When starting any business, most entrepreneurs know how important it is to have a business plan. A business plan outlines your company's course for success and each aspect of it, from your business description to your finances, is vital for you as a business owner to understand. One crucial element of this plan is your business marketing strategy.
Most of time the marketing strategy becomes overlooked or underestimated on how important it really is because more attention is paid towards other parts of the larger business plan. The reason why is that small business owners assume that they already know their customer base and how to reach them and so they don’t believe they need to spend more time on their strategy. But an in-depth and detailed approach to laying out your marketing strategy can reveal opportunities for a new audience, pitfalls in pricing, competition reaction, and potential reach.
At its most basic, a marketing plan describes who your customers are, where they get information and how you are going to reach them. Robert J. Thomas, a marketing professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, said the development of a marketing plan requires that you complete four specific tasks:
1) Develop a very clear and focused insight into why a potential customer would use your business.
More specifically, figure out the core need that your product or service will meet. Is it to help your customers get through the day more easily? Do their job more efficiently? Be respected and admired by friends? Your offering should be designed to solve client problems or meet customer needs better than the competition can.
2) Identify your target customers
There are numerous potential customers in most markets, but to succeed faster and better, a small business must study the market and determine the characteristics of its best target customers. The target customer should be described in detail so think of example customers who would use your product/service and try to understand their shopping habits.
3) Identify competitors that would also want your target customers
No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer's dollar. Small businesses seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth, or determine competition that may be outside their industry but just as capable of luring the customer away. Preparing to know who that is, what their core competitive advantage is and how they will respond to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.) will help you figure out strategies to combat such losses.
4) Write down your brand-positioning statement for your target customers
Ultimately, your brand and what it symbolizes for customers will be your strongest competitive advantage. You should be able to write down a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are single-minded and focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes the best value.
Social media has become an essential part of businesses' marketing plans because every type of customer is on some type of platform, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other networks. Small business owners can feel overwhelmed at the possibilities but should focus on the ones that can benefit them the most.
Brett Farmiloe, founder of internet marketing company Marketers, advised companies that are just getting started in social media to get to know their customers and what platforms they are using.
"Figure out where your customers are spending their time, and set up shop on those platforms," Farmiloe told Business News Daily. "Develop a content strategy that can be executed internally, [and then] execute your strategy by posting branded content on your selected platforms. While all three steps are key, the biggest one is really determining if your customers are on these platforms."
Though email marketing may not be a new concept like social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for many small business owners. Companies can implement email-marketing techniques in a number of ways, including using newsletters, promotional campaigns and transactional emails. Companies such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy for companies to manage their email campaigns.
Farmiloe noted that companies can set their email marketing efforts apart by segmenting their markets.
"Not all subscribers want to receive the same blast," Farmiloe said. "Smart email marketers take the time to segment subscribers at the outset, and then continue to segment based on subscriber activity. Through segmentation, companies reduce the amount of unsubscribes, increase open rates and, most importantly, increase the amount of actions taken from an email send."
The popularity of smartphones and tablets has helped change the way companies target their customers. Since people have the devices with them nearly all the time, companies are looking to implement strategies that reach customers on their gadgets.
"Mobile marketing is interruptive," Farmiloe said. "It's because of this power that a marketer has to let the consumer determine how and when to receive marketing material. That's why almost every app comes with the option to turn notifications on or off. The consumer has to hold the power with mobile marketing."
Creating a well-defined list of budgets, goals and action items, with appropriate personnel assigned to each item, can help make your marketing plan a reality. Think about how much you're willing to spend, the kind of outcomes you expect, and the necessary tasks to achieve those outcomes. These following three elements can be key to helping you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts:
- How you want to track your campaign
- The channels you want to track
- The metrics you want to measure
The metrics — the numerical data that allows you to see if you're reaching your goals — are the best ways to measure your return on investment. This can include website visits, lead conversion, click-through/bounce rates, social media effectiveness and referrals.
About the Author
Satinder Dhaliwal is a Computer Science student as was born, and raised in Las Vegas. Satinder has always been interested in technology and took his passion towards coding and has learned multiple languages and created a multitude of applications so far. Through his studies at UNLV and involvement with RVF Satinder aspires to create his own Technology Startup one day.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RVF or UNLV. In addition, thoughts and opinions are subject to change and this article is intended to provide an opinion of the author at the time of writing this article. All data and information is for informational purposes only.