Creating Your Future with a Marketing Plan

Almost everyone who dreams of starting their own business is familiar with the fact that they should create a business plan. However, often that’s where many people stop. When you created your business plan, what did you do with it? You actually have the base for the next step, which is creating your marketing plan. Without the plan of how you are going to market your business, the business plan is just an empty jumble of words speaking of dreams and desires. The marketing plan takes those dreams and creates a strategy for how to make those dreams come true.

There are several different suggestions on how to put a marketing plan together, but all plans have at least seven or eight steps. These steps include preparing a mission statement, describing the services provided, identify and understand the competition, spell out the marketing objectives and strategies, create the action plan, and create a monitoring strategy in order to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Prepare a mission statement

The mission statement should clearly and succinctly describe the nature of your business, services offered, and markets served in just a few sentences. A mission statement is a statement of who you are and what you stand for. It answers the question of why you are in business. Although there are many, many different theories on what makes a good mission statement, here is a site of various examples; http://www.csuchico.edu/mgmt/strategy/module1/sld015.htm

List your ideal client

I cannot emphasize this enough. You have to know who your ideal client is, and what their issues are, extremely finitely in order to speak to them. You have to visually be able to see them in front of you and know what makes them tick. Be very specific in identifying your ideal client. Include age, sex, income, education, occupation, geographic region, lifestyle, attitudes, purchasing characteristics, etc. What are their values, what do they like to do. Really get clear who this person is.

Describe your services

Imagine everything you want to do, either currently or in the future. It’s OK if you haven’t done it before: If it’s a dream that you provide in-home cooking demonstrations, include that in your list. You will later determine how to make it happen. Include all details of what you offer, where and for how much. Determine what your prices must be to cover your costs. Don’t leave anything out even if you’re not sure it’s something you want to do this year.

Who is your competition?

In order to know how to position yourself from your competition, you must know who your competition is. Do some research and determine what your competition offers, how they promote, what they charge for services, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Don’t rush through this section. Make phone calls, check the internet, and ask people you know. Feel free to call the people you find and ask questions. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, ask a family member or friend to do it.

Marketing objectives and strategies

Marketing objectives will indicate targets to be achieved across several marketing decision areas. Examples could include such things as what products/services you wish to offer, who you plan to offer them to, how you plan to make your services known, your promotional objectives, etc. Objectives should be clear, measurable, and have a stated time frame for achievement. Objectives included should include both marketing objectives and financial objectives.

Get very specific with your objectives, such as how many clients will you have by what date, how much revenue you will bring in by what date, and exactly where these new clients will come from. Who will you include your marketing to? For financial objectives, you need to be clear about what growth percentage you expect and how you will achieve that growth.

Marketing strategy

This is your game plan to achieve your marketing objectives. You are now getting into the nitty-gritty. This is where it’s time to play and play big! The marketing strategy should include information about your product, your price, how you will promote or create awareness of your product or services, and how you will distribute that information.

Examples of basic marketing strategies include networking, brochures, ads in newspapers, various programs or presentations, press releases, to just name a few. Some may cost you a great deal, but there are many marketing strategies that cost you very little or just your time. Gauge what your time is worth and how busy you are to determine how much of these strategies you will do on your own. You will further determine this by the next step, however.

When a strategy works, repeat it. If it fails, and you did it right, drop it. Learning to develop strategies that work for your particular situation and personality will take time and practice.

Create the action plan

Once the objectives and strategies have been developed, put together an action plan describing the steps that need to be taken in detail. This is your actual game plan for how you will accomplish all that you have written about in your business plan and previously in the marketing plan. It will include what the specific objective is, exactly what and when the steps will be taken, what results you expect to see, the marketing tactics you will employ and so on. This will be your template for your marketing calendar that you will create in the following step to creating your business.

Monitor results

By monitoring results, you can determine which of your strategies are working and which are not. Identify strategies that generate increased business. This involves tracking and evaluating clients’ responses to each marketing strategy. Conduct regular surveys in order to find out what clients like and don’t like.

Client comments are invaluable for creating or enhancing your market literature. With permission, these comments can be used as testimonials.

Creating a marketing plan is not something enough people take the time to work on. I have found this to be the hardest part for anyone in small business and have had to spend many hours, myself, struggling over some of these answers. I can’t emphasize how important it is to do this work, however. Skipping this step can mean the difference between success or failure. Many people who start a small business are aware of creating a business plan, and stop at the stage of the small market plan topics listed in the business plan. However, the business plan is just the first step. The marketing plan is not the final step, either! This document is the template for creating your marketing calendar that will set your projects in motion for the year. You are creating your future with the marketing plan, and then watching that future become reality with your marketing calendar.