When it comes to marketing your small business, you have a ton of options and avenues to consider. For instance, there’s your website and deciding what to put on it, both in text and images, and even whether or not to have a blog. You have to think about social media too, as well as which platforms could give you the most return given your target market. Plus, you might also want to advertise via radio, television, flyers, or some other forms of marketing.
Is your head spinning yet?
I know that for me, marketing was the one thing about owning and operating my own business that literally sent me to the medicine cabinet in search of some relief for my aching head. Although I had learned that making a marketing plan would help de-stress the uncertainties of marketing and actually put me back in control, driving my freelance writing business to higher levels, but I had no idea how to do one.
That is…until I took the time to do some research and figure out the basic elements of a solid marketing plan. So, if you’re where I was and don’t know where to start, these four things you want it to include:
Your Starting Ground
You’ll never be able to track whether a particular marketing-based action is working like a charm or failing miserably if you aren’t sure where you started, making this a necessary element of any marketing plan. This means knowing your revenues and expenses, being aware of your current marketing efforts and the results they are providing, and any other information that will tell you precisely where you stand right this moment.
This also requires going over your own reports and, if you have a team focused on marketing, meeting with them to determine where they think you stand. The more you know up front, the better decisions you’ll likely make throughout the entire marketing process.
Where Your Competitors Stand
Just as you want to know where you are, it’s equally important to know where your competitors stand. This enables you to see where you fall in the big picture and whether you’re ahead of or behind others in your field, and by how much. When you do this, the Edward Lowe Foundation suggests th at your research include the top 20 percent of the competitors in your field and then determine how you compare.
If you’re way below them, for example, check out what marketing actions they are taking and see how effective they are for them. What social media platforms are they on and which ones seem to be drawing the most follows, likes, or shares? Also, are they reporting a surge in sales after particular events or marketing ploys?
Use the information you gain during your research to help you devise a plan that your target market will likely respond to. Of course, you don’t want to follow them step-for-step, so make sure you change it to make it your own so that you stay true to your brand and don’t come across as a copycat.
Ambitious, Yet Realistic Growth Objectives
Of course, no plan in the world is going to get you where you want to go if you have no idea where it is you want to be. That is where creating growth objectives come in. And you want them to be a bit lofty, but also realistic. No reason to set yourself up for failure, but don’t give yourself an easy out either.
To achieve this, BusinessDictionary.com suggests that you set lofty goals and then break them down into more realistic pieces. This enables you to push your limits but in a way that is likely to result in success versus failure.
When doing this, it might help to talk to your team and get their input on whether your goal is realistic and achievable. See what possible problems they foresee and work together to come up with any new ideas that can help make your goals a reality.
A Measurement System
Another element of a solid marketing plan is knowing how you intend to measure your progress and/or results. Without this, all of your actions are essentially useless because you aren’t going to know what works and what doesn’t.
For instance, I use Google Analytics to determine how many visitors are coming to my website, how they are getting there, and where they spend the most time. Google Analytics also gives me their demographics so I can tell whether or not I’m hitting my target market. Or, if you use YouTube, they have the same type of functionality so you can get similar information from them as well.
Certainly, there are a number of different measurement options available and the ones you select will depend largely upon which marketing avenues you decide to pursue. Just make sure you have them in place beforehand so you can see the differences that exist before and after a particular marketing effort. This allows you to determine fairly easily whether what you’re doing is working and worth spending more time and money on, or if your efforts are better spent somewhere else.
Once you know where you stand as a company, where you stand among your competitors, what your ambitious yet realistic growth objectives are, and how you intend to measure your progress, you have the foundation you need to create a marketing plan that can take your small business to higher levels.
Now all you have to do is put it into place!
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