In previous blogs we have looked at understanding and defining who your ideal clients would be, we have looked at setting SMART goals, and we’ve touched on the benefits offered by technology. In this blog, we’ll be putting that knowledge to work in creating your first marketing plan.
Whilst technology, and particularly the Internet and social media, have reshaped the world of marketing over the last 20 years, there is one bitter pill that still needs to be swallowed. Good marketing costs money, whether you’re paying for advertising space, or spending your valuable time on designing a leaflet. On the plus side, successful marketing will always create more income than it consumes, but you should always be aware of the cost/benefit equation when considering a course of marketing action and find, if you can, the marketing tactics that offer the most 'bang for your buck.'
Marketing begins with a clear marketing plan. A marketing plan is the blueprint for all your marketing efforts, and will clearly identify who your target customers are, how you will reach them, what messages you want to communicate to them, and how you will keep them as customers. Your plan won’t be written in stone, you can and should update your plan as you go, incorporating new knowledge (new competitors moving in, famous agoraphobic in the news, etc.). Marketing plans follow a lot of different formats, but because you are a (very) small business, we can dispense with a complex marketing plan better suited to a global conglomerate, and look at creating a simple and easy to follow plan that builds on the work you’ve done so far in identifying a market, creating customer personas and differentiating yourself.
If you look on the Internet, you’ll find a million or more templates for marketing plans. A great number of these will be far too complex and involved for your purposes, so see if you can find some simple, one page, marketing plan templates that suit the scale and scope of your small business.
In the act of writing a marketing plan, you will find yourself thinking more deeply about how to market your services, and that is perhaps its greatest value. Once ‘completed’ you need to go back and refine your plan with more details: dates, times, costs, how you will measure the success or failure of a plan. If your plan starts to get large and unwieldy, split it into smaller, more focused plans. So for example, your first marketing plan might include a leaflet campaign, and an estimated cost, and you might want to split your leafleting plans off into a plan of their own – in that way you can fill in the exact costs, number of leaflets, cost of design, postcodes you want to distribute to, self vs paid for distribution, and how to measure the success of the leaflets – and keep the main plan as the overview.
As with so many things that may be new to you, start modestly and respect your own instincts. The customer persona(s) you created earlier should be your guide to creating a marketing plan that will reach the most potential customers with the right message, and bring in the most business. Don’t be afraid to spend money, but equally, don’t throw good money after bad. Before every marketing exercise begins, be sure you can measure and judge how successful it was, and that will help you avoid making the same mistake twice!