Written by Tyler Groskreutz on May 17, 2016
For small businesses, marketing plans can seem like a waste of time and money. I would argue the opposite is true. They are very valuable to businesses especially small ones. I can personally attest to this notion. While yes, building marketing plans is one of the many things I do to make money for my business, a well documented and planned out marketing plan provides some structure in an otherwise sea of uncertainty.
Businesses that are in their first 3 years are going to struggle the most with the resources associated with marketing plan, but it forces a business owner to think about aspects of their business that they might not consider otherwise. For example, when I build a marketing plan, I require a list of information from a business that would likely include: potential customers, advertising budget, or any information about previous pieces of marketing that have been used.
Imagine that you live in Omaha, Nebraska, and you want to take a road trip vacation to Orlando, Florida. Would you leave town without a road map? Of coarse you wouldn’t. You could end up in California, New York, or anywhere else the road will take you without some direction. Your business’s marketing plan is simply your road map to get the business through the year.
Additionally, let’s say your primary business is preparing income tax forms for people and businesses. Having a strategy would force you to consider timing of your marketing plans. Since the busy season for the tax preparation services is going to January 31st and April 15th, you wouldn’t spend 75% of your marketing budget in June on that service. People will forget about your business before next February roles around. Ideally, you would spend the bulk of your marketing budget in December through March. Then smaller amounts in May, August, and November to market specifically to businesses that have tax needs quarterly rather than yearly. This requires some knowledge of your businesses customers, though.
A business’s targeted audience is never going to be “everyone.” Let’s stick with this Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as an example. This fictional accounting firm is likely to target their marketing to both men and women, that are employed, and are too busy or unable to prepare their taxes themselves. By identifying these people, we are creating the building blocks of our strategy. We had a time frame loosely constructed, but now we are creating a message as well. Based on our analysis of our target audience, we should be selling our service on the premise that, “you [the customer] are busy. Let us take some of the stress and time consumption out of doing your taxes.” Without targeting specific people, a target audience, your business would have spent large sums of money marketing to people who weren’t going to purchase your goods or services anyway.
In our example, we’ve already spend our marketing dollars more effectively both in when we use those dollars, and on whom. But there plenty of other metrics that we can use to our advantage and without a plan, marketing that isn’t used on our target audience is money that you’ll never see a return on.
In marketing plans, we set goals, both short term and long term. We can use these goals to determine whether or not the marketing strategy is working. Keep in mind that not all goals are created equal. Occasionally missing short term goals is not the end of the world, but long term goals tend to be more important. With goals to measure the success or failure of the marketing campaign, we can see where we need to make adjustments. Let’s say our CPA scenario is running TV ads, radio ads, social media coupons, and paid ads in Google/Bing. With analytics systems in our websites and social media platforms, we can reasonably determine how many of our clients are coming to use through those channels. It will be a little more tough to determine who is using your product or services because they saw a TV ad or heard you on the radio, unless they physically tell you or there is a discount promotion associated with those advertisements. Analyzing these statistics, your business and marketer can hold each advertising channel for their return on investment (ROI). This allows you to alter your spending in those areas more effectively.
If you have certain channels that aren’t doing particularly well, reallocating money to spend on the more efficient means of marketing. Without a plan, without metrics and goals to measure against, a business’s income is going to be inconsistent at best.
Especially when your business is small, there is consistent fear that something is going to happen or not happen that will make your business end up failing. With a little planning, and a lot of strategy, you will give your business the best chance to succeed.
If you need help creating a marketing plan for your business, please contact us.
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