Do I Need a Marketing Plan?

Question: I have a Business Plan for my small business. Do I need a Marketing Plan, as well?

Answer: The answer is YES. A business plan is a compass to provide focus and direction for the entire business. The marketing plan is the guide for promoting your enterprise. These plans are not only linked but should be supportive of one another. In the early 1950’s Phillip Kotler, at Northwestern University defined marketing as, “everything an organization does from the time it perceives the need for a product or service until it is in the hands of the ultimate consumer.” Marketing includes sales, advertising, sales promotion, market research, social media, brand and logo, buyer behavior analysis, plus many more elements. Creating a marketing plan is a way to layout the steps in brand development, product/service introduction, brand, company and product awareness and demand generation.

A marketing plan should cover the entire year or at a minimum your selling season. If you are a Cape Cod retailer, then your marketing plan might focus on the May-November time frame, but also include off-season tactics to keep you top of mind for the next selling season. Most Cape small businesses are sole proprietors, so get some help in creating your plan by reaching out to your webmaster, your printer, your marketing specialist or your advertising specialist at the Cape Cod Times. Effective planning cannot be completed in a vacuum.

Your marketing plan can be as short as one page or several pages depending on your business. The length is not important, the formalization of your ideas that captures the creative ideas for promoting your business is what is important so you can monitor and measure your marketing investments to know what works and what doesn’t.

The marketing plan starts with some very simple steps much like the business plan:

Why? Why are you in business? The “why” is your organizational purpose. The answer to this question needs to be front and center each day to assure that you are applying the right type and amount of resources to the marketing of your enterprise. The “why” provides the focus that is critical to allow you to maintain the path for your business that can be maintained.

Who? The Market. Who are the types of people that will buy your product or service? What characterizes them differently from other buyers? If your business is landscaping and not just lawn mowing, how are your buyers different? Are they more affluent, knowledgeable about shrubs and flowers or more focused on the look of their property?

Where? Research. Where is your target market? Where are they physically? Are they all over the Cape or centered in the Upper Cape or Lower Cape? Where do they get their information? What newspapers do they read, websites do they visit, are they tuned into social media? How can you reach them?

What? Strategies to reach your marketing objectives. Strategies are the “what” you are going to do to achieve your goals. What will you do to earn their business? For example, if your objectives are to increase your volume by 10% this year, what are you going to do? A strategy might be to increase name awareness.

How? Tactics to support your strategies. Tactics are the “how” you are going to achieve your strategies. If your strategy is to increase name awareness, then your tactics might be to upgrade your website by doing a keyword analysis, update the images on your home page or perform SEO optimization. You might execute a postcard campaign to existing customers to encourage referrals and word of mouth promotion.

How much?  What will it cost to execute the marketing tactics you have detailed? How much will new customer acquisition cost? If your objective is to increase sales volume by 10% from a combination of selling more to existing customers and acquiring new customers, how much will that cost? Then calculate how much value is generated by adding a new customer. If your price point for lawn maintenance is $85 per month for five months, the value added to your company is $425. How much did you have to invest to add that new value? When looking at your budget, analyze your marketing investment in recurring fees (ads in Cape Cod visitor magazines) and one-time fees (advertising in the Cape Cod Times for spring clean-up specials.)

Your marketing plan is your guide to reach current and potential new customers for your business.

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