“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
Small business owners are aware of the need to plan. Many will spend hours working on their overall business plan to try and move their business forward. Yet, there’s an area which doesn’t get as much attention as the business plan and it’s equally as critical – the marketing plan.
The marketing plan is often neglected because small business owners assume they already know their market. They understand their customers because that’s why they went into business. Yet, when a marketing plan is developed; it almost always reveals useful data that can help build the business faster and provide a host of new opportunities.
There are three good reasons to develop a marketing plan for your small business:
- To make it clear why a customer should choose your business. What precisely is it that you do – that your customers love and want more of? Why do they want that? How can you best communicate that aspect of your business to future customers? The better you can explain what it is that customers need from you and how you meet those needs; the easier it is to explain that at every level of the business and when winning new clients.
- To work out who your best possible customers are. In every market there are always plenty of customers. However, some of those customers are much harder to get through to than others. Some of them are more loyal than the others. And so on… part of the marketing process has to be an in depth look at who your best customers could be; then you can target them. You want to create a marketing persona for that customer; so that it is clearly understood throughout your business who those customers are.
- To determine the competition. Once you know why customers should choose your business and what the best customers look like; it’s time to work out who else in your line of work is geared up to deliver something similar to that customer group. When you know that – you can examine how they move to attract customers – price, quality, service? Then you can adapt your marketing strategy to outmaneuver the competition.
Once you have all this information you can then develop your brand position. That is a simple statement of who your customers are, why they need you and how you will beat the competition. This statement provides a huge amount of value within the organization because it gives everyone something to refer to when dealing with clients and client leads.
Once you have your brand identity you can start to explore ways to reach new customers. While websites and advertising definitely have their place; there are low cost marketing options that small businesses can use to attract customers and gain repeat custom too.
Low Cost Marketing Options
E-mail marketing is not dead. It may not be a new concept and it might not be as pretty as some other marketing approaches but it is highly cost-effective. You can use services like Mail Chimp or Aweber to build a list of your customers e-mail addresses and then develop e-mails to reach out to your clients.
It’s worth noting that e-mail marketing is not a “one size, fits all” blast of spam offers but rather a tailored approach. You can segment your customers to deliver relevant and interesting material to them. Both Mail Chimp and Aweber offer free training and support on how to develop effective e-mail marketing campaigns and it’s worth going through their offerings in detail to try and work out how to make the most of your opportunities.
It’s also a good idea to run a small test campaign to see how an e-mail is received before blasting it out to your entire list.
Mobile is the dominant internet access platform today. More than half of all web pages will be viewed on a smartphone this year. That means that if you can get on the mobile platform; you can get in front of your customers.
This isn’t as cheap as e-mail marketing but it might be even more effective. Developing a mobile app can mean that your customers and potential customers are always interacting with your brand and your ideas. Of course, you need to plan on using that mobile app to add value to your customers’ lives. There are millions of apps out there and people will only install yours if it brings them something they want. It can’t be an advertising catalogue or nobody will use it.
It has become more challenging to use social media to win customers over in recent years. Platforms like Facebook have dramatically reduced the reach of “free users” in order to better promote those who will pay for access. However, that doesn’t mean that they have become worthless and in fact, you can still reach plenty of customers without paying a penny.
It’s best to work out where your customers hang out online and then to try and learn the rules of the space before you start pouring money into social media marketing. If they are on Facebook, for example, work out which groups they use and how you can interact with those groups without being seen as spam. Then slowly dip your toe into the water and create great content. Over time you’ll start understand what works and what doesn’t. When you have that information you can start to pay to get greater access to your customer group – with confidence that your investment won’t be wasted.
Measure the Results
The final part of a good marketing strategy is the ability to measure the results of your efforts. Just because something is low cost or even free; it doesn’t mean that it’s a good use of your time unless it brings the kinds of results that you need.
You’ll want to determine how you are going to measure the output of a campaign. It could be in value of new business, in terms of number of e-mails read and acted on, number of likes gained, etc.
If you find an activity is providing value; you can increase your efforts in that activity. If it’s not – you may want to rethink your strategy or change track completely.