“We’re going on a trip!”
Whenever I hear those words, I get very excited. New places to explore, new people to meet and different cultures to discover. I also get anxious – there is planning that goes into making a so-so trip a GREAT one! There are many decisions to be made: Where to go, what is the budget, how to get there, where to stay and what to do once I get to the destination. Planning can alleviate a lot of tension and make my trip more enjoyable. Plus, once I get to the location and things don’t pan out as well as I thought (weather changes, find other things to do, discover different routes) I can change my plans and still get the full benefit of a fun vacation. And that all happens with a little foresight and planning.
Putting together a marketing plan for your business can benefit you the same way. Many small businesses don’t think they need a marketing plan because their advertising budget is small, but no matter what size your business is, not having a marketing plan is like driving around without a map.
A marketing plan doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Before you begin, ask yourself some simple questions about your business through a SWOT analysis. The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, Answering these questions can help you achieve a stronger business model and marketing plan.
- Strengths What does your company do better than its competitors? What is your competitive advantage
- Weaknesses What prevents your company from selling more of its product or services? What do the competitors do better than your company?
- Opportunities What part of the market has not yet been reached? What group of consumers are your competitors not targeting?
- Threats What is the biggest threat from the competition? What is the biggest threat from the economy or the evolving market?
Now that you have a better understanding of your company, evaluate the marketing portion of your business. Decide who you are trying to reach. Is it your current clientele or do you want to branch out? To figure that out, you need to know your target:
- What is their household income?
- Where they live? (i.e. in a 3-mile radius from your business or within a 60-mile radius?)
- Do they rent or own?
- How do they currently find out about your products/services and what sources do they use to get their information? (i.e. newspaper, radio. Internet, etc.)
Have a goal of what you want to achieve through your marketing (i.e. Top-of-mind awareness, 10% increase in sales.) Decide what you can afford to spend on marketing. A rule of thumb is between 5 – 10% of your sales. Evaluate the various advertising mediums available that will reach your targets. There are marketing consultants who can help you put together a successful marketing plan that is well worth the cost.
With this plan, you will then have a road map for marketing your business. Planning a road trip and developing an effective marketing plan are similar endeavors. With proper preparation and knowing your destination, small detours and modifications along the way will still get you to where you need to be.