Three Steps to Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

A sound marketing plan is key to the success of your business. It should include your market research, your location, the customer group you have targeted, your competition, positioning, the product or service you are selling, pricing, advertising, and promotion.

Remember that your business is there to serve the customers’ needs. You need to know who your customers are, what they want, and how to reach them. If you are unsure of what it will take to convince them to buy your product or service, you need to hire a professional who can help you figure it out.

Effective marketing, planning, and promotion begin with current information about the marketplace. Do your research: Look on the Internet, talk to customers, study the advertising of other businesses in your community, and consult with any relevant industry associations.

Once you have all the necessary information, take these steps before writing your plan.

1. Define Your Business

  • What is your product or service?
  • What is your geographic marketing area? Are you targeting one town, a region, or a national audience?
  • Who is your competition? 
  • How do you differ from the competition? Name three things that make you stand out.
  • What price will you be asking for your service or products?
  • How does the competition promote itself?
  • How will you promote your business? 
  • Where will you set up your business? How will you distribute products?

2. Define Your Customers

  • What is your current customer base? Think about it in terms of age, sex, income, and geographic location.
  • How will your customers learn about your product or service? Will it be by print, TV, radio, Web advertisements? Direct mail? Word-of-mouth? 
  • What are the habits your customers and potential customers share: where they shop, what they read, watch, listen to?
  • What are the qualities your customers value most about your product or service? Selection, convenience, service, reliability, availability, affordability?
  • What qualities about your product or service do you need to improve? How can they be adjusted to serve your customers better?
  • What prospective customers are you currently not reaching? How will you reach them?

3. Define Your Plan and Budget

  • What are the previous marketing methods you have used to communicate to your customers?
  • What methods have been most effective?
  • What are your costs compared to sales?
  • What is your cost per customer?
  • What marketing methods will you use to attract new customers?
  • What percentage of profits can you allocate to your marketing campaign?
  • What marketing tools can you implement within your budget? Newspapers, magazines, Internet, direct mail, telemarketing, community outreach, sponsorships?
  • What methods are you using to test your marketing ideas?
  • What methods are you using to measure results of your marketing campaign?

The final component in your marketing plan should be your overall promotional objectives: to communicate your message, create an awareness of your product or service, motivate customers to buy and increase sales, or other specific targets.

Objectives make it easier to design an effective campaign and help you keep that campaign on the right track. Once you have defined your objectives, it is easier to choose the method of promotion that will be most effective.


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