Small business marketing is changing every day. Consumer behavior is constantly evolving, and distractions are plentiful and common. Taking a scattergun approach to marketing a business just doesn’t cut it today. Some people may say “just get your message out there and analyse the response”. This is not a sustainable way to move forward in small business marketing. Would you jump on a sail boat with no GPS or navigation equipment of any kind and set sail with an idea of where you want to get to, but no clear direction on how to get there? You’d be counting on hope and luck. The same thing applies to marketing, you need a map to get your business to where it needs to go, a map you can regularly revisit and evolve to get the business over those colossal waves and through rough weather conditions … so to speak.
Documenting a marketing plan can be overwhelming but can also be quite simple if you know what to include. I’ve seen many marketing plans in my career as a marketer and I’m still stunned when I see that some common key elements missing. Here are 4 elements of a marketing plan I believe should absolutely be included.
actually “knowing” your target market
Surprisingly many business owners, and sometimes even marketers, forget to detail their target market beyond the conventional demographics most people divert to when asked about their target market. To really know your customer is to know them on a more granular level. Adopting a general approach and assuming your customers will come equally is no longer enough to support lead generation. A “one-size-fits all” approach to marketing isn’t focused enough, and in most cases will not work well enough to support your business goals.
So how do you get to know them better? Simple. Just ask! Speak to your current customers and determine what they want, what their challenges are and what they need, even what their motivations are. Include these details in your target market section of your marketing plan and keep revisiting and refining it as you continue to learn more about your audience.
a well-crafted positioning statement
Quite often overlooked in a marketing plan is a good positioning statement. There are many variations and views on what a positioning statement should be. In its simplest form, it is a statement that talks to the differentiation of your brand from that of your competitors by expressing how your product and/or service fills a customers’ need in a way that your competitors’ products, services and brand do not. It’s useful to create a unique position of your brand in the mind of your customers in a simple and easy to understand way.
A positioning statement is not a tag line, a mistake often made. A tagline is more an external statement to market, whereas your brand positioning statement fuels your messaging to consumers.
goals. yes, goals!
All too often I see companies throwing handfuls of cash at marketing tactics with no defined goals in place. Sure, the overall goal is to bring in new business and increase revenue, but how do we get there exactly? What are those smaller steps we need to take to ensure we are on track to achieving the overall goal?
Establishing SMART marketing goals to support the overall business goal is a great place to start. By writing down your SMART goals outline and continually revisiting them, you have a greater chance of making them a reality.
For example, if your overall goal is to increase your website conversion rate by a specific growth percentage, then one of your SMART goals to support this may be something like “Increase website visits by 50% [from 2.5k per month to 5k per month] by 30 July 2019”.
More commonly known as ‘Place’ in the classic “4 P’s of Marketing”, distribution is a key component in your entire marketing strategy. Today there are literally hundreds of distribution channels, however you need to make the right decision about the very best location or place for your customer to receive essential information on your product or service needed to make a purchase decision.
Selecting only the key distribution channels or “places” relevant to your target market will give you a more strategic approach with a purpose. Also, constantly refining or changing your distribution methods over time may potentially lead to a rapid increase in sales.
Simply start by documenting what your distribution channels are – this may consist of online channels like blogs, display ads, Social Media or AdWords, or other direct marketing channels like printed ads or flyers. You may even want to go deeper into the marketing funnel and look at a stronger sales intensive focus. Once the channels are documented you can then start mapping them out to the customer journey [e.g. Blogs, social media and printed flyers for attraction tactics, website and sales for more conversion-focussed tactics].
One final word of advice for the distribution component of your marketing plan: Do not try mimic what larger companies are doing in their distribution strategies. Goals of a small to medium business are different, and budgets are smaller to larger companies who may have $1 million in their marketing budget allowing them to have a more consistent [and aggressive] distribution strategy across multiple touchpoints over a longer time period using mass media. Small to medium businesses must be thinking outside the box and focussing on strategies that are going to stay within a lean budget and help them achieve their business goals.
Take some time to reflect on these elements of your plan, paying close attention to each of them. The process of crafting your marketing plan shouldn’t be rushed, but also shouldn’t drag on and be forgotten about. It doesn’t need to be page after page of endless marketing fluff, rather one or 2 pages detailing the key elements that will align with your brand and business goals.