If you recently started your business, you probably have been focused on business planning, goal setting, setting up shop and getting your finances in order. The next key step is creating and executing a marketing plan. As you get started with your plan, here are four pre-planning tasks that you can complete now that will save you a lot of time when you sit down to create your actual marketing plan.
1. Start with Clarity about Your Business
It will be impossible to write your marketing plan if there are elements of your small business that are foggy. You need to have a clear understanding of your business, why you started it and what you want to achieve. Three key elements in this part of the process include:
- A unique selling position (USP) - A USP outlines how your business is different from the competition. It identifies what makes your business the better choice, and why your target audience should choose you over the competition.
- Your value proposition - What value do you offer to your customers? This statement explains how your business solves a customer's problem by delivering benefits that are not available from your competition.
- A SWOT analysis - A SWOT analysis is a review of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that have the potential to impact your business.
You should also review your mission statement and any other documents you created when you started your business. Your business plan probably already contains a great deal of this information, so now is a good time to dust it off and get refocused on what your business is all about.
2. Complete the Research
A large part of the legwork that goes into creating a marketing plan is conducting research. You will want to conduct a market analysis and other market research processes to make sure you understand the industry and environment your business will be operating in. You should gather information on your target audience, including demographic and psychographic data. You should also dig into the financial aspects of the market to get an idea of the right pricing strategy for your products and services.
You may find it helpful to spend some time studying your competitors to find out how their products and services differ from yours, how they communicate with the audience, what they do well and where they are lacking. Conducting a SWOT analysis for your competitors -- just like you did for your own business -- is a great way to see where your business fits into the market.
3. Brainstorm Marketing Tactics
How are you going to reach your ideal customers? What marketing tactics are most likely to make a big impact? There are hundreds of ways to promote your business, but not all tactics are right for every business. Take time to explore potential marketing ideas and then gauge if they have the potential to work for your business.
Figuring out what works best for your business will probably be a case of trial and error, and you may not be able to identify the most effective tactics until you put some time and energy into testing them out. At this stage, however, it's important to have a solid starting point, so brainstorm 8-10 ideas that you want to test out in the early stages of your marketing planning.
4. Create a Marketing Budget
The second part of choosing marketing tactics is determining your marketing budget; these two parts go hand in hand. You can't waste time and money on tactics that your business just does not have the budget (or time) to support. Once you have a few marketing tactics you think are worth further exploration, estimate the cost of each and match it up to your budget to see if it's feasible.
You may have it juggle things around a bit and do some mixing and matching of low-cost marketing ideas -- like social media and content marking -- and more traditional tactics -- like direct mail or advertising -- in order to make it work within your budget.
Once you have completed these steps, all you have left is to put it all together into your comprehensive marketing plan.