If it has been a long time since you looked at your business plan and now you’re ready to kick off your business for the new year, here’s a tip: Start with the marketing plan first. There are two reasons for this: 1) You must know who is your paying customer; 2) You must know how you are going to stand out in the marketplace. Once armed with these two critical data points, you’ll be ready to write your full business plan. Another great thing about starting with the marketing plan is that once it is complete, you are one-third of the way done with your business plan. To develop a killer marketing plan, you need to define your target customer, niche, competitive analysis, the secret sauce or differentiator and how you are going to tell the world you are open for business. Most importantly, you will need to know how much money you’ll need to do all that.
Your Marketing Plan should answer the following questions:
- What is/are your product(s) or service(s)?
- Who is the target market customer?
- What is your placement strategy?
- How will your product or service be distributed?
- How will you price your product or service?
- How will you promote your product or service?
- What are the sales activities that must be executed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to achieve your marketing goals?
- What are your budgetary needs to execute your marketing plan?
Marketing information is the foundation upon which you build a business. Anyone who reads this part of your business plan will not only understand who is buying and why, but also gather key insights into your pricing model, your plan to generate sales and your projected growth strategy.
Here are the key parts of the Marketing Plan:
Market Analysis: The market analysis starts with outlining the business opportunity, then it drills down what share of the market you believe your business can capture. You should define each customer segment in terms of revenue. It should also include a trends analysis about your industry and define where the market is going. The reasoning is that if you are not in a growth industry you need to understand how long you can pursue your business strategy before the market moves or is saturated. Then you need to explain your target customer and niche strategy. When identifying your target market, you should make sure you have three things:
- Meaningful – you need to know the problem you will solve, and be a real solution.
- Sizable – you need to make sure the piece of the market you want is large enough to turn a profit.
- Reachable – you must make sure that you have the resources to reach your target audience. Remember, your network is your net worth when starting a business
Who’s the Competition?: Your customer’s needs are already being met by some other vendor or company. Describe your top three competitors and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Do your homework on your competitor’s websites. Then explain why their customer will buy your product or service over theirs.
Build The Customer Profile: Describe your customer in painful detail. Your description should enable anyone to see the face of your customer. Based on this information, you can now create a message and then a strategy on how you plan to communicate with your target customer. Marketing and sales go hand in hand. Your sales plan should also be a part of this section of the marketing plan.
The Niche: If everyone can use your product or service, no one will. No one is looking for yet another small business to do business with, but people are willing to hire specialists who can solve their problems. Niches offer a concentration of clients in an area of limited competition. Define a niche market for your products and services. You have limited time and limited resources as a small business, so you need to pick a lane and be disciplined enough to stay in your lane. So in other words, there are thousands of graphic design firms out there… what specific market will you serve exclusively? Will it be small business logos, nonprofit annual reports, or developing educational materials? You should strive to own an area of specialty. Think about it this way, which makes more money — your primary care physician or your cardiologist. Niche to get rich.
What Is Your Signature Move?: Michael Jackson was famous for the moonwalk. What is your signature move? Defining your secret sauce or signature move will enable you to stand out in the market place. A signature move could be uniforms, an extra free service, how you say thank you, a discount coupon for the next time. Here’s an example: a personal organizer I know shows up and helps her clients get their home or office organized. As value added service, and at no additional cost, she’s also a haul away service. If you do not want something, she’ll recycle it for you or find it a new home. Little things can be big winner with your clients.
Marketing Budget: Now that you know who you are selling to, your niche, the competition and your signature move, you need develop a budget to execute your marketing plan. Once you have a 30-day revenue goal, you need to determine how many sales leads you need to generate to hit that number each month. Then you need to figure out how many resources you need to put those leads in your pipeline (website, sales people, call center, tradeshow, Facebook ads etc.) That’s the easiest way to develop your marketing budget.
Marketing is anything you do to generate business, and I know that if you start planning for a great 2012 by developing your marketing plan everything else will get easier in your business.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog and is also a bestseller author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.