So you’ve gotten your business going. You have a customer or two. The phone is ringing a little. For any business to grow and prosper long-term, it needs a solid foundation — and that includes a marketing plan.
So how can a marketing plan help your small business?
A marketing plan is a road map detailing the route you’ll take to get your business noticed by potential clients. By following a properly crafted plan, you’ll know what to do and why you re doing it, while avoiding some of the mistakes that can cost you money and future growth.
If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come
The first part of any marketing plan is a basic understanding of your market, competition and whether or not an opportunity exists for your product or service.
My first business venture was to make very expensive looking floral wreathes. All my friends and neighbors had them on their front doors and I knew I paid $100 for mine, so why not make and sell them myself! What I didn’t consider is that I have expensive taste and in order to make a profit, my wreaths were priced significantly higher than the local craft store. If I were in a more affluent area, it may have worked, but not here.
I started the business on a hunch and didn’t truly know my market or competition. Had I done my research, I may have used lower cost materials, made less elaborate products, sold them in a different area or skipped the venture all together. What I learned is that my opinion combined with my friend s opinions is not a strong enough basis to launch a business.
No, I’m Not Going to Stop for Directions
When starting a business you generally know where you want to end up and you might have a vague idea of how to get there, but what if you get lost? A marketing plan is like a road map or corner gas station used as a reference tool to keep your marketing on track. If you run into construction traffic , a properly developed plan will offer options to keep you motivated, organized and headed in the right direction.
I Want to Rule the World Or Do I?
Do you want a home based business with one or maybe two employees or a large firm with several hundred? How do you feel about travel, making cold calls, the Internet, can you type? How fast do you want to grow and do you have the resources to keep up with the growth? Your goals as a business entity will dictate how and to whom you market.
My second business venture was a used toy business. I hit every garage sale within 10 miles of my home and bought all of the solid plastic toys I could find. I also put up signs at day care centers offering to buy used toys directly from parents. My goal was to have my own garage sales business and earn a profit on the toys I had bought.
This time, I didn’t consider my personal goals before embarking on my business. I didn’t like going inside strangers homes to pick up their toys. I had nowhere to put the enormous stockpile I had amassed and wasn t willing to hire employees to gather enough toys to generate the revenue to cover a storage unit or store front. I wanted a little mom business, not a full blown corporation.
Had I considered my true goals, I would have marketed myself as a service provider to day care centers found out what they wanted and would be willing to pay, and then gone out to find it – no storage issues, no going into people s homes, no employees required.
It’s Report Card Day!
Even the best marketing plan needs to be constantly evaluated and adjusted to keep business growth on track. The results of your efforts may not be bringing in attention or revenue you require. The economy, business environment, competition or technology may have changed necessitating a shift in your plan.
Making adjustments to a marketing plan is healthy. Even if you paid a mint for a professionally developed plan, you’ll want to review your status and results at least every six months to monitor effectiveness. When buying a plan, it s important to ask that follow up support to be part of the package.
I’ll Just Put It On My Credit Card.
Before developing a marketing plan, you ll want to have a ball park budget in mind. Once your plan is complete, set a budget and stick to it!
It s easy to spend more than your annual revenue on marketing activities and supplies when you first start out. Make sure your budget is realistic before committing. Every dollar spent should have a trackable outcome even if it takes several months or years to realize.
Plan Your Day and Work Your Plan
By following a properly developed marketing plan, you’ll minimize the growing pains that often accompany a business start up. Revenue growth will be reasonably predictable and you’ll be laying a foundation for long term stability. Your business will run more efficiently because next marketing steps will have been laid out in advance.
Recommended Books on How a Marketing Plan Can Help Your Small Business:
- The Marketing Plan Handbook, 3rd Edition
- Marketing Plan Template: Writing Marketing Plans for Small Business
- Breakthrough Marketing Plans: How to Stop Wasting Time and Start Driving Growth
- Marketing Plans: How to Prepare Them, How to Use Them
- The Marketing Plan: How to Prepare and Implement It