A marketing plan helps you develop your products and services that will meet the needs and wants of your target market. Marketing helps your customers see and understand why your products/services are better than or different from those offered by your competitors.
- Why do you need marketing?
Marketing is what builds the relationship between you, your business and your customers. If you are a small business, it is vital to build a sound relationship of trust and understanding with your customer. This makes them loyal to you and your brand and loyal customers will not only give you repeat business, they will have enough confidence in you to try out new products or services. They will also recommend you to their friends and family.
Marketing also massively increases the visibility of your brand, so you are more easily recognisable.
- Identify your target market
How do you identify your target market? Take a look at your existing regular customers. Who are they? What are they interested in? What are their problems that you can solve? What other needs do they have?
For example, if you sell baby products, your target market will be parents, parents to be, grandparents etc. You could also target baby shower events and children’s events; childminders; nurseries; soft-play areas; local Mum and baby groups; exercise classes for Mums to be or Mum and baby classes. The list is endless.
Have a look at your competitors – how do they meet the needs of your target market? How can you do it better?
- Conduct a SWOT analysis
SWOT stands for internal Strengths and Weaknesses, and external Opportunities and Threats. Pulling together a SWOT analysis can help you analyse where your business, its products/services, fit within the market and looks at your unique selling position. It can also help you find out how you can improve your business; what you’re really good at and what other businesses do.
Strengths – what do you do well in your business? What do you do better than your competitors?
Weaknesses – What do you need to improve on to remain competitive? What do your competitors do better than you? What is holding you back?
Opportunities – What current trends could lead your business to have increased sales? What can you use to your best advantage?
Threats – What could harm your business? What are the advantages that your competitors have over your business?
I have a FREE worksheet that you can download to help you…Conduct a SWOT Analysis
- Look at your competitors
List your competitors – who are they? If you analyse your competitors, you can find out how they work, what they do and compare them to your business.
What products or services do they sell?
Do they offer a similar product or service to you?
What do they offer their customers?
What do they do to engage with their customers?
Where are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
How do they market their products/services…e.g. social media, advertising etc.
The more information you can get about your competitors, the more chance you have of identifying where you fit into the market place and what opportunities are available to you.
- Decide on your goals
Once you know where your business stands in the market place and who your competitors are, you can decide what goals you want to set for your business. What do you want to achieve over the next 12 months?
Make your goals specific – instead of saying, ‘I want to sell more products’, look at your products and decide exactly how much more you want to sell. They might come under different categories. Go back to the baby product scenario…you might sell baby massage products, so a goal could be ‘Increase sales of baby massage products by 20% compared to last year’. You then have a definite goal to aim for…and it’s easier to review every few months because you calculate if you are on track to achieve your goal.
Aim for 4-6 short term goals – things that are fairly easy to achieve. You can always add more throughout the year if you achieve them.
Aim for 2-4 long term goals – things that are a bit more challenging. If you find that one of these goals is too challenging part way through the year, you can always break it down into smaller, more achievable chunks.
- Set your marketing strategies
Once you have set your goals, you can start looking at the short term goals in more detail. What activity is going to help you achieve that goal? What price or process will help you achieve your goals?
When you are trying to decide on which activities to use, choose those that best suit your business and your customers. For example, an advert in a local magazine or newspaper won’t necessarily reach your target market if they are primarily young adults, who generally don’t read this kind of thing. It’s a good idea to go for a few activities that complement each other. For example if your products/services can be for any age, you might go for an advert in a magazine, but also use social media or maybe local radio. You might sell your products at a market or craft fayre, so advertise the event on social media and do links to your products.
- Set your budget
It’s important to know how much you can afford to spend on marketing as not all marketing is free. You need to think hard about how best to spend that budget so you get the maximum benefit. Only spend on your current marketing goals, so that budget is used to help you achieve those goals. Advertising on Facebook, Instagram or in magazines all come at a cost, but if you are reaching your target customers, it will be worth it.
- Ensure your marketing plan is kept up to date
Reviewing your marketing plan on a regular basis is very important so that you not only know if you are on track to achieve your goals, you might also identify new trends in the market that means you have to tweak a particular goal.
It also serves the purpose of scrapping anything that you know isn’t working or changing a goal if you need to.
Looking at your plan helps you to measure how you’re doing against your plan and whether you will be successful.
Now you know why it’s so important to have a marketing plan, it’s time to jump into action!
Click here for your step by step guide to pulling together your marketing plan, You’ll also find a marketing plan template with the guide.