How to Create the Perfect Marketing Plan For Your Small Business

A Good Marketing Plan is the Roadmap to Success

No one dreams of failing when starting their business, but the fact is that more than half of all business owners call it quits by the end of their second year and a full 80% before the end of their fifth year. While there are a number of reasons for these stats, by far the biggest reason these businesses fail is that they lack a solid marketing plan.

Too many small business owners believe in the “Field of Dreams” style of doing business – Build it and they will come. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Your success not only relies on a good product/service, but more importantly, good, consistent marketing. A good product without marketing is far more likely to fail than a bad product with good marketing.

When first starting out, too many business owners are either intimidated by the marketing plan process, or simply fail to put one together in the first place. Whether you’re just getting started or have recently come to the realization that your business needs a solid marketing plan in place to move forward, you’re in luck. Simply follow the outline below and you’re sure to get many more customers, with far less time and money on your part.

The 8-Step Guide To A Powerful Marketing Plan

Step I. The Executive Summary

Your executive summary is a two-minute overview of your marketing plan. While this section should be short and to the point, don’t assume everyone who reads your plan knows what your business is about. Include things like your business name, what it does, where it’s located and your target audience.

Talk about the market and how your business plans to fill a gap, the market threats and opportunities. Lastly, talk about your sales objectives and how you plan on reaching them.

Step II. Assess the Situation

Assessing the situation for your business will probably be the most difficult part of your plan to develop and the largest section of your marketing plan. It will also require the most research and is probably the most frustrating section to the business owner.

When researching, break this section up into three distinct categories:

* Your company
* Your competition
* Your customers

Assess Your Company

* Define your business
* Define your management strategy
* Define your customer base
* Define your financial situation
* Define your strengths and weaknesses

Assess Your Competition

* Define who they are
* Define how they are different from you

Assess Your Customers

* Identify their needs
* Identify their level of satisfaction

In addition to expanding on your executive summary, be sure to include your mission statement and your overall vision. Also, perform thorough research on your competition and stay abreast of the gaps in your marketplace so you can better fill the needs of your target market.

Step III. Build a Potential Client Base

In this step, you will clarify your strategy of how you expect to grow and maintain a customer base that is large enough to build your business upon. Some of the topics you should be sure to include are:

* Identifying your competitive position
* Identifying your niche
* Describing your targeted customer base
* Describing what you offer these customers
* Identifying the information you’ll tell your customers about your products/services

Spend plenty of time identifying your position and niche, as these are the areas in which your business will either succeed or fail. Next, decide whether you will target current customers or new ones and whether you will market new or current services.

Keep in mind that marketing new services to new customers comes at a higher risk than marketing current services to current customers.

Step IV. Set 6 and 12 Month GoalsOne of the surest ways to succeed is to list specific, measurable goals. Be sure to be as specific as possible and write down what you will do and by when.

* Your goals should focus on the niche you described above
* Your goals should be measurable
* Your goals should aim for 6 month increments

Step V. Determine the Marketing Tools You’ll Use to Accomplish Your Goals

While the majority of your marketing plan is based on thorough research, this section of your plan will rely more on your creativity. Think about where your customers are and the best ways for you to reach them, preferably at the lowest cost to your business. There are literally hundreds of marketing tools you can use to find and get customers, so you’ll need to spend some time learning about some of these tools, and then:

Identify the tools you will use to reach:

* New customers
* Current customers
* Past customers

In addition, you’ll need to identify the tools you will use to ensure a good fit for your:

* Customers
* Budget
* Personality

Depending on your market, your customers will expect you to advertise and/or market to them in certain places. While it’s a good idea to do things somewhat differently from your competitors, don’t try to be different just to be different. Instead, be better, more efficient and more interesting.

Step VI. Identify Resources

Now that the bulk of your marketing plan is complete, it’s time to think about the resources you will need to successfully implement the ideas and goals you’ve come up with. Resources include:

* Costs to your business
* The time required to implement each task
* The person responsible for implementing each task

Do your homework! Each of these resources on their own can make or break your business if you choose unwisely. As with other areas of your business, performing due diligence will increase your chances of success.

Step VII. Develop a Marketing Calendar

This step may not require as much research as some of the other steps, but it’s extremely important to take some time and lay out your plan for at least an entire year.

It’s not sufficient merely to have a plan, you must act on it and the best way to make sure you do that is to create a calendar detailing the activities and strategies you will implement week by week and month by month. You probably won’t see results immediately, but by sticking to your marketing calendar, you are sure to see positive results eventually. Keep your calendar in front of you as much as possible and stick to it.

Step VIII. Implement and Monitor Your Plan

Like any other plan, you not only need to implement the key points and strategies you’ve come up, but to also monitor your actions and the results they create.

Some of the things you’ll want to do are:

* Identify how you will track results
* Identify how you will know if you need to adjust or update your plans
* Identify how you will reward yourself for successful completion of certain activities

Depending on the tools you choose to market your business, there are a number of ways you can go about tracking your results. Diligently check your results and decide if your activities are paying off in some concrete way. It’s not always about making money (though that’s typically the most important result), but you should see some positive results like more names on your mailing list, more phone calls to your business or an increase in word-of-mouth.

As long as you see some positive results, make sure to take some time to reward yourself and your team members for a job well done and build on each new success.

Summary

The more time and effort you put into creating a solid marketing plan, the more likely it is that your business will survive beyond the magic two year mark that claims so many other businesses. Be thorough. Be creative. Be realistic. Keep a firm eye on the competition. And above all, have fun marketing your business because it is the most important reason for your ultimate success or failure.

The Difference Between Web Marketing Channels and Destinations

Sometimes within web marketing, we can be guilty of placing all of our hopes on our favourite web marketing channels, be that SEO, social media, PPC or another latest technique for overnight success. Any method of sending visitors to our website is a “marketing” channel”. Web marketing however isn’t just about generating traffic, it’s also about enticing that traffic to act. Equally as important as our marketing channels are our marketing destinations. In simple words, “channels” are how we entice people to our site, “destinations” are the places we send them to within our website and/or web properties. This article looks at why we need to consider our marketing channels and destinations as individual parts of an overall online marketing strategy.

People often come into web marketing with an excited focus on one, or more, marketing channels. They have recently read an article outlining why LinkedIn can unlock the true potential of any B2B business, or how the latest changes in Google AdWords allow them to follow their B2C customers around the web. Often, people come into web marketing with the belief that if they can simply get traffic from whatever popular web marketing channel people are talking about today, they will be instantly successful. The truth is that NO web marketing channel can be the sole solution to all of your business dreams. Marketing channels are great at generating traffic, but once we have traffic, we then have to make it as easy as possible for our traffic to find what they are looking for and act.

I Get Traffic But No Customers From My Website

One of the most common statements within web marketing is “I get traffic to my site, but hardly ever any leads or new customers. Web Marketing doesn’t work for me.” If we are getting lots of visitors from any web marketing channel, but not in turn getting at least a handful of new enquiries, then something has to be wrong with the relevance of our web pages with what people are looking for when they find us? The most common reason for lack of conversion is the “destination” we send people to from our chosen web marketing channels. For example, if we “tweet” about white chocolate, but then send people from that tweet via a link to our website homepage that shows many kinds of chocolate, then we are asking our website visitor to do some work in order to find what they were interested in.

So what should I do?

Let’s look at another example. Let’s suppose you let holiday homes in some wonderful seaside, holiday town. Let’s also suppose that some of your homes are dog friendly. Let’s say that you currently run ads via PPC for dog friendly holiday homes in your seaside town. If everyone who clicks on one of your ads lands on your generic website homepage that’s simply shows images of random holiday homes, then we are asking our website visitor to filter out the dog friendly homes from the others. They have to so some work to find what they are looking for.

Alternatively, with a little more work on our part, we could send people clicking on our PPC ads to a dedicated page that only shows your dog friendly homes. Maybe we also show a few great reviews for each one and perhaps even include some images of happy dogs spending time at our pet friendly holiday homes? Our website visitor has landed on a much more enticing and relevant page. We have both given the website visitor less to do and, more importantly, shown them exactly what they were searching for. It’s easier for that website visitor to now act.

In this second instance, our web marketing channel (PPC) and website destination (dedicated dog friendly holiday homes page) work in tandem to promote our holiday properties much more effectively. You may have read/heard the phrase “Landing Page”? A landing page is the most commonly used phrase to describe a website destination used online. I prefer the term “destination” because it helps me envisage an exciting place we send our website visitors to where we help them to “do” something they are interested in.

So, channels and destinations? Anything more?

Last week we went over that the difference between “connect” and “buy”. We can also apply this principle to our work on web marketing channels and destinations. Let’s suppose that a good number of our website visitors to our holiday homes page are not quite ready to purchase their holiday today. Maybe they are unsure where to go on holiday? Maybe they even want to know what would be the best destination for a dog friendly holiday? At present, if they land on our dog friendly holiday homes page, we currently only have a call to action for people ready to buy now. What can we do to “connect” with all those people currently researching where they want to go on holiday with their dog?

What if we offered a free downloadable guide to “Great Dog Walks In and Around Our Wonderful Seaside Town”? If we offer this guide in return for our website visitor’s email address, we have given them an action they can take today that will help them decide whether our seaside town is the place for their holiday, or not. We also gain the ability to continue communicating with that website visitor beyond this initial visit to our webpage. Perhaps some of our website visitors won’t book this time but will next? Perhaps some might book another destination that we offer holiday homes in? Perhaps they were even researching on behalf of someone else? Whatever their reason may be, by giving them an action to take and “connecting” with them (via our free dog walks guide), we have the ability to communicate with them continually about dog friendly holidays. The onus is, of course, on us to communicate well.

Web marketing has never been just about channels. SEO, social media or even PPC are never a sole answer to your online success. To be truly successful, we need to think about where we send people to and how relevant that is to their point of interest. We also need to think about what we offer people as a next action to take. If people are ready to buy great, if however they want to learn more, then we want to help them do that too. Business is a path of customer care, when people come to us we need to look after them every step of the way.

Your Ticket to Greater Sales and Profitability – A Well-Written and Executed Marketing Plan

The net result of the marketing plan effort is to use your resources, time and money, most effectively and efficiently. By being more responsive to the market, assuring consistency of marketing materials and timing, and communicating better internally, your company becomes a well-oiled machine exceeding customer expectations. You market the right products, to well-suited market segments, with effective marketing materials and support from all corners of your organization. A marketing plan is your ticket to attaining your sales and profitability goals.

Sales Flow More Easily When You Respond to the Market
Of course, you should always have your eyes open for market changes. The marketing plan advantage, however, is that it requires you to take stock periodically of market place opportunities and threats along with your company’s strengths and weaknesses. This enables you to play to your strengths and market opportunities while minimizing your weaknesses and market threats.

For example, The Simple Phone Company offers mobile telephones with a limited feature set. As Mary, the Marketing Manager, creates her marketing plan, she notices that her competitors are introducing phones with an increased number of advanced applications. She realizes that due to their products’ lack of features, they cannot compete head on. However, her review of trends reveals an older population, ages 65+, is starting to purchase cell phones in growing numbers. This group tends not to be as techno savvy the younger generation. Mary has uncovered an opportunity to target older people by promoting simple, easy-to-use phones with large, friendly keys. She is able to transform a possible weakness into product benefit by targeting a well-matched market segment. This shows how upfront planning can better focus your marketing efforts and help spur your sales.

Marketing Messages Create Greater Impact When They are Consistent

Your marketing plan specifies your marketing initiatives’ timing and message, assuring consistency.

• Planning assures consistent timing
If you plan to send a monthly e-newsletter, you can choose topics at the beginning of the year and start working on them immediately to assure a consistent schedule that doesn’t get backed up during the busiest periods. Those who receive the e-newsletter start to anticipate it and develop a relationship with your organization.

• Consistent messages result from planning
The marketing plan spells out your positioning and message for use on all materials. Mary uses the message: “Easy-to-Use Mobile Phones for Mature Adults.” By staying consistent in message, you are more likely to increase your brand awareness, a necessary precursor to sales.

Communication assures Smooth Operations
In well-run companies marketing is often the central hub. The marketing plan is created in the marketing department in consultation with other departments. This maximizes its effectiveness. For example, sales people have valuable input on how to gain product placement in the distribution channels. Engineering may have ideas about how to build the trade show booth. Fully using internal resources is important because it produces the best plan and fosters buy-in.

Once the plan is completed, marketing managers communicate it to all departments that play a role in supporting the plan. For example, Mary communicated her plan with customer service, sales, manufacturing, accounting and more to assure they were ready to support the trade show launch of the new mobile phone. The sales and customer service managers were able to schedule training and plan sales calls in advance. Accounting was able to anticipate cash flow issues related to the load-in promotions. The manufacturing manager was able to scale up production. As this example shows, using the marketing plan as a communication tool enables the smooth operation of a company.

Plan for Success–Create a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan that assures market responsiveness, consistent messaging and internal communication can be the difference between a company that simply survives and one that thrives. Create one, execute it well and move onto the path to success and profitability.

Viral Web Marketing

Viral web marketing has since become a very effective form of online marketing. It is quite effective, because as the name suggest, this form of marketing helps spread the marketing message like a virus. The basics of viral marketing are quite simple and easy to understand and implement. In basic principle, this marketing strategy involves creating a buzz or fuzz on the internet that people will like to spread around. You then attach your marketing message to what you created so that the message spreads as the creation is spread around.

There are several viral internet sites that successfully implement viral marketing strategies. Some of such web sites offer attractive referral programs or utilize website links to reach the desired audience. Successful viral web marketing involves high level of creativity to create an effective strategy.

This guide to viral internet marketing seeks to introduce you to basic techniques that have been successfully implemented by other internet marketers. By going through this list of strategies that have been used to create viral web sites and offers, you can broaden your view of viral marketing and design the strategy that is best for you.

Creating and giving out free software: Everyone loves a useful application that is free. If you cannot create a software or application yourself, you can get a freelance programmer to do one for you. Just be sure that the application is functional and useful to your target audience, and that your marketing message is included in the software.

Free newsletters: Giving quality newsletters that contain useful information in your niche is a very effective way to do viral internet marketing. It helps establish you as an authority in your niche, while also helping to spread you’re your marketing message. Newsletters should be eye catchy, trendy and informative.

Specialized Link Directories: These directories help people access information faster and are so usually enjoy heavy traffic. You can thus create specialized link directories to serve as viral internet sites that will help spread your marketing message faster.

Free Email Accounts: This is one example to effectively spread your corporate image like a virus. Hotmail did it and today they are worth millions. Each new user signed up for free, but after signing up, they became exposed to the marketing message and also helped spread it as they sent emails from their Hotmail accounts. Copying this strategy may not give the same successful result as it gave others in the past, but it remains an effective way to create viral web sites.

Free web space: Providing free web space is a great viral internet marketing strategy that will surely attract people. Offering quality web space service is one way to create viral web sites. A lot of people will certainly be interested in getting some free web space and you can append a marketing message or logo, which will be seen by all the web visitors.

Provide other forms of free services: The point is to create a useful viral web sites service that your target audience will appreciate. The service should be free and something that they can easily share around. Good examples that fall under this form of viral web marketing include giving bonuses, free e-cards, free screensavers, free redirect services, free email training course, free templates, graphics and banners. Depending on the industry you operate in, you can also offer free consultation and use the opportunity to spread your message.

Why Your Business Needs a Marketing Plan

Almost every company that has a product to sell should engage in marketing activities. Marketing is used to communicate and negotiate with potential exchange business clients. Some types of marketing can be aggressive whereas other types are more effective in a subtle approach. When thinking about marketing, it is important to consider if you will need extensive marketing strategies to grow your business.

This is mainly done through a marketing plan. The components of a plan that will involve extensive marketing can include ways to stimulate and communicate to customers what you have for sale, or ways to increase the use of your services. Even non-profit organizations such as a hospital or museum can be found carrying out a marketing strategy and it would all start with a marketing plan. Often the plan of a company is not often will organized or well laid out. By reading it, it is obvious that they have not considered how to extensively market.

Quite a lot of multinational companies have also started to include more information on the demographics that will be targeted within the plan. This helps to concentrate marketing efforts on the right people that the product or service is geared towards. It will also decrease the amount of time spent marketing to the wrong demographics of people.

Ultimately the plan can help you see your target audience might be. This target audience is the customer in the consumer industry or the client in the business industry. The plan is needed to focus the attention on the customers who have previously purchased goods and services in the past, either for their own use or to give away as gifts.

These are the best customers as they might be counted on to make purchases in the future. There are other customers that a marketing plan can be used to target. For example, those a plan can be established for those customers that only purchased once in the past. It is also a very beneficial to think about sending marketing information to those who wanted more details about a product or service but have not purchased since receiving the last information.

Another reason in which a company will need a plan is to highlight the products and services it has available. When it is fully laid out on paper, the company might be able to see areas in which more marketing needs to be unleashed against a particular product. Without having this plan in place, a company can spend a less of its time concentrating marketing efforts on a product that might need more advertising and marketing directed at it. Therefore, anyone who is serious about operating a business should construct a marketing plan.