Marketing plans made easy
Welcome to the Entrepreneurs' Corner, a syndicated question-and-answer column for home-based and small business entrepreneurs just like you, wherein I address your questions regarding the nuts and bolts of business ownership.
You'll find real-world, practical tips coupled with deeper, insightful explanation of topics meant to assist you in making knowledgeable business decisions.
If there are any business-related questions you want answered, please contact me at email@example.com.
Who knows, your question may be the one to inspire my next column! Again, welcome; grab a cup of coffee or tea, and have a seat.
Dear Michelle: What, exactly, does a marketing plan consist of? I am feeling overwhelmed when I consider how to reach my potential customers.
Dear Entrepreneur: Writing your marketing plan can feel like a daunting project when you sit down to begin. Jay Lipe of Emerge Marketing has many insights to what a marketing plan is and isn't.
It is important to keep in mind the fluid and ever-changing nature of the marketing plan and that it is, "a long-term process, an investment and an art; it isn't a science, an event, a quick fix, or definite and absolute," explains Lipe.
When you take the time to plan your marketing strategy, knowing it will change as you learn more; remember it is only a framework. Staying open to possibility is integral to marketing well.
There are six basic steps you want to follow. First, decide what the purpose of your marketing plan is.
Every marketing plan is meant to establish a presence with potential clientele, but it also is to determine, for instance, whether you are trying to build a base of repeat clientele.
What about servicing your existing clientele well?
Next, you want to define your target audience.
Who needs or wants your product or service? Whom do you want to work with?
Is your product sold to other businesses or the individual consumer?
Are your potential clientele in a particular income bracket?
Third, decide on your niche, theme or philosophy.
What is it that makes you different from your competitors?
Brainstorming the key benefits of your product or service will help you to decide on the niche.
Fourth, work out your business identity, what key benefits do you offer that differentiate you from the pack.
What would I, as a client, experience while dealing with your company?
For instance, are you professional, friendly and personable? Do you offer prompt, high-quality service and workmanship?
This identity statement will not be something the client will ever see, rather, it informs your daily focus.
If you have employees, you want to make sure that the client's experience is consistent, whomever they are dealing with.
Fifth, you want to write your mission statement using the same words from your key benefits brainstorm.
Make sure that the potential client would understand exactly what you do and how you are unique if this were all he or she saw.
Speak in terms of the benefits or value the client will receive by using your products or services.
Finally, what are your marketing vehicles?
How will you actually establish a presence with your potential clientele? For instance, you can advertise, do direct mail, have special offers, do some networking and trade shows.
Other examples are speaking about your product or service free of charge if it is in front of an audience of your potential clientele; writing articles or editorials to your industry magazines or periodicals; and making the most of referrals or word-of-mouth advertising.
These are just a few of the hundreds of ideas to market your products or services, so you want to be continuously researching. Go to your local library, bookstore, or online and take a look at the magazines that feature articles about marketing.
While you're there, skim the books in the business section - there are many good ones from which to cull marketing ideas.
You might try an old classic called Guerrilla Marketing Weapons by Jay Conrad Levinson.
After planning, consistency, commitment, flexibility and follow-through are your key behaviors for establishing a presence with potential clientele.
And remember the two most important things to a good marketing plan: 1) You are always marketing, even when you are busy; and 2) You have a large number and wide variety of marketing vehicles.
Business Consultant and Writer, Michelle J. Bloom has more than 20 years experience working with home-based and small business entrepreneurs.
You may contact her with questions or for reprints of earlier articles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888.878.3380.