Just like identifying the steps you will take to prepare and serve Thanksgiving dinner for your 35 invited guests, a great marketing plan underscores your business’ unique position in the market and the steps you will take throughout the year to reach your goals.
Thirty-five guests at the table have one thing in common, an appetite for a meal. Your target customers are hungry for your products and services too, you just need to reach out to them, invite them to your table.
Time. Writing a marketing plan is setting out your business sales objectives. It’s putting in writing the steps you will take to achieve your revenue goals. It takes a little time and its dividends payoff!
Money. There are inexpensive and no-cost ways to market your business and website. Don’t let a modest or non-existent marketing budget dissuade you from putting a plan together to grow your business in 2012.
Here are a few tips to developing your marketing plan for 2012. We deliberately included elements of a successful marketing plan that were easily recognizable as being of value to small business websites.
Step One. Decide to host Thanksgiving Dinner
Identify your sales goals and available opportunities. If your goal is to grow revenue, the first question to ask is “how will I accomplish that?”
- Expand service and product offerings?
- Expand my customer base?
- Increase the number of repeat customers?
You might answer yes to all three questions, though you would tailor your tactics to accomplish each of the objectives.
This is a good time to identify your company’s strengths, opportunities and constraints (these might include things like length of time in business, minimal business debt, extensive experience, negotiated shipping rates, new product line, a growing database of customers, seasonally constrained time resources).
Being mindful of strengths, opportunities and constraints will help ground you in what you can realistically define as your goals and tactics. They can help move you forward with an awareness that can serve as a guide in your decision making so you can stay focused on working your plan.
Niche Market. Who’s coming to dinner?
Your niche market is your Thanksgiving guest list. You can’t invite everyone, it’s too complicated to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for omnivores, herbivores and vegans alike. Rather, you need to choose who you invite to the table. By identifying who your niche customer is, you will learn something about their shopping habits, preferences and how your skills, experience and industry knowledge give you a competitive advantage.
Your niche market may actually be very diverse in age, gender, location, income level, education and occupation or they could be very similar. If they are dissimilar, another method of identifying your target market is to look at the psychographics of your customers: values, interests and hobbies, lifestyles.
Unique selling proposition. My turkey really is THE BEST!
A unique selling proposition is a value proposition intended to give your product or service a competitive advantage. It is intended to persuade your customer to perceive your product or service as better or of more value than your competitions’. Your unique selling proposition, supported with your skill set, industry knowledge and experience, is your competitive advantage. That’s all it takes to set you apart from your competition.
“Melts in your mouth, not your hand” is a unique selling proposition. Unique selling propositions succinctly state a benefit to your customer for using your product or service. To develop one, look to the reasons and passions that drove you into business – there you will find the benefit you bring to your customers.
Tactics. I always use my Father’s turkey roasting strategy.
Our turkeys ALWAYS have perfectly juicy white meat, thanks to my dad’s amazing roasting strategy. Similarly, developing a tactical plan to achieve your business goals is just as effective as having a great cooking strategy.
A tactic is s a specific step or action that you take to achieve you’re the objective(s) you identified in step one. Tactics should be specific and include details, dates, goals and method of measurement. A tactic might be:
Building a facebook fanpage to tap into the power of social media marketing and should include details (facebook fanpage), completion dates (January 1, 2012), targeted goals (48 new fans by March 15, 2012) and units of measurement (number of fans).
- Creating two sales events to reward repeat customers for their patronage and loyalty.
- Include free shipping on all orders in your historically slowest month of the year.
- Identify two partners to cross promote during a local event.
- Make plans to attend and vend at a local event where your niche market will be (a trade show, a community event, a school fundraiser . . .).
Including a unit of measure gives you something to use to determine whether your actions helped you achieve your goal. Over time it also gives you a something to measure against in the future.
Communicating with Subsets of Your Niche Market. Your supporting side dishes.
You have set your business’ Thanksgiving table, services are refined and the products are on the shelves, niche market is identified and your unique selling proposition is in place. You are ready to take an order and overnight ship solutions to solve your customer’s problems.
On your website or in-person it is important that you speak directly to a couple of subsets of your niche market based on their stage of the buying process:
Give me immediate results. Some customers walk through the front door of your brick and mortar or land on your homepage and immediately want the product, information or service that solves their problem. They are looking for immediate answers and overnight delivery on solutions.
Make it easy for results oriented shoppers to find what they are looking for. Use headers, sub-headers and linked text to direct them to exactly what they came in the door to find – on your website and at the sales counter.
Know me. Other customers are looking for you to convince them that your skill set, industry knowledge and employment experience are the best fit to satisfy their needs and solve their problems.
They want to know that you have solved other customer’s problems successfully. Use customer testimonials to build trust, secure site badges, information about you -- education, industry experience, awards and affiliations.
Prove it. These customers want the specifics – hard data:
- Exact shipping costs.
- Proposal, bid or contract that spells out exactly what you will do for them, for how much and when.
- List of ingredients and their country of origin.
Eat pie and watch football.
Following all of the preparation and hard work of your fabulous holiday meal, you get to enjoy the remainder of your day with friends and family. Developing and working even a modest, simple marketing plan is also rewarding, and you will be able to enjoy the perks of your success as you achieve your sales goals. Additionally, your marketing plan provides benchmarks of measurement that you can use to revamp and tailor your marketing tactics to in future years. A marketing plan provides you with blinders to stay focused on the track ahead and stay the course, until next year about the same time when you will begin thinking about analyzing the success of 2012s as you tailor 2013s to a whole new set of opportunities!
If you would like more detailed guidance building your marketing plan, check out 6 Steps to Convert Visitors into Buyers. Chapter two of our book literally walks you through the steps of developing a marketing plan you can easily implement.