Creating a Marketing Plan

Most small businesses would benefit from a simple, practical marketing plan.

A plan that can be put into action immediately. This means concentrating on just the practical, promotional aspects that will lead to results. The good news is that you can do it yourself.

Here’s a simple format:

Marketing Plan
Let’s go through each in turn:

1. Targets

This is where you identify the exact types of customers you want to sell to over the next year. These could be to your existing customers or to new customers. For example, your targets for next year might be:

Existing customers who have spent over $1,000 with you
If you sell to a certain type of customer at the moment, then try to target the same type of customer in a different town or city
If you sell to a certain type of person, then are there any other types that will also require what you sell? For example, retired people. Or any other type of relevant target group of people interested in what you sell.
The whole point here is to establish exactly who you’re going to spend most of your marketing efforts on in the coming year. It’s impossible to market to everyone (both too hard and too expensive). So instead, just concentrate on the targets that you have listed.

Remember, it’s always easier to sell more to your existing customers than to people who have never bought off you before.

2. Objectives

List what you want to achieve for each of the targets mentioned above. The idea is to be as brief as possible, and to quantify (make measurable) as much as possible. If you look at the target of existing customers who spend more than $1,000 with you each year, then an objective of ‘keeping them happy and getting them to spend more’ is not much use.

It’s much better to state your objective as, ‘to assess customer satisfaction of all customers who spend over $1,000 each year, and on average get these customers to increase their yearly total by 30%’.

Keep the objective short, and keep it measurable. This way you can evaluate if your marketing plan is working or not. Did you get an extra 30% from these customers or not? You can easily monitor this by adding up the total sales from these targeted customers, and then seeing at the end of the year if there has been a 30% increase or not.

3. Tactics

Now you have to write down what you’re going to do to achieve your objectives. Using the above example, your objective is in two parts:

a) assess customer satisfaction

b) increase target customer sales by 30%.

Hmmm. . . . Let’s think of exactly how you can achieve this.

a) Assessing customer satisfaction

The easiest way to achieve this might be to send out a brief survey to all your important customers. So the strategy is to contact these people, either by email or ordinary mail. (All businesses should build a database of names and addresses, both physical and email. If you don’t have a database, start one today, but make sure you comply with the Privacy Act.)

To encourage feedback, offer the chance to win a prize to everyone who replies.

b) Increase target sales by 30%

You can accomplish this by two methods:

1. Email or direct mail each of these customers with updates of new products or services that you offer. If they are one-off customers, then attempt to use them for referrals. For instance, if they thought your service was exceptional, and they recommend you to another person, they will win a prize (or go into a draw for a major prize). You could also conduct a special sales evening by invitation only for existing customers (but invite them to ‘bring a friend’). Offer extra special deals, along with your normal services.

2. Make a list of products or services that are linked together, so when a customer contacts you, they don’t simply purchase one item from you. If you have staff, teach them how to sell all your complementary products or services and put them onto a bonus system for such linked sales (increasing the size of any one sale).

These are just examples. You need to come up with 10-15 separate methods or strategies that you wish to start over the next year.

However, note that all strategies should be specific, practical and explain exactly what you’re going to do. And in as much detail as possible.

4. Implementation

Right, who’s going to do it? At this stage, next to each of your ideas, write down the person responsible for carrying out each task.

For example:

Survey existing customers, design survey, collate results (staff member)
Organise direct mail of sale, special deals (me)
Organise and train for complementary selling (me).
5. Timeline

Without deadlines, nothing gets done. So you next have to develop a simple timeline, which lays out all your ideas throughout the year. For simplicity, the example in the box below shows only six months.

Now you have a guideline for when items must be completed. Use this as a budget, to see if your initial estimates of cost were correct.

If you don’t have this timeline then you’re pretty much wasting your time because you’ll find that you will not initiate your marketing programme, and these ideas will remain just that: ideas.

Marketing Timeline:

Questionnaire $400 $400
Direct mail, new products $2,000
Complementary selling $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100
Competition $200 $200
TOTAL $2,500 $100 $100 $300 $300 $500

6. Budget

So how much will it cost? Add up all the columns from the timeline to find out. In this example, it would be $4,800.

Obviously at this point, look back to your objectives. Ask yourself this important question, “Will a 30% increase in sales from our existing customers generate more than $4,800 profit?”

I’ve seen too many small businesses waste money on marketing because they haven’t taken the time to work out that it’s impossible for them to recover the cost of the exercise. This might be, for example, because the market is too small, or they don’t have sufficient capacity or time to do the work.

7. Evaluate

Now you need to find out: ‘Is it working?’ Again, you’re wasting your time and money if you forge ahead regardless of the consequences. What if your master plan didn’t work? Is contacting your existing customers by email or direct mail effective?

All sales that relate to your efforts must be calculated. This is quite easy in the examples we’ve used, since you can assess how many sales you generated from the special sales events, and count the number of replies from any email or direct mail campaigns.

Keeping customers happy can be assessed by the reduction in complaints and queries received.

To conclude
This marketing plan is very simple, practical, and will help you control your business over the next year. It’s a plan that can be actioned immediately, and can be completed and drawn up by yourself for your own business.

Reproduced with permission from the Business Information Zone.

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