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Marketing Plan

 

Going Easy

A Well Organized Market Plan

If you’re wondering about the photo, I decided to include a nice lazy picture of some of our horses at Hoof Print Ranch in North Central Texas. This image brings to mind tranquil summer afternoons just whiling away the hours, taking in nature’s bounty and the Almighty’s blessings of the day. This is exactly the frame of mind I want you in before I discuss something as drab as a business plan. I want you to relax and just listen to an idea on how you should go about developing a well organized market plan to launch your business with. Just stay relaxed and let these thoughts drift into your conscious mind and take root. Who knows maybe something productive will happen?

If anyone is feeling the effects of our slumping economy, it’s small-business owners.

Amid all the question marks and uncertainty, customers have become fickle and certain services have been deemed “unnecessary.” Clearly, now is not the time to misspend your marketing dollars, but neither is it the time to cut marketing out of your budget completely.

In a challenging economic climate, you need to use marketing to maintain your sales, but you should also plan for the future by taking the right steps to build long-term customer relationships and set yourself apart from your competition.

Sure times are tough, especially for small businesses, but that’s all the more reason to integrate key, targeted marketing, efforts into your business budget, however limited it may be.

It’s also time to be strategic, and that means you need a plan of action.

A simple plan

If you already have a marketing plan, you’re ahead of the game. Take the time to review it and make sure it’s working. If you don’t have a marketing plan, now is the time to start one. It will help you better understand the market you’re operating in and encourage you to set goals for your business.

Start with something manageable – think about what you want to accomplish this year. You can always add to it later. Ready to move forward? Follow these simple steps to get started.

Analyze your current situation

What have you already done and what do you still want to accomplish? Write a short description of your product or service. Identify the advantages you have over your competition. What are the challenges you might face over the next year?

Be sure to think about things out of your control that may impact your business, for instance, an increase in sales tax and the effect that might have on your sales.

Truly know your target market

Once upon a time, you may have marketed yourself to a broader base. But in today’s economic climate, you need to focus your marketing on a specific audience – those most likely to become and stay your clients or customers. This will help you tailor your messages and use the right media to communicate.

Make a list of the key attributes that make up your “ideal” customer. If you’re marketing to consumers, list the demographic criteria that should apply – things such as age, gender or areas of interest. Marketing to a business? Identify them by type (health care, technology, etc.) and list any relevant details that will help you categorize them accordingly (size, geographic locations, etc).

Set reasonable, attainable goals

One of the biggest mistakes a business can make is setting “pie in the sky” goals right out of the gate. Be ambitious but realistic. Keep your goals simple, and try to be specific. For instance, “I want to generate $100 in revenue this month” is a specific goal. “I want to generate revenue” is not. You’re more likely to be successful at reaching your goals if you keep them in mind as you plan.

Strategies vs. tactics

If you find yourself scratching your head when trying to determine the difference between a strategy and a tactic, think about it like this: Strategy is the planning and tactics are the doing.

Performing strategic and tactical planning is essential to your marketing plan; otherwise it will always remain just a document full of good intentions and untapped potential. This is probably the most important step in your plan development process, so don’t skimp on it.

Be budget smart

It’s always amazed me that when times are tough and dollars are tight, the first thing a business cuts is the marketing budget, when, really, it’s during these times that marketing is the most important to keep your business top-of-mind with your target audience.

Instead of cutting marketing altogether, have a plan to spend your budget efficiently. Identify exactly how much you can afford to spend on your marketing efforts and create a realistic plan of action. Think about what each tactic may cost – this will help you determine if your approach is reasonable, or a little too “pie in the sky” for your current fiscal state. For instance, you may have listed “television advertising” as a tactic, but once you consider the costs of production and media, you might realize that it’s just too expensive for you to do this year.

A practical budget is key to a successful marketing program.

Evaluate often

Too often businesses take the time to write a marketing plan, but once they get a few activities under their belts, they forget all about the original plan and its purpose. Don’t wait a year to determine if your plan is actually working. A few months down the road, take another look at it and the tools you’ve utilized and ask yourself these key questions: Is this working? Am I seeing results? Am I on my way to meeting my goals? Track your progress along the way.

By evaluating your program regularly, you can make refinements early instead of wasting money continuing marketing activities that don’t work for your business. Your marketing plan should be a living document; one that you adjust to match the economic climate, your individual progress, growth and goals for your business.

Seek help if you need it

Seem a bit overwhelming? Then think about hiring a professional consultant to assist you with your marketing plan or program. Don’t think you have the budget to hire a professional? Think again. Most PR consultants can work with you on a program that can fit even the leanest of budgets, and getting the professional advice up front could end up saving you money in the long run.

When in doubt, ask for assistance. The worst thing a ‘newbie’ can do is to just blunder ahead, without thinking of the consequences. Everyone needs someone, and especially when you have a new business, you often need a lot of someone’s. Why not let me help you to become a suceess?

Your friend,
Chris Jenkins

Authored by R. Conley, Online Success with Chris, May 17, 2010
Excerpt from article published Mar. 20, 2009 by Lori Prosio with Katz & Associates

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