Every small business needs a current and actionable marketing plan! However, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the task of writing one. Most software programs designed to help you are often too comprehensive; to the point that many business owners give up, or never even start.
Marketing plan software can be very helpful, but I want to offer you a quick, simple way to create an actionable plan that will get you results! After all, results are what we’re after!
The Marketing Mindset
You must begin with your mindset. Every business owner must develop the mindset that you are in the marketing business! That’s right. You may find yourself in the construction industry, the retail industry, the professional services industry, in the technology industry, whatever – but you are in the marketing business!
I rarely meet a business owner who started his/her business with this mindset. We typically start our businesses because of our experience, expertise, or interest in a certain industry. However, smart owners quickly learn that marketing is one of the most strategic and critical functions they must master! The best business owners learn that becoming a marketing expert is just as important as being an expert in their industry.
Begin telling yourself daily that you are in the marketing business! For me, I work in the coaching industry, but I am in the marketing business. You must begin cultivating this mindset!
The Marketing Plan
Now that you are developing the right mindset, you will want to create a marketing plan. As I have already mentioned, much more can be said about marketing plans. But what I want to offer you here are the 5 most critical components of a marketing plan. If you’ll create a simple marketing plan with these 5 components, you’ll have something you can actually use and take actions on.
1. Your Marketing Message
Begin by asking yourself “Who is my ideal customer?” You may serve many different types of customers but get clear about who your ideal customer is. Then make a decision to only market to your ideal customer!
Think about it, why spend your precious time and money marketing to anyone else besides the customers you want? Focus on your ideal prospect and ideal customer. With that person in mind, begin thinking about the message they need to hear. Typically, the first question in everybody’s mind is “Can I trust you?” I recommend that you quickly answer that question in your marketing message.
My friend and colleague Howard Partridge suggests that your marketing message have 5 points. It should say something about your Reputation, your Experience, your Training, your System, and your Guarantee. I like this outline! I recommend that you take a little time and write 2 or 3 sentences about your reputation. What have your satisfied customers said about you? How do they describe you in testimonials and reviews?
Next, I recommend that you write 2 or 3 sentences about your experience. How many years have you and/or your team been in this industry? What types of work have you done in this industry?
Then write 2 or 3 sentences about your training, education, and/or professional associations. Follow this by briefly describing your system – the process you use to deliver quality products and service. Finally, state your guarantee. This should be a statement that reduces the risk when the prospect chooses to do business with you. You will end up with 5 short paragraphs which you can use as your core content for your website, your brochures, and your oral presentations.
2. Your Marketing Mediums
Again, with your ideal customer in mind, think about the best channels for communicating this message to them. There are over 100 different ways to market your business, but not all of them are right for you! You might consider traditional forms of marketing and advertising like print ads, direct mail, signs, radio, etc. You may consider digital marketing tactics, social media marketing options, referral marketing techniques, press releases, networking and relationship marketing tactics, or thought-leadership marketing. Each of these categories offers numerous channels and mediums for marketing your business. What you will want to do is pick the 5-10 most effective mediums for your business! This will be the focus of your planning and execution.
3. Your Marketing Budget
As you consider the various options you have for marketing mediums, you will also want to think about your budget. You will discover that certain mediums just do not fit your budget. Don’t worry! You do not have to spend lots of money on marketing, but you should budget to spend some! I encourage all business owners to create a budget each quarter or each year, and then operate by that budget. Part of the budget will be an allocation for marketing expenses. By setting a budget you are more likely to discipline yourself to spend more wisely and efficiently.
4. Your Marketing Calendar
Once you know your best mediums/channels and you know your budget, you should then lay out your marketing activity on a timeline or calendar. Plan what you are going to do each week and each month. Many businesses live with a “feast or famine” cycle. When business is slow, the owner gets busy marketing. This leads to new business. When things get busy with new business, the owner stops marketing as much. Of course, this eventually leads to slow times. You can avoid this up and down cycle by having a calendar to help you keep a steady stream of new business coming in the door.
5. Your Marketing Dashboard
It’s very important with marketing that you track and measure everything! The way to do this is to create a “Dashboard” that identifies your activity and tracks the results of everything you do. Start first by tracking the source of every new lead that comes your way. Evaluate the quality of each lead and evaluate each medium from month to month. You can create your dashboard using a simple spreadsheet. Here is a visual example of what a direct sales professional might create:
# of Leads
# of Calls Made
# of Appointments
# of Closed Sales
Here is another example of what a service provider (e.g. plumber, contractor, etc.) might create:
# of Incoming Calls/Inquiries
# of Quotes/ Proposals
# of Jobs Won
Ave. Value of Closed Sales
You can make your dashboard as elaborate or detailed as you like. The important thing is to be tracking and measuring everything so that you know what activity and dollars are getting you results. Once you know which activities or tactics get the results, you can then plan accordingly and you will have the potential to grow your business as much as you desire.