Every business owner I know is looking for ideas about marketing on a shoestring budget to win customers. If you want to do it right, it begins with creating an effective marketing plan – a strategic guide to grow your company. It also outlines where and how you’ll reach your key target audiences – the ones who will buy your products and services. A comprehensive marketing plan also gives you perspective on trends and how it’s affecting the marketplace. I like to think of it as a blueprint to where you are now and where you want to go.
A well-written marketing plan describes your target market in detail; who they are, where to find them, and strategies to share your messaging so that they’ll buy (or at least follow your marketing and sales roadmap). It also provides an indepth look at your competition and what they’re doing, online and offline. From there, you’ll be able to have context, facts, and information to help you create an action plan and marketing tactics to grow your business. Plus, the ability to measure key metrics to improve results.
A Sample Marketing Plan Framework to Win Customers
1. Market research
From the beginning, research on your industry, competitors and external factors that affect your business are key. Think of it as a deep dive on your brand and your competition. Where you are, where your competition is. A situational analysis, no fluff. Like it or not, the numbers never lie.
If you’ve been in business for a number of years, you should know the numbers. If not, get over yourself for not knowing, and gather your team or ask your accountant for help. This information needs to be organized to answer FAQs in a marketing questionnaire – and also to identify your business challenges and those of your industry as a whole. What’s the upside to the market, how many millions or billions are being spent, and who’s getting the lion share of business and why?
Every business owner thinks they have some sort of a marketing plan – preconceived ideas about who their audience is, what they look like, and how they can reach them. The beauty of market research is that it gives you insights that may be surprising – even non-traditional marketing and new PR strategies to help you reach your ideal client. Don’t worry about drawing those conclusions right away; put together the research or have someone do it for you. You can see if your tea leaves were right later on, when you get to objectives and tactics.
2. Analyze the competition
What will you learn when you study the competition? A lot. Compare it to your brand, but remember that they’re not you and don’t have your brand personality or DNA. What do you like about their messaging or style? What weakness do they have? What can you highlight that they don’t do to increase your brand’s small business exposure?
When you look at your marketing plan, write a detailed overview of your brand’s five top competitors – and that includes apps if they’re disrupting the industry – and stealing sales. It doesn’t have to hurt for long if you know how to fix the problem.
As part of the research process, you’ll be able to identify certain elements of their marketing and PR strategy, and others that you hadn’t thought about. Which work, which don’t, and most importantly, what can you use to position your brand? Your competition’s customers are most likely your customers, too.
3. Identify your target audience
Marketing is all about identifying your target audience, so to make the biggest impact, go deeper with your analysis.
What insights can you find about your target audience’s behaviors and attitudes? Is there a particular job title that your ideal customer has? Where do they hang out, what do they read, what Facebook groups do they belong to? Answering these questions can be a springboard to more inspired ideas on how to reach them.
As you research, look into your ideal client’s persona and how they use social media. Which social media platforms are they drawn to? Are they avid fans or just scrolling? Typically, small business marketers use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and increasingly TikTok (in fact, here’s a guide on building a TikTok following). But, can you identify a social media platform that fits your specific audience more directly? Depending on your target audience, a slightly less-popular social media platform like Reddit, Pinterest or Etsy could be a winning strategy.
Not identifying your target audience correctly is a huge mistake in writing your marketing and publicity plan. About 35% of marketers say they waste part of their budget on ineffective targeting. Failing to engage the right target market is unproductive and frustrating. So again, it’s worth your time and effort to gain insight up front. Observe (and read about) lessons learned from experienced marketers.
4. Form a marketing plan timeframe
Timing is also an important component of a marketing plan. Execution of your marketing and PR strategy requires careful scheduling, delegation of task assignments, and attention to details to hit key deadlines.
Create a content or editorial calendar and make sure the materials for your campaign are ready to go, well before you need them. Be mindful too that the timeline of your marketing plan fits the goal you’re trying to achieve.
Let’s say you’re in charge of marketing for a company that sells camping equipment. You’ll want to maximize sales and ramp activity up in late winter or early spring, and as the weather warms – ending your campaign in the fall (with the exception of holiday sales). Or, if you’re a local company and the goal is to jump on a few opportunities in the winter season, your plan might be to make the most of a lower budget, and retarget your mailing list and social followers with amazing sales opportunities.
Of course, you want to pay attention to important holidays that align with your products and services. This is where creating a content calendar becomes important, to capitalize on the moments when people think about your brand – and include a call-to-action that triggers a response – like “yes, I’m in!”
5. Mission statement
A mission statement crystalizes the purpose, motive and vision for what your brand or company stands for or provides. At its best, it’s a rallying cry for potential customers to understand and employees to identify with.
Here’s an example of an admirable mission statement from IKEA: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” If you read this closely, you can see much of IKEA’s purpose in creating useful, simple furniture for an accessible price and making their products available on a large scale. This statement articulates the purpose of what we know IKEA to provide and describes the “what” and “why” of IKEA’s brand, extending far beyond furniture and speaking to a greater ideal.
A compelling mission statement will help your brand articulate its larger purpose. If you’re questioning your ability to grow your brand, or having trouble articulating your purpose to your team, a well-crafted mission statement can be a perfect reminder.
Bottomline: A marketing plan won’t just give you small business strategies to increase sales, it will help you develop customized outreach to meet your marketing and PR goals. Follow the plan and use it as a guide to grow your business, for 2022 and beyond. It’s a personalized roadmap in case you get lost.
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