Planing Your Marketing
Planning your marketing is an essential part of your efforts to attract clients or customers to your business.Everyday, you will be presented with various marketing communication opportunities. Many organizations will be just too happy to work with you to market your business. By planning ahead, it will be easier for you to decide what works for your business: what fits your budget and what reaches your audience. Your marketing plan will keep activities and budgets on track year-round.This module will give you some guidance on how to build a marketing plan and what to consider when you do this.
As a business owner you are responsible to bring customers or clients to your business. Failing to do this in an ongoing and cost effective way will result in your business closing down and you losing money in the process. Writing your marketing plan can help you identify the most cost-effective strategies you can use to present your business to your target audience.
Your written marketing plan need not be lengthy and complicated. You can even make it as simple as possible. It is an internal document where you can be honest and direct when describing your company's weaknesses. A marketing plan gives you a roadmap that can drive action and point the way.
A marketing plan can help you:
Identify which customers are your best prospects.
Evaluate company data against your industry or market.
Track results so that you learn what works.
Without a plan, you may be moving fast but you may not be moving in the right direction. Here are five steps to creating a strategic and practical marketing plan:
Check where you are
Have a look at our section on Forms & Format to help you here, or download one of the various SWOT analysis formats.
Your first step is to take a comprehensive look at your company's challenges, its position in the market place, the level and intensity of competition and other factors that may affect your marketing strategies. This is the market research portion of your plan.
Challenges: When you open your business, you are faced with the huge task of letting your target market know that you exist and are willing to serve their needs. You are faced with the challenge of communicating with your target market to get them to become your customers.
Position in the marketplace: Your promotional strategy should highlight the "unique selling points" of your business.
Competition: This involves a complete analysis of the businesses already offering your type of goods and services within your geographical area (e.g. county, town and city).
You want to learn how many businesses are already in the marketplace, what they offer and where they are located. By looking at this data, you can identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of your competitors in the area of price, quality, selection, promotion, services, customer service / personnel support, facilities / atmosphere and location.
Identify your customers
It is only logical that, in order to market your products/services, you need to know who your customers are:
To whom or what do you plan to sell your product to?
How do customers perceive themselves?
How do you plan to acquire customers?
What distribution methods will you need?
What features do your customers want?
What are they prepared to pay?
What form of advertising and promotion will be effective to produce sales and sell the product?
What will promotion and advertising cost?
Where is your target customer most likely to buy your product?
How important is price to a customer?
How important are product or service quality and convenience to your customer?
Focus on customers' needs. Listen to your customer.
Why should anybody buy your product or service?
What is the benefit or improvement in their condition?
Whose life will be enriched?
Who will get the greatest improvement from your product or service?
With which customers does your competitive advantage make a difference?
With which customers does your competitive advantage make the biggest difference?
Decide on your objectives
Marketing objectives quantify the results you are looking to achieve. By clearly stating these results in advance, you provide performance criteria against which your future results can be compared. Whatever marketing objectives you decide on, they should meet certain criteria. They must be realistic, measurable and be guided by short, medium and long-term deadlines.
Profit: Profit objectives state the bottom line progress you want your marketing efforts to achieve. You may set the goal of achieving 2 percent profit in your first year, and increasing it by 10 percent every year hereafter.
Market share: Market share objectives state your desired cut of the total industry sales pie, or at least the local industry. If the total revenue of all the wedding planners in your county is $2 million, how much of that is yours? If you only have 2% of that pie, you may want to increase your share to about 10% after launching your marketing campaign.
Sales volume target: Your sales volume affects your cost structure. The higher the sales you generate, the lower your cost. Specific sales volume levels can give you more bargaining power with your suppliers.
Sales volume objectives should clearly state the total goods or services you intend to deliver. Your goal can be to increase your sales in the next two months after a marketing campaign by X amount.
Writing the plan
Now that you have an overview of customers and market conditions, you can flesh out your plan.
This plan needn't be a formal document, but should at least consist of a written outline to share with staff or outside consultants and to refer to later.
The plan should cover:
A summary of your market position and goals.
A definition of what you expect to accomplish in a specific time period (e.g.: ?We will sell 150 widgets by the fourth quarter.?)
A list of target markets, including segmentation and niche area.
An appropriate strategy for each segment or market.
Budget: The final section of your marketing plan is to determine your budget, making sure that you have the funds to cover your production, printing, media and other miscellaneous expenses.
Production: This can include the creation of your logo design, stationery, mailing labels, company brochure, photography used, advertising and direct mail costs.
Printing: This will cover the printing costs of your letterhead and envelopes, company brochures and direct mail.
Media: This is the cost of buying media for your print ads, radio ads and other tactics.
Miscellaneous: Other costs that may be incurred such as postage, holiday cards, thank you notes and others.
Marketing channels: This is where you choose the types of marketing materials and distribution vehicles that you will use to attract target customers, including flyers, postcards, email marketing, newsletters, Web site and more.
Competitive strategies: How will you respond to your competitors - for example, if a competitor lowers his price?
Map your progress
Use our Marketing Campaign Worksheet or Advertising Effectiveness Log.Include benchmarks in your plan. Use these benchmarks to take stock of whether your marketing efforts are paying off or if you should rethink your approach. Calculate the category and cost of marketing communications and compare with set specific sales forecasts.
For direct mail efforts, check how the campaign is going by creating a spreadsheet that includes specifics of each order as well as a way to identify customers (like a customer identification number). Also, ensure that you include plans for implementation or a marketing calendar. Plans are great, but if you don't also designate responsibility, set deadlines and hold people accountable, marketing efforts can't succeed.
It is important that you respond to the results that you get. Markets change all the time and you must be ready. Make sure you review the plan every year to see if you must revisit any goals.
About the Author: Have a look at our Forms & Format section on the http://www.my1stbusiness.com for tools to guide and assist you with your marketing. Learn more at http://www.my1stbusiness.com/sales-letter/landing2.htm
Ben Botes MSc. MBA, is an Entrepreneur, Speaker, Writer, Coach and academic. He is the founder of My1stBusiness.com, South African Business Hubs Join the My1stbusiness.com Reseller Program and earn 40% referral commission http://www.my1stbusiness.com/affiliate Read Ben's Blo