A business plan is a given when you are starting a new business. Every business owner should know that they need one, and they should certainly spend plenty of time doing their research and writing this all-important plan. It is what will be used to secure funding, and it is a step by step guide to growing the business in the right way. However, what many business owners haven’t heard of or don’t think is quite so important if they do know of it, is the marketing plan. Yet a great marketing plan is what will help to set you apart from the competition. It will help you to spend your marketing budget more wisely too.
The point of the marketing plan is to focus on how to win more customers and how to retain their business once they have bought from you, so it is clearly a crucial part of starting a company. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our tips on what to do and you should get a clearer idea.
Analyze The Situation
Before you can do anything else, you need to look at what your business is doing now and analyze that situation carefully. It means assessing in as objective a way as possible, whether your current ideas and plans are actually working to bring in customers and make you a profit. Take a look at both your service and the products you are selling and try to determine what makes you different from everyone else offering something similar. Once you know these differences (also called your USP or unique selling point), you will be able to use them in your marketing plan.
While looking so deeply into your company, it is also a good idea to search out your business’s strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself about them, and build on the strengths as much as possible. This will make the weaknesses less important. For example, if one of the weaknesses is that you lack knowledge, but a strength is that you are always looking for ways to learn, focus on learning and the lack of knowledge will grow smaller and be less of a problem.
The final part of this analysis comes from any opportunities that you can use to build your business. If you notice anything at all, such as a news story that mentions your business sector, or perhaps an expanding market, make sure this is used in your marketing. It is fresh in people’s minds and will help you to be remembered.
The Target Audience
Once you have assessed your current situation and got a better idea of where you should be going in terms of marketing, you will next need to know more about your target market. If you miss out this vital step, you won’t know who to appeal to in your advertising, and if you use social media, you won’t know how to tailor your adverts so that they work most effectively. It is highly unusual to have a product that absolutely everyone, no matter what their age or background, no matter what their gender or likes and dislikes might be, will want. Therefore, it is crucial to take the time to find out just who your target market is so that you can advertise as directly to them as possible.
It is also important to work out where to advertise. Social media can be hugely helpful because not only can you point your adverts in the direction of the exact people who are most likely to engage with them, but you can also include links that will take those people straight to your product whether it is only your own website or an external one such as Amazon. Learn more here about how to do this.
Print can also be effective depending on the people you are targeting, but remember that, unlike a digital ad, once your print ad is published you can’t change it, so it needs to be perfect from the start.
Know Your Competitors
It can be far easier for business owners to ignore their competition altogether. After all, it’s not pleasant to think about the company’s that might be ‘stealing’ your customers. However, knowing as much as you can about these other companies is actually useful, even if it feels a little painful at first. Understanding just what it is that your competition does well, and even what it doesn’t do so well, how they run their marketing, how they treat their customers, even what their pricing is, can all help you to make yourself different and stand out from the crowd.
What is really important throughout all of this is to ensure that you don’t become intimated by your competitors. Don’t let the idea of them stop you from doing what you want to do. Keep on working, and just be aware that they are there. With as much knowledge as possible, you should be able to position yourself ahead of them anyway.
Your marketing plan must take into account your budget if it is to be realistic. It is easy to get somewhat carried away when designing ads and coming up with ideas, but it is your budget (a realistic one) that is going to make the final decision for you. If you spend more than you can really afford, that will mean you have less to spend on other areas of your business, and if your advertising campaign is a success, this could mean that you can’t actually give your new customers the service or the products they were expecting. In this case, your reputation will truly suffer, and you won’t be able to build it back up again easily.
Work out a budget that you know you can stick to even if it means that your advertising plan needs to be scaled back at the beginning. As you increase your sales and customer base you can also increase your budget, reaching more people. It may take longer, but it is a much safer way to work and your reputation should remain intact.