Last week we began our three part series on the 9 steps to a successful small business marketing plan. In the first installment we discussed developing a budget, building and maintaining a complete listing of your company, and building an effective and user friendly site.
This week let’s look at steps 4-6:
Understand Your Market Situation
Okay, so we have a budget in place, our listings are in place, and we have a great site that will give our customers a great experience when they visit us. Now what?
Now we take a step back. Before we start investing the money that we’re budgeting we need to understand how we stand in the market, and where we fit it in. This is where we do our homework, so to speak. Some of things you want to ask yourself or do are:
- What problem are we solving?
- What is our Unique Selling Proposition?
- What value do we add?
- Complete a competitive analysis
- Perform a SWOT analysis
- What needs am I fulfilling?
- Who is my target audience/customer base?
- Where will growth come from?
And don’t stop here. The list of questions and answers is very comprehensive and really the job is never done here because the market is always changing.
Ask around, too. Talk to your management team, employees, vendors, partners, and especially your customers. They can provide insight you never thought possible. The greater understanding you have of your market situation, the more effective your overall marketing strategy will be. Your actions will be more purposeful and you’ll have data and feedback to support your decisions.
Develop Marketing Objectives
We believe marketing objectives should be tangible and intangible. We are a mission-centric company, and so we believe in vision. With that said, the challenge with vision is quantifying it into results, specifically, ROI (Return on Investment). It’s one thing to feel good and see change, but it’s another to have ROI so your business is operational. We believe numbers don’t lead, they follow. You have to make a profit, otherwise you won’t be able to lead anything and therefore nothing can follow.
A great way to set marketing objectives is to look into your past. A lot of this data is probably fresh on your mind because of the in depth understanding of your market position. Track trends and develop HARD goals.
Marketing objectives are not only customer related. Yes, some of your objectives may be on increasing sales or improving customer retention, but remember the other parts of your business. Focus on product improvement, better pricing from partnerships or longer contracts with vendors to help fix your operating costs, or increase your differentiation.
Objectives should be broken down as well. Really, the success of your marketing objectives is in the details. Define your tactics. Implementation is where success is found. The success of marketing is in the execution of your planning and tactics.
Again, we have our budget. We have complete and accurate online listings. We have an effective and user-friendly site, and we now fully understand our market position and have armed ourselves with marketing objectives. What next?
Now we begin to execute.
How do we now accomplish the objectives we have set before ourselves? Most of the time you will use a mix of promotional tools based on the objective. Every job requires a tool and your promotional strategy is no different in the sense that there isn’t a one size fits all approach.
Advertising, sales promotions, social media, special events, personal selling, unique partnerships, sponsorships, and personal selling are all various methods of achieving your objectives. Going one layer deeper, you have push and pull tactics along with reach and frequency. This is where you really crunch the numbers to project ROI and back up your decisions based on data collected and alignment with your objectives.
This, like building your website, is not a do-it-yourself project. If you have doubts about what you are doing don’t be afraid to ask for help. The challenge with marketing is that it is deceptive. Everyone thinks they can do it, but very few are successful.