Is your 2017 marketing plan ready? Maybe it’s still rolling around in your brain, but you haven’t committed to anything. Or (gasp!), you haven’t even begun to think about a marketing plan, or realize that you need one.
A marketing plan is vital to attracting and retaining customers. Many entrepreneurs are so focused on day-to-day business operations that they don’t think about developing a marketing plan. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, just some simple bullet points with specifics about your sales goals and how you intend to reach them.
First, look at your company’s current situation. Ask yourself these questions, and write down the answers:
Who is my customer?
How should I describe my business to them? What’s my niche?
How should I position my product? Do I focus on price, convenience, selection, or quality? (Hint: You can’t choose all these.)
Who are my competitors, and how does my product/service benefit my target market uniquely?
What are my business’s strengths and weaknesses? (This could be related to products, operations, staff, etc.)
Are there any new opportunities (or threats) I need to consider? (Think: what are my competitors doing right and wrong?)
Create a short profile of your prospective customer, including demographics like age, sex, family setting, income and where they’re located. Think about the type of customers you attract in relation to their personality and lifestyle. Are they conservative or innovative? Leaders or followers? Traditional or contemporary? Outgoing or shy? How often do they purchase what I offer?
What do you want to achieve in 2017? Be specific. Use numbers or percentages to specify your growth goals, whether it be for sales or new customer acquisition, for example. Make your list short and sweet, realistic and measurable, so you can celebrate when you know you’ve achieved them.
Marketing Communications Strategies
So now, you know your prospects and what you want to accomplish. It’s time to drill down to how you’re going to reach these prospects to achieve your goals. Plan to use a variety of media that will speak to prospects and customers at all different levels of your sales funnel.
Cold prospecting – Not the telephone kind, no way! Cold prospects are those who don’t know about your business, so using some type of brand advertising (whether it be digital or traditional), public relations and direct marketing can help raise awareness.
Getting warmer – These are folks who already have a sense of what you’re about, who've previously been exposed to your marketing message and shown interest. They will respond best to permission-based email, loyalty programs and customer appreciation events. You can get a bit more personal with these prospects.
Hot, Hot, Hot! - Your hottest prospects are consumers who’ve been exposed to your sales and marketing messages and are ready to buy. Interpersonal sales contact (whether in person, by phone, email or social messaging) combined with your marketing efforts will seal the deal.
Define your primary marketing strategies for each type of prospect. Remember to determine which media your target audience prefers for information consumption, whether it be email, social media, or online browsing. Avoid casting a wide net … remember, use targeted messages for targeted audiences.
There’s no magic formula for deciding how much to spend on marketing. Many companies dedicate a percentage of gross sales for marketing expenses, and then divvy it up amongst all the different tactics planned. Or, you can have a budget number in mind, and then determine the costs of all the elements in your marketing mix. If you exceed that number, adjust your tactics to bring the costs in line.
Remember, marketing is essential to the success of your business. If you’re an entrepreneur with a limited budget, there a lot of ways to get your name out there that are relatively inexpensive. With so many of tactics available for reaching out to every imaginable audience, there’s a mix to fit even the tightest budget.
Ready, Set, Plan!
Ok, time to hit it! Just a couple of tips so you don’t experience overwhelm:
You know how you work best. Attack the marketing plan as you would any other project, whether you’re a “do it ‘til it’s done” type or one who’s better doing a little bit at a time.
If you hit a wall, ask for help.
You can do it! And when it’s done, you’ll have a plan to start with for the next year. But always leave room for flexibility, so if one of your tactics isn’t working you can re-focus your efforts and your marketing dollars.