Everyone that builds a house has to start with a plan. No-one considers building a house without a plan. Yet many small business owners don't have a plan when they build a business. And many small business owners don't review their plan as their business grows. If you don't have one, don't panic! To develop a strategic marketing plan is necessary and takes a lot of mental work, but it is by no means impossible.
To start your strategic marketing planning for 2020, read DMM's article on Planning for 2020 right here.
To get started on your strategic marketing plan, you need to understand the purpose and use of a marketing plan. Once you have this all clear in your head, you need to put pen to paper so to speak. It might seem like a daunting task, but this article should guide you in the right direction to get you going for the year ahead. This is the blueprint for all marketing activities that your entire business will follow. This blueprint will form the foundation of all marketing and sales activities on which your business success will be built.
If you have been in business for some time, you may have already put together your strategic marketing plan. However, every business has to revisit this plan from time to time to make sure that the plan still aligns with the current market, the current product offering and the direction the business has naturally taken. Quieter periods, like the December holidays, are a great time to sit down with your team and re-evaluate where you have been this year, what to adjust and how to go about things in a new, even better way in 2020.
In order to start your marketing blueprint, think about what makes your business and offering unique. This will give you a direction to align your marketing message. Once you have identified your unique selling proposition, this will help you define your market and your market segment. Then you can identify your ideal customer. You can then clearly communicate your message to this ideal customer in the time and place that is appropriate to them. For example, knowing you sell life insurance to individuals will require you to target in a different way than selling conveyors to fruit packaging companies. Your message must communicate clearly the value you offer to the ideal customer and what makes you preferable over your competition. You may also identify gaps in the market at this point that you can fill. Another advantage is that you can establish who your competition is, directly or indirectly.
A written, well-considered strategic marketing plan that takes into account your overall marketing budget and spreads this across your marketing calendar helps you focus your efforts. This will help you identify the essential elements to your plan. Then you can define your targets and when you want to have achieved them. It will also help you know exactly when you have been successful with your efforts. Say for example you have calculated that your break-even point is five units. Thus very clearly when five units have been sold, you know you are heading in the direction of profit. This plan will also help you identify your priorities, the activities needed to make them happen and the timeline for when they need to happen.
A marketing plan is a guide for your entire team to know exactly what is expected and to work towards those same goals with you. Without this blueprint, each business unit and employee will do what they think is right without necessarily contributing to the success you are aiming for. You can set goals for each department, with a completion deadline and milestones along the way. This helps you spread your resources in the most efficient, cost-effective way to increase your profit margin in the long run. Thus everyone is focusing on the same strategy and working together.
Tasks and Timelines
A strategic plan helps you to be pro-active. Thus you can look ahead at events that you are involved in, peak seasons and quiet months. You can realistically plan what needs to happen, where the budget will work best for you and stay on track throughout the year. A marketing plan may include marketing objectives, strategies, brand positioning, messaging and public relations activities. Once you have identified the tasks, it gives you the opportunity to plan your time. You can delegate tasks and plan the time of your team as well. (There are several tools available on the market today to help you do that. You might even want to use your plain old paper calendar.) This helps you set priorities for yourself and your team. It simplifies decision-making for yourself and each of your team members.
Marketing should be continuous. It is not in your business to stop marketing when business is good (neither when business is bad). You are reaping the rewards of previous marketing efforts when business is good, but you must consider that a peak won't last. Once this peak starts tapering off, your marketing efforts during the peak will have created a new wave that will peak again at some point. These peaks and dips over time should balance each other out. If you stop marketing a peak may very well be followed with a dip and no more peaks. Marketing efforts also compound. This means that the more you market, the more brand awareness and word-of-mouth is created. These work together to create a market well beyond your own reach. Thus sales will be continuous and business will be profitable.
Within your marketing plan, you need to define your marketing mix. Once you have established you product, price, place and promotion, you can start focusing on the marketing tools you can use to reach your potential customers.
- Print - this may include newspaper ads, magazine articles, brochures and catalogues.
- Direct mail - this is a highly targeted approach which is useful when you already know who your potential customers are and have their addresses.
- Email newsletters - building a segmented email marketing database is a great, high-return marketing tool.
- Social media marketing – decide which platforms to use that are useful for your ideal customer.
- Search engine marketing – SEO and website strategies need to be aligned with your overall marketing plan.
- Events - expo's, conventions and roadshows are useful and can contribute in various ways to your bottom line.
- News / media /public relations – local or national media can be useful to your marketing efforts.
- Advertising – Online and offline advertising needs to be a part of your marketing strategy.
- Community - sponsorships, competitions or other opportunities in your local community can help with word-of-mouth marketing.
- Networking - networking events, groups and clubs are all excellent forums for your marketing message to be made clear.
- Face to face sales - this is still one of your most powerful tools
- Referrals - having a referral scheme may benefit your business.
Track your progress
A plan helps you track your progress by making sure you know your targets and when they have been reached. It also gives you a clear indication of the efforts that are paying of vs the ones that are worth scrapping. You also know when you have completed your tasks, what each one cost and what it has contributed. Thus you can calculate your return on investment for each marketing task, and plan ahead. In this way you can be sure to include more of what works in your next cycle.
Whether you are starting out with a brand new strategy for your marketing, or need to refine a current strategy, now is a great time for you. By spending time now on your marketing blueprint you set up your marketing tasks and activities for the entire year of 2020. You know where your marketing spend will go and you can counter any slow cycles your business anticipates. You can even build in contingencies for unforeseen circumstances. Involving your team can be insighful and helpful to get buy-in, and make the best use of their time as well as yours. This is an exciting time for your business, looking forward to new heights in the new year.
Need some help with the finer points in your marketing strategy?