Effective Marketing Plan for Small Business – Part One

Nowadays, most industries are more competitive than ever before, as businesses go head-to-head to combat the aftermath of the global economic crisis and the ongoing UK recession. The numerous businesses going bust over the past few years, including big names such as Jessops, JJB Sports and Comet, serve as a warning that only the best can survive. Regardless of how outstanding your business idea is, effective marketing is absolutely essential in today’s cut-throat market. In this first instalment of our three-part guide to marketing for small businesses, we will cover two major aspects of marketing – demographic and marketing objectives.

What is marketing?

Before we can compose an effective marketing plan, we must first understand what the term “marketing” actually means.  Marketing is not intended to directly increase sales, but rather to create a positive image with a view to guarantee continued and future business.  The main aim of your marketing campaign should be to convince existing and prospective customers that your business is the best option within your industry. You want them to think of you immediately when they need a particular product or service.  The question now is how to do that.

While working on your marketing plan, there are three main steps which must always be kept in mind:

  • Analysis and Objectives
  • Strategy and Tactics
  • Implement Plan and Measure Results

Bear in mind that you will not be able to come up with a fantastic marketing plan overnight – it will require ongoing input from the key players in each of your business areas. It can also be worth consulting an external marketing specialist. While you and your team may have an excellent plan or idea in mind, a marketing professional will possess the skills required to transform this into an achievable goal. Whether you decide to devise the plan yourself or outsource some of the work, remember to always keep your goals in mind.  One top tip we have learned is to keep the mission statement of your business to the front of your mind while writing your plan. Your mission statement outlines the objectives of your business, which is exactly what an effective marketing plan should do.

Analysis and Objectives:

What Makes Your Demographic?

As we mentioned earlier, identifying your target demographic is imperative when working on a marketing plan. You need to know who you want to sell to before you can decide how best to reach them. Many businesses will have more than one target demographic as different products and services will appeal to different people, so it is very important to ascertain exactly who your target audience is before starting the actual planning. If you have a varied range of products or services on offer, it is likely you will need to complete this step more than once.

The factors you should take into consideration when identifying your target demographic include:

  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Interests
  • Education

Once you have a solid idea of who you want to appeal to, these broad categories can be whittled down to give you a more accurate picture of your market.

You should also bear in mind that your product or service may appeal to different groups in different ways – for example, men and women may use a product in different ways, with the product proving to be equally effective to both groups. Your marketing strategy should take both of these groups and both of the uses into consideration. Make sure you’re not missing any potential opportunities by alienating certain groups.

Is the plan as good as you think?

Be careful not to fall into the trap of deciding on a seemingly excellent marketing plan which turns out to be completely unsuitable for your target demographic. Spending a fortune on all the bells and whistles could turn out to be a waste of time and money if you are trying to sell a simple product to a no-nonsense market. Employing a marketing professional is advisable for this reason; their experience will have taught them how to appeal to each individual group of customers.

If you sell, or intend to sell, to both business and individual customers, remember you will need a separate marketing strategy for each. Businesses will tend to buy in bulk and expect discounts for doing so, individuals will buy a smaller number but do not expect to be penalised for being unable and unwilling to buy huge amounts at once. Make sure neither market feels like they are missing out on the best deals.

Despite the differences between business and individual customers, it is possible to appeal to both. The key here is to make sure you and your marketing team know your product inside out. Know exactly what your product can do, how it can be used, what it can offer and what problems it can solve. Teach your audience how your product or service can make their life better.

Adapt to change

Even after you have successfully identified your target demographic and marketed to them successfully, you will need to keep an eye on trends and changes in their needs and wants.  Just as the recession has changed people’s spending habits, future changes in culture, lifestyle and other elements of life will have an effect on how your customers spend and what attracts them.  Never get complacent with your marketing – you must always strive to keep it as up to date and appealing as possible. Make your product a must-have!

Marketing Strategy Objectives:

Now you know who you want to sell to and how you are going to appeal to them, it is time to come up with your marketing objectives. Again, your business’ mission statement should be kept in mind during this task and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

For example, your next goal may be to increase sales by 20% over the next two years. Think about how you can achieve this – what are you really good at? What aspects of your business could do with being strengthened and equipped to cope with such growth? Is there an as-yet-untapped section of your target demographic which you could use to reach this goal?

When writing your objectives, whether for marketing or another purpose, you should always use the SMART acronym to avoid setting yourself up for failure.

Specific – What exactly do you want to achieve?

Measurable – How will you know if you are successful? Do you need to revise your goal?

Achievable – Are you aiming too high or not high enough?

Realistic – Targets should motivate, not lead to disappointment

Time-bound – Set a deadline for achieving each objective

Again, it is not possible to do all this in one meeting; it will require a decent amount of time, work and effort to devise your marketing strategy.  Set aside sufficient time for collating and analysing data, reviewing progress and tweaking plans accordingly. Always remember your business can only be a success if you have strong goals and objectives in place, meaning these goals and objectives deserve a decent portion of your time.  After all, you can only ever reap what you have sown…

Click here to read part 2.

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