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Create a Marketing Plan by Answering These Essential Questions!
by Paul Maplesden
Writing a small business marketing plan
You've built your small business, developed your products and services and you're ready to make sales: all you're missing, is an audience. Marketing is the stepping stone that lets people know about what you've created and encourages them to buy; for that, you need a marketing plan.
You don't need to be an expert at marketing to create a useful small business marketing plan, you just need to ask the right questions, do some research and create some compelling answers.
Marketing needn't be a 'dark art' and so long as you approach it with an open mind and there are some simple, practical steps you can take right now to put an effective strategy together. This should result in a marketing plan that works, getting you better value for money for your marketing budget and helping you grow your business.
In this article, I’ll share the questions that will help you create a lightweight and effective approach.
It's important to take a closer look at how you define your products, services and audience. Asking these questions will help you identify exactly what you have to offer, who might be interested in buying your products and services and where you might find your audience.
These questions are all about understanding what your small business has to offer your customers, helping you to define your product and service and the unique selling points that make the difference.
What is the specific product or service that you are marketing?
Clearly define in one or two sentences exactly what your business provides, emphasizing your key products and services as a customer might experience them.
What is it about your product or service that is unique or sets it apart?
Explain what is unique about your business offering. Share some detail on your products and services about what makes them desirable and valuable to your customers.
Why would a customer buy your products or services, rather than one of your competitors?
Think about what helps a customer look at your business and understand what sets it apart from your competitors. Explain the value that your business offering provides: you might set yourself apart through providing higher quality services, unique skills, knowledge or experience, better pricing, a different approach, niche solutions, accessibility or greater value for money.
These questions help you to identify and understand your audience. They will help you decide where your potential audience is, who they are and what they want.
Who are the audience and target market that your products and services are targeted at?
Identify the people or businesses that are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer. The more targeted you can make this, the easier this will make things. Remember that it’s much more effective to market to specific niches rather than to the market as a whole.
What does your audience want or need, what is the benefit to them?
Clarify what it is that your target audience specifically requires from your business, product or service. There should be a clearly explainable benefit of what is in it for them as a result of purchasing what you have to offer.
Where does your audience hang out?
Use your experience to think about where your audience are likely to be. There might be popular forums or websites, or perhaps there are magazines or newsletters dedicated to serving the niche your business is serving. Again, the more clearly you can define this, the better as you will be able to target your marketing more effectively.
Next, we’ll examine one of the most important aspects of marketing, the ‘Call to Action’. A call to action is the step that you want a potential customer to take when they interact with your small business. That might be making a purchase, contacting you, submitting information or something else.
Whatever it is, engaging with your audience effectively is critical to winning new business and the quicker and easier you make it, the more success you will have.
These questions are all about engaging with your audience and thecustomer action that you want them to take as a result of seeing your marketing and advertising.
What are the most effective ways / channels to reach your audience?
Based on where your audience hangs out, brainstorm the most likely ways that you might be able to reach them. There are numerous ways including: advertising online or offline (hard copy, media, radio etc.), social media (Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Google+), advertising on specific websites, forums or newsletters, pay-per-click and display advertising, posting to forums as an expert and many more. Spend some time researching the many and varied channels. It will be well spent.
How will your audience engage with you?
Assuming that people do reach you, think about how you will engage with them. If it is via a website, ensure that the website is setup to handle their visit and guide them to the information they need. If you’re going to speak to them either face-to-face or over the phone, make sure that its easy to reach you. Think about how you can make contacting your business as easy, quick and painless as possible.
What action do you want people to take?
Known as the ‘Call To Action’, this is one of the most vital parts of marketing, defining what you want people to do as a result of them seeing your message and engaging with your business. This might be signing up for a free account, making a purchase from you, getting in touch for further information or something else. This is the next step in the process from converting them from being a potential customer into an actual customer.
What is the next step?
Answering all of these questions will provide a strong basis for a simple and effective marketing plan. Once you know what you are offering, who you are targeting, how you are targeting them and what you want them to do as a result, you’ll be in a much stronger position. You can then use this information to build compelling messages and calls to action that get you customers, build your brand and lead to a successful business.