How to Prepare An Easy Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

As a small business owner, I imagine you would not have the time to prepare a detailed marketing plan. Some business owners might not have a plan at all. However, I personally think a marketing plan is necessary for the success of your business. But, you do not need a 10-pages-or-more plan. I always develop a plan with no more than 3 pages that highlights major key points. On a marketing strategy level, Tim Berry has suggested a framework of “thinking” on how to develop a marketing plan. Those steps are basic and not difficult. His suggestions should act like a guideline for you to start with. He encouraged you to think about what you want to achieve, your strengths and weaknesses, your unique offerings, your target markets, and how you want people to perceive about your brand.

To make it simple, I would also like to suggest that you incorporate your promotion plan in a marketing plan. This way, you will have everything you need in one place for the whole year. Jeff Williams provided a short list of what you need for promotions in his article – How to create a powerful promotional plan for your 50+ business.

Let’s put all of them into easy-to-develop steps, shall we? In your marketing plan, you might want to split into two main sections: an overall marketing plan and a promotion plan.

Section 1: Marketing Plan. You should at least have the following items in a plan.

  • Marketing Objectives: What do you want to achieve this year? It could be… To generate $ in revenue or To gain 10% market share.
  • Unique Selling Proposition: What make your offerings different from your competitors? Lower cost? Better distribution channels? Price? Products?
  • Target Markets: Please be clear about your target markets. You do not have a lot of resources to invest in mass market.
  • Communication Channels: Your target markets should determine how you plan to communicate with them. It will save you a lot of money if you are clear about who your customers are.
  • Budget: Many businesses determine their marketing budget as a percentage of the total revenue for a year. Alternatively, you might want to set a “ceiling” that your marketing spends would not be higher than $$$$.

Section 2: Promotion Plan. To prepare a promotion plan, you need to understand your business cycle or season. Basically, you need to know when to spend money to boost sales and when to save the money. If you own a restaurant, for example, you might want to spend the marketing money during slow periods e.g. in February or May. What you need in your plan can be as simple as a spreadsheet with the following fields:

  1. Month
  2. Launch date
  3. Promotion: e.g. buy 1 get 1 free
  4. Points of Difference: why should your customers be excited?
  5. Target Group
  6. Communication channels: this is very important. You could have the best promotion in the world but it would do nothing for you if your communication channels are ineffective.
  7. Promotion Budget
  8. Results: e.g. sales volume
  9. Return on Investment (ROI): [(sales volume-cost of promotion)/cost of promotion]. If your ROI is lower than bank saving interest rates, you should rethink about your promotions because it’s easier to get the same return by simply depositing the money in the bank!

Please trust me that if you could list all promotions you need for a year, you would feel so good! It creates confidence, it makes you think, and it helps you identify potential opportunities in advance. Ultimately, it helps you to be ahead of the game. Please also understand that this is an ongoing process. You will need to visit your plan to update it every now and then. Most importantly, you will need to track the results for two reasons: 1) if a promotion fails, you want to learn from it, and 2) if it is successful, you want to replicate it.

So, it’s not too hard, isn’t it? I believe many small business owners would already have a marketing plan in place. However, for those who don’t, why not start preparing it now.

Planning for the Discovery Meeting for Your Free Marketing Plan

If you plan on taking advantage of the offer for a free marketing plan, then you need to know what you have to get together before you have the discovery meeting with your consultant. Your consultant will then create your free marketing plan that will include recommendations for what additional marketing services can help your business.

What is a discovery meeting?

The discovery meeting brings you and the marketing professional together to talk about different marketing services offered. They will be looking to understand your business better – in its current state and your future vision. The marketing consultant will also explain the variety of marketing services offered so you will be better able to understand the final marketing plan when it is delivered.

What are some of the marketing services offered?

Marketing services go far beyond keyword research and website optimization. It can include everything from brand development, SEO consultation, telemarketing services, email marketing, white papers, publishing and more. A marketing plan doesn’t create a path from point A to Point B; it takes a dynamic approach to identifying the influences on your demographic to then create a multi-channel marketing web that is specific to your brand, product or service.

What do I need to have ready?

To prepare for your discovery meeting you first have to contact Marketing.com using their online form, chat option, or via email or phone. They will want a brief overview of your product and services, and then they will schedule the discovery meeting. For the discovery meeting you will want to bring along:

• The existing marketing plan or strategy
• Analysis reports
• SEO strategies
• Product/service descriptions
• Development descriptions
• Demographic information

The marketing professional will then be able to look at these and ask more specific questions to gain insight into what would be the best marketing services to include in your plan.

What makes up a marketing plan?

The marketing plan is the overview of multi-channel approaches you should be implementing to develop and retain your prospects. It may include a call for brand development and demand generation as well. If your existing strategy is somewhat successful, but you want to grow – the marketing services it recommends may be more focused on customer relations – such as social media marketing, email marketing and telemarketing services.

What happens next?

After your discovery meeting, your consultant will complete and finish your free marketing plan for you. Once you have reviewed the plan, it is time to decide what will be your strategy of implementation. This can involve an analysis of your competition to begin to prioritize what areas of your marketing need the most attention first. The strategies are considered dynamic and are responsive to the ongoing data analysis of your SEO performance that you should be collecting and reviewing on a regular basis. With your marketing plan to guide you with marketing services that will be effective for your business, you can increase your presence, influence and retention quickly.

The e-Marketing Plan – Brief Overview and Working Scheme

I. Summary of a marketing plan

The marketing planning (concretized in the marketing plan) is an essential organizational activity, considering the hostile and complex competitive business environment. Our ability and skills to perform profitable sales are affected by hundreds of internal and external factors that interact in a difficult way to evaluate. A marketing manager must understand and build an image upon these variables and their interactions, and must take rational decisions.

Let us see what do we call a “marketing plan”? It is the result of the planning activity, a document that includes a review of the organization’s place in the market, an analysis of the STEP factors as well as a SWOT analysis. A complete plan would also formulate some presumptions on why we think the past marketing strategy was successful or not. The next phase shall present the objectives we set, together with the strategies to achieve these objectives. In a logical sequence, we will further need to evaluate the results and formulate alternative plans of action. A plan would consist in details of responsibilities, costs, sales prognosis and budgeting issues.

In the end, we should not forget to specify how the plan (or plans) will be controlled, by what means we will measure its results.

We will see how to build the marketing plan, what is its structure: after we will see how to build the traditional marketing plan, we will take a look at the e-marketing plan and see how the unique features of the internet will require some changes in the approach of writing a marketing plan.

But, before we continue, we must understand and accept that steps of the marketing plan are universal. It is a logical approach of the planning activity, no matter where we apply it. The differences you meet from a plan to another consist in the degree of formality accorded to each phase, depending on the size and nature of the organization involved. For example, a small and not diversified company would adopt less formal procedures, because the managers in these cases have more experience and functional knowledge than the subordinates, and they are able to achieve direct control upon most factors. On the other hand, in a company with diversified activity, it is less likely that top managers have functional information in a higher degree than the subordinate managers. Therefore, the planning process must be formulated to ensure a strict discipline for everyone involved in the decisional chain.

II. The general marketing plan

The classical marketing plan would follow the following scheme of 8 stages:

1. Declaring the mission: this is the planning stage when we establish the organizational orientations and intentions, thus providing a sense of direction. In most cases, this is a general presentation of the company’s intentions and almost has a philosophic character.

2. Establishing current objectives: it is essential for the organization to try to determine with preciseness the objectives to be reached. These objectives, in order to be viable, must be SMART. SMART is an acronym and stands for “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Attainable”, “Realistic” and “Timed”. The objectives must also convey the general organizational mission.

3. Gathering information: this stage is based on the concept of marketing audit. After performing the audit of the macro-environment by analyzing the STEP factors (social, technologic, economic and politic), we should turn the focus upon the immediate extern environment (the micro-environment) and analyze the competitive environment, the costs and the market. Finally, we will conclude with the SWOT analysis, by this way we will have a general view upon the internal environment compared to the external one. The SWOT analysis combine the two perspectives, from the inside and from the outside, because the Strengths and the Weaknesses are internal issues of an organization, while the Opportunities and Threads come from the outside.

4. Re-formulating objectives: after the close examination of data gathered in the previous stage, sometimes it is needed to re-formulate the initial objectives, in order to address all the issues that might have come up from the previous stage. The distance between the initial objective and the re-formulated objective will be covered by appropriate strategies. We must ensure the re-formulated objective is SMART as well.

5. Establishing strategies: several strategies are to be formulated, in order to cover the distance between what we want to achieve and what is possible to achieve, with the resources at our disposal. As we would usually have several options, we should analyze them and chose the one with more chances to achieve the marketing objectives.

6. Plan of actions: consists in a very detailed description of the procedures and means to implement the actions we want to take. For example, if the strategy implies a raise in advertising volume, the plan of actions should establish where the advertisements will be placed, the dates and frequency of the advertising campaigns, a set of procedures to evaluate their effectiveness. The actions we plan to take must be clearly formulated, measurable, and the results must be monitored and evaluated.

7. Implementation and control: consist in the series of activities that must be performed in order to run the marketing plan in accordance to the objectives set by the marketer. At this stage, it is critical to gain the support of all members if the organization, especially when the marketing plan is due to affect the organization from its grounds.

8. Performance measurement: constitutes the last but not the less important stage of the marketing plan, since we can achieve only what we can measure. In order to measure the performances achieved through the marketing plan, we need to constantly monitor each previous stage of the plan.

The marketing plan that has a feedback cycle, from 8th stage back to the 4th. That is because sometimes during the planning process, we might need to perform stages 4 to 8 several times before the final plan can be written.

III. The e-marketing plan

The e-marketing plan is built exactly on the same principles as the classical plan. There is no different approach, but there might be some formal differences given by the uniqueness of the internet environment. Many of these differences come from the necessity to ensure a high rate of responsiveness from the customers, since the e-world is moving faster and requires faster reaction from its companies, compared to the traditional offline marketplace.

Even though it is perfectly acceptable and is a common practice to use the 8-stage classic model for the e-marketing plan as well, you might want to consider the simplified version proposed by Chaffey, who identifies four major steps to build the e-marketing plan:

1. Strategic analysis: consists in continuous scanning of the macro- and micro-environment. The accent should fall on the consumers’ needs that change very rapidly in the online market, as well as on surveying the competitors’ actions and evaluating the opportunities offered by new technologies.

2. Defining strategic objectives: the organization must have a clear vision and establish if the media channels will complement the traditional ones, or will replace them. We must define specific objectives (don’t forget to check if they are SMART!) and we must also specify the contribution of the online activities to the organization’s turnover.

3. Formulating strategies – we do that by addressing the following essential issues:

– develop strategies towards the target markets;

– positioning and differentiating strategies;

– establish priorities of online activities;

– focus attention and efforts on CRM and financial control;

– formulate strategies for product development;

– develop business models with well-established strategies for new products or services, as well as pricing policies;

– necessity for some organizational restructuring;

– changes in the structure of communication channels.

4. Implementing strategies: includes careful execution of all necessary steps to achieve established objectives. It could refer re-launching of a website, promo campaigns for a new or rewritten site, monitoring website efficiency and many more.

Note: a common strategy to achieve e-marketing objectives is the communication strategy. The steps to built a coherent communication plan will be presented within a further article.

IV. The e-marketing plan (sample titles)

1. Executive Summary

a. overview upon present conjuncture;

b. key aspects of the strategic e-marketing plan.

2. Situational Analysis

a. characteristics of the e-market;

b. possible factors of success;

c. competitors’ analysis;

d. technological factors;

e. legal factors;

f. social factors;

g. possible problems and opportunities.

3. The e-Marketing Objectives

a. product profile;

b. target market;

c. sales objectives.

4. The e-Marketing Strategies

a. product strategies;

b. price strategies;

c. promotion strategies;

d. distribution strategies.

5. Technical Issues

a. website content;

b. website “searcheability”;

c. logging security (for customers and staff);

d. customer registration procedure;

e. multimedia;

f. autoresponders;

g. order forms and feedback forms;

h. access levels to online resources;

i. credit card transactions;

j. website hosting;

k. website publishing;

l. technical staff (size, requirements)

6. Appendix

7. Bibliography