A Simplified and Savvy Marketing Plan That Works! Really

Time to create your marketing plan. Bleh, you say.

Just the words, marketing plan, sound so dry and conjure images of lengthy word documents, online research, and possibly some sort of matrix.

Completely understandable. But, what if there is a different way?

What if we take that complex process, boil it down, and only use what small business owners truly need? The single most important elements and a workable plan. That doesn’t sound so bad. Because, really, once we take out all the mumbo jumbo, we’re left with four parts:

1. Evaluate Existing Foundation

2. Know Your Target Audience Precisely

3. Create A Workable Plan

4. Measure Everything

Evaluate Existing Foundation

In order for any amount of marketing, advertising, or public relations to work, the marketing foundation must be solid. Your marketing foundation includes: logo, tagline, Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and customer service. If your company has been in business for more than a year, you have your logo and your tagline. If it is solid, let’s not tinker with it. We are not on a rebranding mission. But, the other elements, the USP, and your customer service…let’s talk.

1. Unique Selling Proposition – Ah yes, the USP. When used effectively, it’s a beautiful thing. The USP is a concise statement that bundles the top reasons why people should buy from you. It should be brief, it should be distinctive, and it should be yours – no copy-cats allowed. If you already have a fantastic USP, great! It should be included in every business material your business puts out into the world, even your invoice. If you do not have a solid, compelling USP, start talking to people. Find out from your customers why they do business with you, ask your friends, get feedback, and write a single sentence that is packed with conviction.

2. Customer Service – Customer service is an essential element of the marketing foundation. If you make a guarantee in your USP, be sure to follow though with your customer service. “We answer the phone on the first ring!” Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring, “Press 0 to speak to the operator.” Guess who just hung up? Not to mention, that caller will probably tell 10 people about the experience.

It is not enough to treat customers and potential customers with respect, they must actually like you. They have to feel good when they interact with you or anyone else in your business. Your customer service must run like a well-oiled machine for marketing, PR, or advertising to improve your business.

Know Your Target Audience Precisely

A common mistake made by small businesses is to cast a wide net when trying to attract customers. Although your products or services are probably suitable for a very broad audience, it is important to target precise segments because it gives you more of a marketing punch! In addition, you can be more choosy about who you want to do business with.

When you segment your target audience, you are able to have a deeper conversation. A target audience of, “women, age 25-54,” for example, can be segmented to, “women, age 30-45, with a college education, household income of $65K per year, married, own a home, have children in the public school system, busy with work and family activities, eat-out once a week, concerned about saving money.” With this new information, you are able to write a marketing message that will speak to these women:

Restaurant Print Ad – “Take a night off from the grind and treat your family to a night out. Enjoy family-friendly live music and receive 20%-off your meal when your kids present their school I.D.”

Jeweler Promotion – “Join us for ‘Ladies Evening Out.’ Enjoy wine tasting and cheese plates. Make out a Mother’s Day wish list and we’ll send a personalized card to drop the hint. In addition, anything purchased off the list in the month of May will be 20% off.”

Accountant Promotion – “Dear Busy Moms, It’s time to relax. Schedule an appointment to for your taxes in the month of February and receive a free manicure while your taxes are being done!”

Segmenting the target market creates opportunities to engage potential customers and show an understanding of their wants, needs, struggles, and goals.

Compare these ideas to fishing. A small business casts a huge net and catches some fish; however, they also catch algae, seaweed, a rubber tire…a boot. On the other hand, if you know what you are fishing for, you can attract the fish you want with the perfect bait. The results are fewer, less costly casts and more of the fish you want! The main goal is to pinpoint the precise type of customer you are seeking and attract them by showing a deep understanding of their needs.

To determine your target audience precisely, think of your number one customer or client. Who are they? What’s their business like, what are their interests, and how do they purchase your products? Think about what they look like and how they act. How do they want to be perceived? What’s their M.O.? What is there home life like? What kind of music do they listen to? Get personal. Get down to the nitty gritty details. Paint a picture with words. Once you have written down your description, your goal is to find more people like this. This is your target audience, your perfect fish, the fish you should bait and cast for in every marketing effort.

Workable Plan

Once you know who you are targeting, it is much easier to create a workable plan. Keyword: workable. Be mindful of how much time and money you have to invest and do not extend beyond this. The workable marketing plan can, and should, be simplified. It should be as simple as a 12 month calendar.

Look at the big picture: 12 months, 52 weeks, 4 seasons.

At the beginning of the year, or during your planning period, create goals for your business. An example: obtain 10 new clients, secure 10 speaking engagements, and position the business as the go-to company in the region. Then, start making plans to accomplish the goal by creating tactics that support each goal.

Let’s keep working with our example. The first goal is to obtain 10 new clients. You have a clean marketing calendar in front of you. Think, what times of the year does my target market purchase my products or services? How do they buy it? How do they hear about me? What types of activities are happening in the lives of my target market? Then, jot down ideas based on months of the year. Perhaps you send a direct mail piece, one for each new season (winter, spring, summer, fall), with a direct response coupon, and follow up with a personal phone call. Or, maybe you place a print ad in a local newspaper for a free sample, and follow up with a packet of information for the people who respond to the ad. Write down a targeted tactic for each quarter, and when you place a marketing tactic in a certain month, work backwards to make sure you plan and execute the work needed to get it off the ground. If you send a direct mail piece in March, the task for February is to create the piece, get it printed, and decide who you will send it to.

Continue to do this with your other business goals (i.e. secure 10 new speaking engagements, position the business as the go-to company in the region).

The most important part of your small business marketing plan is writing it down. If you do not write it down, it is not a plan, it is just a dream. This can not be emphasized enough.

Once the workable plan is finalized, keep a printed version of your marketing calendar right on your desk. Integrate it with the other parts of your small business and add your to-do items to your business calendar. Integrating the plan with daily business activities is key. Integration makes the workable plan workable.

Measurement

Every marketing effort must be measured. Measure everything. If it can not be measured, it cannont be improved. Do not employ a marketing effort unless it is measured. Yes, I just stated the same idea four times. Why? Because, small business owners loathe measuring marketing results. Perhaps it is due to fear of failure, lack of time, or they just do not want to be bothered with it. No excuses, here. Every marketing effort must be measured, otherwise you will never know if something is truly worth the investment. That is what marketing is: an investment. This investment can easily be measured.

The simplest, most sure-fire way to measure marketing is to utilize direct response. For example, if you place a print ad, include a unique web address in the call to action and record the number of hits you receive. If it’s a direct mail piece, record the number of phone calls you receive in response. How do you know if they’re calling in response to the effort? Ask ’em, of course. “May I ask how you heard about us?” It’s a question that people truly, do not mind answering. As you execute each marketing effort, keep a tally right on your calendar to determine the response rate:

Number of impressions / number of responses = response rate

The number of impressions takes different forms, such as the circulation of a newspaper, or the number of direct mail pieces mailed. When you divide the number of responses by the number of impressions, the result is the response rate. Once you determine the response rate, you then calculate out how much the effort truly cost your business:

Cost of effort / response rate = Cost per response

The cost per response is an important number because it levels the playing field when determining the overall effectiveness of a marketing tactic. An expensive marketing effort might be worth the high cost if you see it is offset by the high number of responses. In fact, it may be less expensive to invest more and receive more responses. Or, maybe it’s a pipe dream. Perhaps the Chamber newsletter print ad you placed was the most effective. You will know by calculating the cost per response.

Conclusion

By utilizing this simplified strategy and adhering to these principles, you will quickly identify areas of your marketing plan that are not working and be able to focus more energy on successful marketing tactics. You will have the insight to make small adjustments in areas of need instead of starting over every year.

Two quick tips for implementation:

If you find yourself working on something that falls into the realm of marketing, and it is not part of your workable plan, stop. It is very easy to get sucked into the idea of the week, or something you think is important. Keep the big picture in mind. You can tweak your workable plan throughout the year; however, it is important to follow through with your initial thought process. Otherwise, you will forever fall prey to the idea or deal of the week.

Don’t be shy. As you start to implement your workable plan, you may find yourself thinking, “This is too aggressive,” or “I’m putting myself out there too much.” Don’t. You thought this through and it makes sense. Your business is a value to others and they need to know about it. Move forward with confidence!

Contact Creative Marketing Guru for a free marketing plan worksheet.