Preparing Your Marketing PlanFebruary 21, 2018
Fundamentals of marketing
You need a plan that is well-constructed and appropriate for your business. Marketing is critical to the success of any business because without your potential customers knowing about your offer they will never have the opportunity to become customers. Marketing is the way you reach them, by communicating with them and showing people you have what they need. To construct your plan, you need to address three key areas:
- Your budget. The amount of money you have available to devote to marketing will determine the types of advertising and promotional activities you can do. You may have a large budget if you have succeeded in getting outside investment for your business, but for most entrepreneurs, it will be a case of using personal finance and bank loans in the initial stages.
- Your target audience. You need to know who you are trying to reach. To be effective, you need to be contacting people that are likely to be interested in buying your products or engaging your services. Some target markets are easily defined, for example, if you sell fishing equipment your target market will be fishing enthusiasts. If you have a less tightly focused product or service, you need to create a profile of the type of person who would buy your product, e.g., age, social status, location, aspirations. Say you sell coffee beans; it’s a universally appealing product with no clear purchaser demographics, so you could struggle to define your target market. In this case, you would need to determine who you are aiming your brand at, is it the cash savvy economy market, or the higher end coffee aficionados looking for an extraordinary coffee experience? The more tightly targeted your advertising is the better return you will get on your investment,
- Your message. What do people need to know about you, and why should they buy from you rather than one of your competitors? What makes you special? You could spend a fortune making everyone in the country aware of your business, but if what you’re selling doesn’t appeal to people you’re not going to make any sales. Messages need to be simple, memorable and make it clear how your product is going to provide something your customer needs. The key to hooking people into becoming customers is to offer the answer to a problem they have or a show how you can satisfy a need they feel.
Tried and tested
There are some forms of marketing which are almost universally applicable, and these should form your marketing foundations:
- Using niche publications and websites to promote a niche product, e.g., advertise your dog training business in pet magazines and on dog-lovers’ websites.
- Advertising locally if you provide a geographically restricted service, e.g. use your local newspaper if you are a plumber operating in a defined area.
- Using social media and having a website to build your online presence.
All valuable, straightforward ABC steps for your marketing plan. This is where you can narrow your information search to focus on what will work best for your business, so for example, if you sell collectibles, search for information on "promoting collectibles businesses" or "marketing collectibles business" to zero in on the most effective methods for your niche.
New and innovative
When you have laid your marketing foundations, you can then look at any new and innovative promotional strategies and tools. For example, pop-ups have become a very common way to advertise online, but you may want to try pop unders ads instead, where the ad is in a less intrusive position behind the landing page. Being at the forefront of implementing new tools and methods of promoting your business will make you stand out, and you can ride the wave that powers the effectiveness of innovative marketing methods. Narrow your online search to new marketing methods for the current year to ensure you retrieve the most current information, for example, "marketing trends 2018". Keep on top of marketing news by subscribing to emails from sites that report on the latest trends, so you can take advantage of different ways of reaching your customers.
Sales funnels and timers
One word of caution here, don’t fall into the trap of thinking all new promotional ideas are right for your business just because they are the hottest ticket and are being pushed by companies trying to make a profit from them. You still need to assess whether new methods and tools will work for you and be a worthwhile investment. Sales funnels are a good example of this. When the sales funnel method was created, it started being hailed as an essential format for business websites in every sector, and results achieved by companies adopting sales funnel techniques seemed to back this theory up. The idea is simple; you draw a customer in with an offer that sounds too good to miss, offer additional items or services that will also appeal to them and direct them towards making an immediate decision to buy by setting a time limit. A counter that shows how much time remains before the offer expires can be very persuasive in making customers commit to purchase rather than going away and thinking about it. Ideal for some business models, but if you sell premium antique furniture, your prospects are not going to view a website with a sales counter very favorably.
With all the sources of information available on promoting and advertising your business, you should be able to create an effective marketing strategy within your budget. Use the right combination of established, proven methods with the intrigue of something new, and you should find you are attracting the customers you need.