8 reasons why you need a marketing plan

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.

8 reasons why you need a marketing plan

  1. 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.

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  1. 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?

  1. 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 

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  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

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  1. 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.

  1. 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.     

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  1. 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.

 

Nine fundamental tips for your marketing plan

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If you think about marketing, advertising automatically springs to mind. However, marketing (or promoting) your business, is more than just advertising. It helps you to ascertain who your customers are, which customers you want to target and how to get them to choose your products above others in the marketplace.

A marketing plan will also include your existing customers – retention of customers is just as important as gaining new ones, so you need to look at continually reviewing and improving your offer to ensure you stand out from your competitors.

Here are nine fundamental tips on what to include in a marketing plan to ensure you cover the essentials …

  1. Executive Summary – Although the executive summary is at the beginning of the marketing plan, it should be written last. The summary will help you ensure that your plan makes sense and that you haven’t missed anything out.
    The summary should include details of your business, company name and contact details; what your business is about; your key objectives and your strategy for achieving your objectives.
    This helps you to ensure that your marketing plan, your marketing strategy and your overall business strategy all work together.
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  2. Vision or Mission Statement – This is a statement that includes what your business is, who you’re selling to, what you’re selling and what is your unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from the crowd.
  3. The four Ps – once you know what your vision or mission is – your strategy – look at the four Ps…
    Product(s) – what is it about your product that makes your customers want to buy it? Do you need to change your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?
    alone-4269760_640Pricing – how do you aim to compete with your competitor’s pricing – do you want to match it… undercut them… or do you want to charge more for a more quality product and service?
    Place – where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets?
    Promotion – how are you going to let your existing and potential customers know about your products? This includes thinking about advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.
  4. Market Analysis – this is where you need to do copious research into what your competitors do and what the state of the marketplace is in relation to the products you sell.
    – Who are your competitors and how well are they doing?
    – What makes your competitors successful?
    – Who are your customers and potential customers – what are their geographic area and income levels?
    – What are your sales and distribution levels – what is your set up?
    – How well have your products sold in the past?
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  5. Your target markets – it’s crucial to know exactly who your customers are and what they’re looking for. Take time to understand what your customers want and need and understand why they buy particular products. You’ll be able to target your market more easily if you know who you’re talking to, and what their problems are. Everyone buys products for different reasons.
    If you have an existing customer base, you can easily find out some of this information, by sending them a simple survey, asking them a few questions – maybe give them an incentive to reply, such as all replies will be put into a prize draw to win one of your popular products.
    If you’re not sure who your target market is – try this exercise. Write a description of one of your products – for example, if you were selling mobile phones, you might say it’s small and easy to use. Then write the features – in the case of a mobile, it might be that you can use it anywhere and it’s useful in a crisis. Then make a list of who needs this product – with a mobile it might be people under 20 to keep in touch with friends and parents/people in business to keep in touch with business partners when away from home or office/ for older people it’s good to have in case they have an accident in the home or need to keep in touch with relatives or carers…. You get the idea!
    Then try and decide which will be your target market and which will be your secondary markets…probably best not to have more than two or three secondary markets at most.
  6. Marketing objectives – In this section, you are planning the future of your business. What objectives do you want to achieve? Each objective should include a description of what you intend to achieve and should include numbers to aim for. For example you might want to sell more of a particular product, but just saying you want to sell more isn’t enough – you need to be precise, so you have something concrete to aim for, maybe sell 40% more of that product over the next 12 months. This gives you a solid objective.
    Pull together a timeline of your objectives – what you want to achieve and by when. This makes it easier for you to review at a later date.
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  7. Promotion strategies – what tools will you use to promote your business? You could use:
    – Networking – join a business networking group and talk to people at
    every opportunity
    – Direct marketing – brochures, flyers, sales letters
    – Online – website, blogs, articles (give advice, become known as an
    expert).
    – Social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
    – Advertising – print media, business directories, ads in magazine and
    online
    – Press releases
    – Direct or personal selling
    – Trade shows/markets/craft fayres
  8. Budget – Along with promotion strategies comes budget. You need to know what you can and can’t afford to do and plan accordingly. Can you do some of the promotion yourself or do you need to outsource it?
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  9. Measurement – you should aim to review your marketing plan every couple of months. Look at your various promotion methods and determine which ones work best for you and which don’t.
    You can survey existing customers for feedback; ask for feedback and recommendations; look at what your most popular products are and why. Then you will know what you need to do in future.

Pulling together a marketing plan isn’t something that can be done in just a few hours, it can take days – or even weeks – to ensure you have the right information and conduct the necessary research.

Now it’s time to take action! To help you lay out your marketing plan, take advantage of my FREE  Marketing Plan template