Every business needs a marketing plan. Startup or established business, without one spending on marketing activities will be inefficient at best. But where do you start? We’ve outlined the process we take to write killer marketing plans for small businesses. Follow the following 7 steps and you’ll be on your way to a marketing plan that can stand you out from the competition.
1 – Market Research/Product Market Fit
Market research should form the cornerstone of any marketing plan. We’ve all been there, a eureka moment on an idle Tuesday afternoon leaves you convinced that you’ve invented the next million-pound idea. Fortunately, a family member who points out some fundamental flaws in your idea spares you financial ruin. Unfortunately, however, not all of us are blessed with families whom help us see through the fog when our heads are in the clouds; it wouldn’t take me long to find some clips of would be entrepreneurs presenting far out ideas on Dragons Den (they must be having a laugh, right?). The blushes of many such innovators could have been spared if only they had carried out proper market research before sinking their life’s savings into roller-skates for your knees (honestly, I googled it).
The aim of market research is two-fold. First and foremost it’s to find out if there is a real market for the solution you intend to offer and to help shape and refine your solution into something the market finds indispensable. Secondly, it’s to map out the market-place, helping you to find the answers later on in your marketing plan.
Start by interviewing/surveying potential customers before analysing the market place you intend to enter. If your potential customers like the product and you can identify an opportunity in the market – that’s a good start.
2 – Identify Value Propositions
I deliberately used the phrase “opportunity in the market” instead of “gap in the market” in the last paragraph. The idea of there being a gap in the market is out-dated. Look hard enough and there’s a viable solution for just about every problem you could face but this doesn’t mean that opportunity no longer exists. Finding your value proposition(s) is about figuring out how to differentiate your solution from the competition in a way that adds value to your customers. For example Netflix didn’t invent anything new; Blockbusters had been providing people with in home entertainment for years, but it did identify an opportunity to differentiate (provide entertainment online) and in doing so add value for customers (think no late fees, instant access, convenience, etc.).
There are loads of ways you can add value; convenience, quality, efficiency and customisation are just a few examples. Whatever you choose make sure it’s something your customers want.
The first part of your marketing plan, market research, should help you to identify common problems potential customers face with their current solutions and you can use this to help you craft desirable value propositions; a value proposition canvas can be a useful tool here. Simple questions such as “what frustrates you about your current solution?” or what do you like/dislike about your current solution can help you tease out valuable information that will go a long way to identifying solid value propositions.
The next few sections are about your business goals, objectives, strategy and tactics. Before I go into a bit more detail about each one it’s a good idea to illustrate their roles within your marketing plan by taking it back to source and introducing a military analogy (where these terms originated a long time ago). This might seem strange, but bear with me.
Goal (broad aim)
• Win the war
• Advance armies to Checkpoint A within 3 months
• Maintain a casualty rate of below 0.5% for the duration of the war
• Keep costs per unit below £10,000 for the duration of the war
• Over power enemy using superior weaponry and firepower until they surrender
Tactics (details of how)
• Gather intelligence on enemy strongholds
• Deploy forces to key positions
• Disrupt enemy sup¬ply chains
• Engage enemy
Got it? Okay, lets get back to business
3 – Setting your goal and your objectives
By now you should have a clear idea of what your product offers, who your customers are going to be and what your market place looks like; its time to define your ambitions.
Your goal is a succinct, powerful, top-level statement of intent. Revisiting our military analogy we can see this was to win the war but in business it’s more likely to be something along the lines of “make my business the number one solution for the problem in the UK” or “increase sales of my product”. Having a clear goal helps to keep you focused and consistent.
Your objectives are the next level down and give clear direction and commercial targets. The rule for your objectives is that they should always be SMART; that’s specific, measurable, achievable, relative to your goal and time bound. In your business they may look something like this: “to achieve a market share of 10% within 3 months” (check this out if you want more information on setting SMART objectives).
4 – Define a clear marketing strategy
Your goals and objectives define your ambitions, your strategy introduces your approach. Strategy can be the smallest yet most difficult part of your marketing plan and bad strategy can kill a great product. Take the Sinclair C5 for example.
The C5 was a tiny electric car produced by Sinclair and sold in the UK; its marketing strategy was to target female shoppers and male commuters as a cost effective vehicle. With a top speed of 30mph, a price of £399 and questionable safety credentials it flopped. The company went bust and the stock was sold to a smart marketer who repositioned the C5 as a novelty “space rider” and targeted it at young holidaymakers in Spain. He sold it into moped rental shops and doubled his money in a very short time – same product, different marketing strategy, totally different outcome.
When you write your strategy include your target market, how you plan to position your solution and the method(s) you will use to achieve your goal. The C5 strategy went from targeting male commuters and female shoppers positioned as a cost effective vehicle sold through mail order, to; targeting holiday makers in Spain positioned as a novelty “space rider” sold to moped rental shops.
5 – Map out your tactics
Once you’ve crafted a winning marketing strategy it’s time to plan your tactics; these are the details mapping out how you plan to execute your strategy.
Here you’ll need to detail what needs doing, who will be doing it and when it needs to be done by. You may also want to include some budget information in this section. It all comes down to the allocation of the 3 key resources; money, manpower and minutes. This section will be completely unique to your business and how you choose to format it is up to you, sometimes people prefer to use a simple calendar, others like to build huge complicated GANTT charts. One word of advise is to not get too granular; your tactics section shouldn’t read like a daily to do list, that should be kept for, well, your to do list.
6 – What does success look like? How will it be measured?
Excellent, you know where your going and how to get there, but how will you know if you’re on the right track? Setting off without some kind of performance indicator is like not keeping score during a rugby match; pretty soon no one knows how they’re doing.
Take a look at your SMART objectives, if you’ve done the job properly each one will be measurable, this means that there is some parameter related to each objective that can be tracked for progress (good or bad). It might be number of website visitors, accident rate, average number of responses or any other metric that you feel adequately reflects your progress towards your objective, just make sure that your chosen KPIs provide insights into the business that are actionable.
7 – Optimise
Just as in the Sinclair C5 example, sometimes it takes a change in marketing strategy to realise success. Whilst I’m not suggesting you’ve made a similarly catastrophic error in judgment, it’s important to realise that no marketing plan is ever finished and no marketing strategy is set in stone.
If something isn’t working, change it. If something is working, figure out why and repeat. You need to be alert to changes in your marketplace and ready to respond with strategic tweaks. Analytics packages such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights can provide you with an abundance of information that you can use to guide your decision making.
For help in creating a marketing plan for your business that can stand you out from the competition, get in touch for a free consultation.