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7 step, 1 day marketing plan
Source: Federation of Small Businesses
No business can succeed without a structured marketing
plan in place. From understanding your customers, through
developing a message to choosing your media, these seven
simple steps will ensure your business does not fail
through inadequate planning.
You don't have to kill a tree to create an effective
marketing plan. In fact, you can create a successful
plan for your small business in just one day. To begin,
don't worry about writing style or making your plan
complicated. Just find a pencil and paper, and let's
Step 1 - Understand your market and competition
A big mistake that many small business owners make
is to latch on to a fashionable product or service,
without first understanding the market, and what it
wants (not what it needs). If you try to sell something
that people don't want, they won't buy it.
It's that simple. A profitable market consists of people
who have needs that are not being met, so much so that
they will jump to buy your solution (product or service).
To get an understanding of your market you should ask
yourself questions like:
Are there segments of my
market that are being underserved?
Are the segments of my market
for my product or service big enough to make money?
How much of a share of that
market do I need to capture, just to break even?
Is there too much competition
in my market to be competitive?
What are the weaknesses
in my competition's offering that I can capitalise
Does my market want or value
my unique competitive offering?
Step 2 - Understand your customer
Knowing your customer is the first step to easy sales.
You cannot prepare an effective marketing plan until
Don't confuse 'wants' with 'needs'. People don't necessarily
buy what they need, but they will usually buy what they
want. For instance, have you known someone who went
shopping to buy a pair of trousers that they needed,
and came back with a new shirt, jumper and shoes? Or
how about the everyday shopper who goes into the supermarket
to buy some milk and eggs, and comes out with a frozen
pizza, biscuits and other goodies?
People will buy what they want (even if they don't
have the money), not what they need. This even applies
To really get to know your customers, you'll need to
ask yourself questions like:
How does my potential customer
normally buy similar products (for example, in a
shop, on the Internet)?
Who is the primary buyer
and the primary buying influencer in the purchasing
process (husband or wife, purchasing agent, project
What kind of habits does
my customer have? For instance, where do they get
their information (television, newspapers, magazines)?
What are my target customer's
primary motivations for buying (looking good, avoiding
pain, getting rich, being healthy, being popular)?
Step 3 - Pick a niche
If you say that your target customer is 'everybody',
then nobody will be your customer. The marketplace is
jam-packed with competition. You'll have more success
jumping up and down in a small puddle than a big ocean.
Carve out a specific niche and dominate that niche;
then you might consider moving on to a second niche
(but not before you've dominated the first one).
For example, you could be a mobile hairdresser that
specialises in colouring hair, or a dry cleaner for
the Wembley area in London. Make sure to choose a niche
that interests you, and one that is easy to contact.
There's nothing more destructive than to pick a niche
that you can't communicate with, or that costs you a
lot of money to reach.
Step 4 - Develop your marketing message
Your marketing message not only tells your potential
customer (your prospect) what you do, but persuades
them to become your customer. You should develop two
types of marketing messages. Your first marketing message
should be short and to the point.
Americans call this your 'elevator speech' - your once-in-a-lifetime
chance to be in the lift at the same time as someone
influential - a potential investor, say, or Richard
Branson - for 30 seconds, when the only question he/she
will ask is, 'So, what do you do?'
The second type is your complete marketing message
that will be included in all your marketing materials
and promotions. To make your marketing message compelling
and persuasive, it should include the following elements:
An explanation of your target
Proof that the problem is
so important that it should be solved now, without
An explanation of why you
are the only person/business that can solve your
An explanation of the benefits
people will receive from using your solution
Examples and testimonials
from customers you have helped with similar problems
An explanation of prices
and payment terms
Your unconditional guarantee
Step 5 - Determine your marketing media
Your marketing medium is the communication vehicle
you use to deliver your marketing message. It's important
to choose a marketing medium that gives you the best
return. This means that you want to pick the medium
that delivers your marketing message to the most niche
prospects, at the lowest possible cost.
The following is a selection of tools you have at your
disposal to get your message out:
Newspaper, radio, television,
magazine, cinema, e-zine advertisements
Seminars, talks and presentations
The trick is to match your message to your market using
the right medium. It would do you no good to advertise
your small retirement care home in Devon using a fast
paced, loud advertisement on Radio 1. This is a complete
mismatch of the market, message, and medium.
Success will come when there is a good match of these
Step 6 - Set sales and marketing
Goals are critical to your success. A 'wish' is a goal
that hasn't been written down.
If you haven't written down your goals, you're still
just wishing for success. When creating your goals use
the smart formula.
Ensure that your goals are:
Your goals should include financial details, such as
annual sales revenue, gross profit, sales per salesperson,
and so on. Your goals should also include non-financial
elements such as units sold, contracts signed, clients
acquired, and articles published.
Once you've set your goals, put processes in place
to share them with all team members, such as reviewing
them in sales meetings, displaying performance charts
and rewarding achievement with prizes.
Step 7 - Develop your marketing budget
Your marketing budget can be developed in several ways,
depending on whether you want to be exact, or just estimate.
It's good to estimate first of all, and then support
your figures with further details.
First, if you have been in business for over a year
and tracked your marketing-related expenditures, you
could easily calculate your 'cost to acquire one customer'
or 'cost to sell one product' by dividing your annual
sales and marketing costs by the number of units sold
(or customers acquired).
The next step is to take your cost to sell one unit
or acquire one customer, and simply multiply it by your
unit sales or customer acquisition goal. The result
of this simple equation will give you a rough estimate
of what you need to invest to meet your sales goals
for the next year.
Writing your marketing plan following these seven simple
steps makes the task easily achievable and less daunting.
However, it's vital that you set aside some uninterrupted
time to develop your plan. It could very well be the
most important document to which you and your team will
Hints and tips
Market research will form
a major part of your business and marketing plans,
so keep your research to refer back to when you
are developing your plans in the future.
Make time to do your research
properly. It's one of the most important things
you will need to do, and getting the right information
now will help avoid problems later.
Be realistic with your research
findings, and be sensible with your assumptions
and market predictions.
Be careful when asking friends
or family for their input as potential customers;
they may want to encourage or discourage you unduly,
so might offer biased views.
If you use a market research
agency, ensure that they are members of a reputable
trade association. The Market Research Society provides
information about research agencies and consultants
in its 'Research Buyer's Guide'. (www.rbg.org.uk).
Consult this guide to find out about reputable and
experienced agencies and consultants.
Trade magazines or journals
can provide useful market information so it may
be worth taking out a subscription. If you're just
after a particular piece of information try your
city or central library as it may keep back issues.
Trade associations can also
provide useful research and statistics although
you will usually need to be a member.
Several national newspapers
have dedicated supplements for particular industries
on a specific day each week.
Before you spend any money
check your local central library as it will often
have access to a wealth of business information.
f you're doing a questionnaire,
limit the number of questions - as too many questions
may affect the response rate. Ensure that the meaning
of the questions is easily understood.
If postal questionnaires
are used, it is a good idea to give the respondent
an incentive to return it - for example, a prize
draw or a chance to influence product design. A
return rate of 10% of the questionnaires mailed