When you think about creating a marketing plan, many people feel a huge headache come on. Everyone wants to have the “best” marketing plan.
You will always hear things like:
“We need a creative marketing plan”
“We need a practical marketing plan”
“We need an actionable marketing plan”
“We need an innovative marketing plan”
What exactly is a marketing plan anyway? If you decided to hire 10 sales personnel and go knock on the doors of all your neighbours, is that a good plan? Is that even a marketing plan?
Many people confuse the 4P’s of marketing with the marketing plan. Product, Price, Place, Promotions are essential considerations, but they are by no means the marketing plan. Most of us has learned what a marketing plan is in school and so, I will not insult all the readers by even attempting to define it. I just want to say that many people simply regurgitate the “4Ps”, add a SWOT analysis, talk a little about the competitors, put it into a nice format, and submit it as a marketing plan. Not in the real world, my friend.
I would like to venture that for the small business, an academic marketing plan is really totally unnecessary. The small business owners and managers need to understand this clearly. You do not need an elaborate, sophisticated “marketing plan'”. However, you do need one. A business without a marketing plan is simply a mom and pop shop disguised as a business. Heck, some of the more successful mom and pops do have a marketing plan – and you wonder why?
A good marketing plan for small businesses should be fun, exciting and most importantly, easily actioned upon. It is pointless to have a beautiful 99-page marketing plan that you are never going to use. Here are some simple pointers towards creating a really effective plan for your small business:
1. Figure out what you want to achieve.
This is commonly known as your objectives, or vision. It could be as simple as I would like to add one new, major customer this year that does $X of business with me. Or it could be a grand plan that says you want to have a chain of stores that circle the globe. But the most common time horizon a small business should look at is one year. Two feet on the ground, eyes lifted to the horizon.
2. Figure out who your real competitors are.
Just because you run a small eatery, McDonald’s might not necessarily be your competitor. If you are not even able to honestly appreciate who you are playing with and against, well, it’s easy to “win” when you are the only one playing.
3. Figure out why your customers like you.
If you are running a small business, you have customers. Why? They could easily have gone to the other guy. Understanding what value your customers see in you, will help you understand how to meet their needs better. It also tells you who you should target – people with similar tastes, needs, values… It is pointless to create an academic SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis at this early stage. Get the basics right.
4. Find a good agency to work with.
A mistake many small business owners make is to assume that marketing or advertising agencies do not want their business, or that they cannot afford one. Depending on your budget, there is always an agency willing to work with you and for you. I need to clarify one thing here – a freelance designer is NOT the same as a small agency. What you need is marketing and advertising expertise, not pretty pictures. Some designers do have the experience, skill and knowledge to meet your marketing needs. All I am saying is that you need to be clear about the difference between a great designer and a great marketer. Talk to them (agency/desginer/freelancer) and evaluate their track record. Then pick the one you like most. Go with your gut after all the evaluations are done.
5. Stick with it.
Stay with your plan. Give it a chance to succeed. Just because the first flyer distribution flopped does not mean your PLAN flopped. It is just one element of execution. Test. Experiment. Measure results. Adapt. But stick with your “vision”.
Above is just my view. I would welcome comments, questions and maybe, if you want to contribute, write me and I will gladly have your article posted up here.
Great marketing articles – http://www.versacreations.net
Good copywriters – http://www.writingthoughts.com; http://essentialkeystrokes.com/
Good designers – http://randaclay.com; http://davidairey.com