By Christina Haigh, Freelance Marketing Consultant
When we meet with small business owners there are often two key questions which are often asked. The first question is, do I need a small business marketing plan? Isn’t that something that only large organisations can afford.
The answer to the first question is, no all businesses should have marketing as part of their ongoing activity. Of course if you are a large corporation then you will have considerably different budgets and processes to implement your marketing, but many of the underlying principles will definitely be the same. As with a larger organisation a small business will also need a clear strategy and marketing plan, the benefit of which will provide a clear structure for the business owner to focus their time and to understand what success looks like. Less time is then wasted consideration what should my next blog be about or what shall I post in social media today?
The second question is “As a business owner aren’t they the expert?” Yes absolutely we would expect them to be the expert in their field of work but not necessarily around how to market it. In fact we often find that many small business owners are so passionate about what they do that they find it hard to promote themselves. Often a small business owner will have an idea about what they are aiming for often they have many thoughts buzzing round their head but won’t necessarily have translated this into clear SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant or Timed) business objectives. Being clear on what success looks like will help them to stay accountable and achieve targets within a given timeframe. One of the biggest benefits of having your own business is that you’re only accountable to yourself, but if you haven’t actually set any objectives, how will you know whether and when you’ve achieved them?
The planning process also hones in on your proposition as a business and how well this fulfils the needs of your target customer. Who exactly is your ideal client or target audience? We build a picture of their lifestyle and life-stage, their priorities and their motivations. What specific problems does your product or services solve for them? An intimate knowledge of this client, along with other brands they value, the media they engage with and their interests, will help you develop a communications style and tone of voice and that appeals to them. What about your competitors? How are you different to them, and if you’re honest, do they do a better job at communicating and engaging with your target customer than you do?
Once you have done this critical thinking, you can begin to develop a small business marketing plan for the next 12-months, built to achieve the objectives you set. They vary by business but generally there is a sales growth plan focused on attracting new customers or creating loyalty amongst existing ones. Campaigns or promotions can be designed in line with the seasonality or the cyclical nature of your business – or you may have a new product or service to launch. All this scheduled activity provides a framework and the core messaging for any print media, advertising and PR, as well as a foundation for your blog, e-newsletters and social media marketing. Make sure your plan of action includes gaining testimonials from happy customers – their endorsement of you and your business is powerful and will always be far more effective than anything you say yourself – plus they can be shared across your media channels, too.
Of course it goes without saying that in business, as in life, things do not always go according to plan. For this reason it is important to regularly review your marketing plan. It’s a common misconception that marketing planning is something that happens once a year. It should be a living document, rather than something that, once written, sits in a folder, never to be opened again. The successes will be easy to measure, while other initiatives may not have delivered so well against their objectives, and perhaps some did not happen at all. By measuring what happened against what was planned for, it’s possible to adapt to changing market conditions, make adjustments to future objectives, plans and activities and get back on track before too much time is lost.
In summary, marketing is an iterative process that’s both strategic and practical and if done well it will ensure that your business connects with and creates delighted, profitable customers who keep coming back and happily recommend you to others. It’s a discipline that can be applied to any size of business from a global brand to a solopreneur in a niche market.
If your business is in need of some structure and marketing direction please CLICK HERE to get in touch – we would love to help you grow your business!