. A well-defined vision creates a mental picture of the business that you are striving to build.
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.
Define your mission statement
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.
Outline what you want to accomplish
Research has shown a direct link between setting goals and the probability of success. By setting goals and writing them down you are forced to be specific about what you want to achieve, how you will get there and by when. Your marketing goals should be:
- Focused on achieving your vision.
- Prioritized and tackled 1 or 2 at a time.
- Monitored and measured.
It’s common to reassess goals quarterly and adjust the time frames and priorities based on what is happening around you. Life happens and you need to give yourself room to change.
Describe your ideal target client
Never underestimate the importance of defining your ideal target audience. Understanding the needs of the unique group of people or businesses that you want to work with, who want or need what you have to offer and are willing to spend money to satisfy that need allows your business to provide tremendous value to those who need it the most.
Intimately understanding your ideal client means you know with certainty what problem they are trying to solve or what need they wish to satisfy. With this information, you can then:
- Clearly communicate the value you offer and why they should work with you.
- Discover opportunities to provide additional services that have been overlooked by others.
- Establish yourself as an expert in serving that market.
Being focused on one particular market enables you to make better choices for all of your marketing efforts, saving you time and money on activities that don’t make sense for your business and the clients you serve.
Identify what makes you different
The Internet levels the playing field for small businesses, but in turn, it creates a very crowded market place. Those who can describe how they are different have a competitive advantage over those who cannot.
So how do you make your business stand out from the rest?
The secret to defining what makes your business different is to understand what your ideal client really wants and make sure you deliver it better than anyone else. 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.
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 a 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. Marketing strategies and their associated tactics to consider are:
- Social media marketing – Determine which social networks are relevant to your business then develop a plan to build your visibility and expert reputation
- Content Marketing – Define your content marketing plan for topics then use email marketing or blogging to communicate your expertise and message to your target audience. Re-purpose your content using different media – eBook, podcast, video, presentation, infographics
- Search engine marketing – Define your top keywords and optimize your website, directory listings, and social media profiles to increase visibility in the search engines.
- Event marketing – Host webinars or virtual conferences. Publicize the event through your blog and social media outposts. Consider advertising these events on Facebook, Twitter
- News / media /public relations – Become an expert resource for the media, gain visibility through newsworthy activities. Send out press releases, write bylined articles, write and publicize a book
- Advertising – Create and manage pay-per-click advertising on Google, Bing, or on social media as appropriate.
For example if your goal is to grow your email list, then you need a lead generation campaign that would include search, social and content marketing strategies to attract inbound leads.
Create an action plan to ensure successful execution
Your marketing action plan eliminates random activities that create haphazard results. It defines each marketing campaign project in detail and assigns resources, dates and topics to each activity so that it eliminates the guess work.
You would need to create a lead magnet, a landing page and possibly use Facebook advertising to promote your lead magnet to the right audience. Once you get people to sign up for your email list, you then want a series of emails that can nurture each lead with valuable information.
With a detailed marketing action plan, you always know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it.
Focus on what is important
Having a marketing plan reminds you of what you need to do to keep moving forward. It prevents you from getting distracted by all the opportunities that are constantly coming your way. When you have that 2-week action plan guiding you, you can make an informed decision on whether something will help you get to your goal or not. If the opportunity:
- Can help you and you have the resources, you can add it to the action plan.
- Can help you but you don’t have the resources, you can decide whether you want it to replace something else in your plan
- Won’t help you achieve your current goal, you can add it to a list for future consideration.
Just because something looks good, it may not be the right thing for you to focus on right now.
Track your progress
Your 90 day marketing action plan 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. Your action plan will also tell 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.
To remind you that this is your business and not a hobby
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.