via The Main Edge : If you’ve recently decided to start your own small business, are in the beginning stages of developing your business, or you’re even a well-established business in need of a boost, a small business marketing plan can help you make a number of important business decisions.
Here are seven essential components of a small business marketing plan, and all of the questions you should ask yourself as you form the basis for your strategy:
1. Competitive market analysis. To complete your competitive market analysis, you should answer several key questions.
- What product or service do you offer? Write it down and include a description of your marketing or business environment to see how your product or service fits within it.
- Does your business benefit from any distinct marketing advantages? What makes you unique? This is an important aspect of creating your marketing plan. What makes you stand out from the competition will be what helps you get ahead.
- What marketing challenges do you face? Be honest with yourself. There’s always something that will challenge your business.
- Who are your competitors and what are their strengths and weaknesses? To compete you must know your competitors – it’s as simple as that.
- How can you use your competitors’ weaknesses to your advantage? Be exceptional where they are not. It will set you apart from the rest.
- Are there any foreseeable outside influences on your business? Knowing what outside forces may impact your business can help you prepare ahead of time.
2. Target market analysis. Your target market is the audience your product or service will appeal to. Ask yourself these questions to get started:
- Who are your customers? Is your customer the married professional between the ages of 35-55? Is it the single millennial breaking into their field? Knowing who you’re selling to is what this part is all about.
- Where are they located? Geography is important. Perhaps your audience resides primarily in Portland, Maine, or maybe you cater to rural communities.
- How do they consume media? This information is simple to find. Use studies from the Pew Research Center to see where your audience goes to find information.
- What are their challenges? What problems do they need solved? Perhaps your rural audiences need better access to the service you provide. Maybe you’ll offer free transportation to and from your business in order to break down that barrier.
- What do they want/desire/need? Wants, desires and needs from your customer translate to the goals you should set for your business.
- What motivates them to buy? Figure out why they would want your product or service and capitalize on it.
- How much are they willing to pay? This is an important factor and can help you determine your pricing structure, or the different products or services you’ll market to different portions of your target audience.
3. Business goals definition. Develop SMART marketing and sales goals for the upcoming year. SMART goals are Sensible, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Specific.
4. Strategy explanation. This is the heart of your marketing plan. It should include:
- How your products/services stack up against the competition.
- What’s special about your products/services.
- What your customers’ challenges, needs, and desires are and how you can solve them.
- The benefits of your products/services as compared to your competition and how your prices stack up to them.
- The guarantee you’re willing to offer customers and how your customer service compares to others.
5. Tactics demarcation. This is all about how you’re going to market your products or services. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s your brand’s main message?
- How will you differentiate your products/services from the competition?
- What media channels will you use to communicate your offer?
- How will you measure your progress and success?
6. Resources designation. Get together with your business partner and decide the following:
- Who’s in charge of marketing? Who’s in charge of sales?
- What kind of marketing/sales skills do these people have? Will they need training?
- How much time will be spent on marketing per week? How about sales?
- What kind of tools will you need to accomplish your tasks?
7. Marketing budget allocation. Affordability should guide your marketing allocation. Take small steps and don’t overspend, use your resources wisely, plan ahead, measure results, and be flexible.
A small business marketing plan takes time and energy to develop, but it will be one of your most important tools as you start your business.