3 Step Small Business Marketing Plan

I wrote this for the HP Small Business Newsletter this month and thought I would share it here.  Enjoy!

A lot of small business owners take on the added role of chief salesman, rainmaker, and marketing and advertising manager.  Their passion for their business is contagious and is often the deciding factor when bringing in new customers.  But at some point, the owner needs to step back and put themselves in the customers’ shoes when it comes to spending real time and money in advertising their business.  Building a strategy around where you fit in the market, and the tactics of a strong marketing mix, will help plant the seeds for long term success.


Step One – Define Yourself – Who are you, and who cares?

The first place to start is by defining yourself, and the market you serve.  That may seem self evident and obvious, but see if you can succinctly answer that question and put your answer to the “so what?” test.   It really pays off to spend some time thinking about a simple positioning statement for your business that clearly defines who you are and what you stand for. 

Follow this template and see what you come up with:

“For (customers) who want (what they want), (My Company) offers (My Product or service).  Unlike (My main competitor), (My Company) provides (unique offering).”

Here is how that formula might apply to McDonalds:

For Mom’s who want nutritious food served quickly in a fun environment for their children, McDonalds offers kid’s Happy Meals.  Unlike other fast food restaurants, McDonald’s menu provides healthy food options for kids and adults.

 Got it?  Now try it – it’s actually harder than it looks.

Step Two – Define Your Customers

Who are your potential customers?  Again this may seem self evident and obvious, but when you think deeply about them, you may come up with a few surprises.  Think about the following questions, and how well you meet their needs:

a. Where are they located?
b. When do they buy?
c. How do they buy?
d. How do they pay?
e. What motivates them to buy (convenience, price, quality, service, status)?

 Now that you’ve defined who you are and who you think your customers are, you need to define what you want to accomplish with your marketing and advertising.

 Step Three – Define What You Want From Your Marketing Efforts

Stop spending money on advertising until you can really answer this question.  It’s not sufficient to say “I want more sales” or “I want to get my name out there”.  Those are vague statements that only cause you to throw money down the drain.

Start with your objectives – and prioritize the most pressing needs:

1) New Customer Acquisition – How are you bringing new people in the door, and do you understand how to reach them effectively?

  • Direct face to face selling?
  • Outbound Telemarketing, Inbound Call Center?
  • Direct to consumer or thru resellers?
  • Self service on the web?

2) Customer Retention – It is always more cost effective to retain and sell more to your existing customers. How can you get a larger “share of wallet”, and turn your best customers into evangelists to bring in their friends and families? Build on your customer base for:

  • Referrals
  • Word of mouth / mouse
  • Repeat sales
  • Advocacy
  • Community

3) Brand Identity and Positioning – Build a Buzz and an Aura around your business. In addition to the positioning exercise above, think about whether your company will lead on price, product, or service. Hint – you can only be great at one, and fair at another. You can’t be great on all three.

  • PRICE Leadership -customer proposition is simple: low or lowest price and hassle-free service -Wal-Mart, McDonalds
  • PRODUCT Leadership -offer products that push performance boundaries – Apple is a great example
  • SERVICE Leadership-delivering what specific customers want -Federal Express, Nordstrom , Whole Foods Market

Understanding which of these three values you lead in will help drive the advertising and marketing tactics for you to take.

4) Public Relations, Reputation and Word of Mouth – Build your market leadership and your long term branding. Public relations is not about press releases or getting your name in the local paper every week (though those are components of your tactical PR plan). PR is really about getting people to think of you as a leader and to be able to tell your story the way you would when you aren’t there. Successful PR includes your approach to the Media, local Influencers, your employees and Team members, your Suppliers, local Governments and the other pillars in your Community.

Once you can prioritize the most important objectives, you can quickly get into the tactics that will make up your marketing mix to achieve your goals.  Establish quantifiable marketing goals – this means goals that you can turn into numbers. Your goals might include sales, profits, or customer’s satisfaction.  For example, your goals might be to gain at least 30 new clients or to sell 10 products per week, or to increase your income by 30% this year.   They will change overtime, but having them defined and written will help guide your marketing efforts.

Lastly, watch your competition, but don’t always emulate them.  Just because the “other guy” has bought some cable TV spots or a billboard doesn’t mean its right for you.  Stay focused and have a plan to build real marketing success.

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2 Responses to “3 Step Small Business Marketing Plan”

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