Building a Marketing Plan for your Startup
Think of marketing as a buffet. You have too many choices in front of you, and only one unacceptably small plate. It’s up to you to find the right balance to feed your business. So step away from the cake -– it may look and taste good, but it’s just empty calories. You want a balanced diet of marketing approaches to strengthen and grow your business.
A marketing plan works for your business sort of like the food pyramid works for your eating habits, except it’s easier to follow and the recommendations don’t change every five years. A healthy plan includes a number of basic ideas and maybe one or two opportunities to take chances. Let’s take a look at what it should include and why.
Plan for your current customers. It’s much harder –- and more expensive -– to get new customers than to keep the ones you have. So a smart marketing plan should include some elements to encourage brand loyalty. Do you have coupons that only current customers can access? Have you considered a punch card so that people can get a free whatever after so many visits? Do they receive email announcements of sales? If your current customers see themselves as part of your special “in crowd,” they’ll realize that you think they’re special.
Describe your hoped-for new customers. Businesses are either growing or shrinking. No matter how enticing you make staying for current customers, some will move on, leave town or otherwise stop coming to your business. You need a regular source of new customers to survive, and even more if you want to grow your business. Since you’re going after new people, now is the time to define your ideal future customer. This may be through demographic characteristics such as age, income, gender, etc. It could also be geographic –- say within one mile of your store or restaurant. Once you know who they are, you can figure out the best way to reach them.
Define your brand image. Do you want to be known as the highest quality or the least expensive? Is your operation about variety or about discovering and offering a few carefully chosen items? Is your operation family-friendly? Is a visit to your place of business exciting or relaxing? Put together a brand description that is detailed and full of strong verbs and adjectives. It’s like a waiter describing a special dessert-– the more details he includes, the more likely you are to order it.
Set goals. Your previous work will help you define exactly what you want your marketing plan to do: Keep current customers, find new customers, and build or strengthen your brand image. It’s time to turn that information into measurable goals. For example: Gain five new customers a month or increase current customer visits by 20 percent in the next three months. If you don’t measure it, you don’t know whether you’ve succeeded or not.
List your options. Are there small local newspapers that might be suitable vehicles for your business? Would flyers with coupons distributed to select neighborhoods help encourage potential new customers to try you out? Would personal sales calls to other local businesses work for yours? This is your chance to brainstorm, take a look at all the choices, and put together your buffet. And as you do this, remember to include social media options. Often these choices are the least expensive and the most productive. Be sure to include cost and other requirements for each. For example, if you buy an ad, you need to pay for the cost of producing it as well as the price of the media buy.
Set your budget range. You will have to look at each option and decide if the potential return is worth the investment. Remember that tiny plate you were holding when you walked to the buffet? That represents the resources you can devote to marketing.
Make your selections and prioritize. Some options will simply not be appropriate for your brand or reach your defined customer base. So like the green gelatin-cabbage salad on the buffet, you can just move on. Others look interesting but you’re not familiar with some of the ingredients. A few, such as the crab cakes, are a no-brainer. Build a list of your best options in priority order. If you can only afford the first three, that’s where you start.
Create a plan to execute your choices. Consider timing, milestones, and elements you need to have in place, such as a brochure and business cards if you plan to do personal selling, or printed coupons if you plan to hand those out to current customers. Guess what? Put everything together and you have a workable, executable marketing plan.
Check your goals and make corrections. Your goals give you the insight as to whether your marketing efforts have made enough of a difference for your business. You may want to make adjustments as you learn more about how each element of your marketing plan is working for you.
This may look like a lot of work, but the good news is that you need to go through the entire process only once. In the future, you can just make changes to the plan that you think will improve your business’s success in the long run.
Photo Source: EurekaWebMarketing