Welcome to our final installment of putting together a successful small business marketing plan. To recap in our first installment we covered developing a budget, building and maintaining a complete listing online, and building an effective and user friendly website. Next in the second installment we talked about understanding your market situation, developing marketing objectives, and your promotional strategy.

Now in our final installment we will cover the final steps to a successful small business marketing plan.

Stick to the Plan
Seems pretty simple right? All the hard work is done, everything is in place, and now all you have to do is execute, right? Wrong. This is where we are seeing a lot of mistakes. You invest time and money into your marketing plan, and as you start to get into it you divert and completely miss your target or get sidetracked. Granted there needs to be a level of flexibility and adaptability built into your plan for a variety of reasons, but overall you have to follow your plan. It’s tempting when you see market changes, or perhaps some of your forecasts are trending in the wrong direction to just ditch your current plan and go in a different direction. What’s worse is if someone beats you to market or comes out with a different advantage that is better than your offering and you feel you need to mimic it, or move with the market in that direction. 
planResist the temptation. Marketing plans take time to unfold, and you have to let them run their course. Staying the course helps you build and benchmark what does and does not work. So if and when you need to revise, you have data to support or negate the tactics you decide to use.Manage Negative Feedback
As small business owners we take pride that we aren’t like the big corporations, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them. 

Another part of the marketing plan that often gets overlooked is feedback. Specifically, negative feedback. Feedback will be written or oral. It could be word-of-mouth from your past customers, or it could come in the form of online reviews such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, or even the Better Business Bureau. Regardless of the source, negative reviews must be managed. These reviews directly impact the reputation and image of your company, which are closely connected to your overall marketing strategy. feedbackIt can be challenging because some reviews may have little to no merit, but they have to be addressed – especially on the web. This is where we can learn from larger companies.For example, while traveling recently, my wife and I had a horrible experience at Starbucks inside BWI Airport . I won’t go into details, but we tweeted about it expressing our frustration. Starbucks got wind of it, tweeted us back giving us a personal email address to tell them about what happened. We wrote the email, and they wrote us back apologizing and made a valid attempt at fixing the problem. They sent us a couple of free drink vouchers, and seemed sincere in apologizing about the incident. We certainly didn’t tweet about it to get free drinks, but it was nice gesture and more importantly they took a negative situation and were able to spin it into a positive. Additionally, the actions taken further reinforces their overall marketing strategy which is being dedicated to giving every customer a great experience with them. It didn’t start that way, but it ended that way. Furthermore, Stackbucks has 20,000 plus stores international with millions and millions of customers. Yet, they were able to address my complaint within hours, not days or weeks. What does that say about your small business when negative feedback isn’t dealt with in a timely manner? It says you are to busy to notice, or even worse you don’t care. That assumption will only spill over into other aspects of your business further tarnishing your standing with your customers and your community.

Review and Repeat
The final step of any small business marketing plan should be to review and repeat. Marketing is not a sit down meeting you have once a year to establish the annual budget. You market your business everyday, and everyday you learn something new. You have to listen and be aware. Take time and talk to your customers. Listen to them. Ask them about what works and what doesn’t work. Collect feedback, share ideas, and consult people for help. One of my favorite things about Liamer is we just love talking business. All of our clients understand we have an open door policy. You don’t have to pay us to talk to us. We love being able to bounce ideas around, share best practices, talk things through, compare notes, and just evolve together as small business owners. It’s always good to get a fresh set of eyes and get an objective opinion.

Thanks for keeping up with our three part series, and call or email us anytime because helping you market your business is just one of the many ways we can help you.