What's the Value in Marketing Planning?

Marketing for Small Businesses Series

If you’re running or working in a small business, your time is precious. You need to get the most out of each hour of the day, and not waste time on activities that don’t add value to your business. One activity not to ignore is planning your marketing for the year.

At the high level, you want to identify:

  • What you’re selling (product or service) – while this might seem silly – of course you know what your product or service is, it is important to succinctly describe your product or service to help in introductions to potential clients, customers, or investors.

  • Who your target market is – what’s the demographic of your target customers? What industry, type of company, type of role will you target?

  • How you’re going to reach them – what

Your next step is to identify what differentiates your product or service from all the rest of the competition. Whatever your strategy is, document it. Getting your strategy down in a form that you can revisit over time is important, because you have a lot of responsibilities, and you don’t want to have to redo this valuable thinking.

Once you know your “hook” – that unique quality that will drive customers or clients to you - start making a plan for how to get that message out to your client base. I feel strongly that marketing is a lot like teaching. Teachers reach students in different ways – some are visual learners, some are better learners when they are able to interact with material, and some are auditory and need to hear the topic to engage with it. I think the same is true for marketing – each customer learns about your company in their own way. To accommodate these different customers, market through several different channels to reach them. Maybe you want to use your web site, email marketing, social media, in-person meetings, or speaking at a conference to get the word out. Whatever methods you choose, again document them. You want to try different methods to reach your customers and see what works and what doesn’t. Start putting a calendar together that identifies which marketing activities you’ll do when. One way to start is to put any conferences/trade shows/workshops you’ll be attending or speaking at on the calendar, and build around them.

The value in marketing planning is twofold. It gets you to do some vital business thinking about your product/service, competition, competitive advantages, and strategies to reach your target market. It also helps you document your strategy, and evaluate what works, what is the best return on investment, and what marketing activities you might want to change.

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