Marketing is a special area of business that many small business owners have difficulty mastering. Having wonderful products or service is not enough because people have to find out they exist and must be convinced they need to spend money on them.
Identify and Target
That is the purpose of the marketing plan. It presents the strategy for reaching the people who are most likely to buy the wonderful products or services. Developing a marketing plan is challenging because it requires understanding how to identify and target a specific market segment and then how to present a business in a convincing manner.
Following are some basic steps for developing a successful marketing plan for a small business:
1. Identify who is most likely to buy the product or service – This requires understanding the total market and identifying the segment that is likely to become a consumer of the business products and services. The market research needs to be thorough and accurate because the demographics of the target market will drive everything from choice of advertising media to messaging.
2. Identify what triggers a buy decision – How does the target market decide it is time to make a purchase? This is directly tied to the type of products and services being sold. For example, when summer arrives, people will purchase outdoor items. A business selling lawn mowers will recognize that people will decide to purchase a new mower when their old mower begins to give them too much trouble or completely breaks down. The question is: What does the customer want in a mower and how can the business market its mowers in a way that convinces customers the mower will meet their requirements? Understanding the buy decision also guides a business as to the best time to hold a major promotion campaign.
3. Identify who makes the buying decision? – Given the target market, who is most likely to decide to buy the products or services? Consumers can make a decision to buy on their own, relying on personal research to decide which products and services fit their needs. Women often buy clothes without much input because they rely on personal preferences. However, when the household needs a new car, the husband and wife, partners, or family will make the decision together. Marketing to women is different than marketing to a family. The advertising and marketing material will take into account the most influential people in the target market’s buying decisions.
4. Identify how to reach the people in the target market – Where will the business find its customers? Is it online in social media? Is it at the mall? Are they home watching television each evening? Do they read newspapers, magazines, and billboards? Influencing people is the purpose of marketing. That can be done in a variety of ways. The business owner can write expert articles, run advertisements, manage a Facebook page, exhibit at tradeshows, be an expert speaker at local events, and so on. The goal is to educate the consumer on the products and services. That can be done directly through promotional material and indirectly by becoming a recognized expert.
5. Identify how to put all the elements together – Developing a smooth unified marketing plan that takes into account all of the factors just mentioned is the end goal. Now it is time to implement the marketing plan.
The Name of the Marketing Game
A finished business plan has a marketing section. The reality is the final marketing plan is never really final. Markets are in a continual state of flux. Customer preferences change. Trends start and end. The marketing plan must stay in tune with the market, and that is not always easy. Developing a set of measurements and trying more than one marketing campaign is one strategy. The small business owner that gets comfortable with marketing is the one more likely to succeed. It is just the name of the marketing game.
Illustrative business plan samples
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