The heavy, unexpected snow on March 1 left me stuck at my hilltop home instead of teaching a seminar at WCC on how to create a marketing plan. For my disappointed students, and for anyone with a business that needs some marketing refreshment, let’s talk about how important a plan can be!
A restaurant owner approached me after being open for six months and not getting the sales volume he’d hoped for. It was a cute place, with good food and good service.
I realized fast that construction had taken nearly all of his budget, and there wasn’t a marketing plan, or a clear image of who his target market was.
In addition, he had bought from the first media sales person who approached him, spending money in the wrong area and all in one place. There was nothing left to create a new strategy with and the restaurant closed.
It’s important to realize that marketing includes three things:
1) Purchased advertising
2) Free publicity
3) Everything you do in-house to promote yourself
All of these items need to be covered in your marketing plan.
If you are not doing all three, you are not effectively marketing your business!
Besides the importance of having a good marketing plan when you open, marketing plans need to be updated and refreshed often, so you can weed out what didn’t work and add new and creative life to it. They also help you identify who you are and who your target market is. If you’re confused, your customers will be, too.
Here are the steps I recommend to get to a painless marketing plan:
I. Write a mission statement
This should be short, to the point and attainable. For instance “The goal of the Colophon Cafe is to make customers happy.” Or “To have the largest selection of widgets in town,” Or “To offer unique European Furnishings not found anywhere else.” If you need to expand with a paragraph, go ahead, but make sure you can sum it up in a sentence that you could deliver in 30 seconds in a elevator when asked what your company does. This statement gives you and your staff a focus and your customers an identity for your business.
II. List your business’s strengths
What do you have that’s different, better or special? This can include your location, merchandise, staff skills, your experience or education, the district where you’re located, and services offered.
III. List your business’s weaknesses
Not enough parking? No storage space? Need a new computer or have to learn a new program? Can’t design ads? What is it that hinders your success? This will give you a focus for improvements.
IV. Describe your competition
Who are they? Where are they? What can they do that you can’t? Where are they weak? How can you differentiate yourself from them in your advertising? Don’t spend a lot of time fretting about your competitors. Vow to do what you do the best and differentiate yourself from the pack.
V. Who are your target customers?
Include their age, gender, income group, where they live, and all other information that helps you identify who it is you are trying to attract to your business. You can break it down into population segments:
• Demographic Segment — includes measurable statistics such as age, income, occupation, etc.
• Psychographic Segment — lifestyle preferences such as music lovers, city or urban dwellers, etc.
• Use-based Segment — Frequency of usage such as recreational drinking, traveling, etc.
• Benefit Segment — Desire to obtain the same product benefits such as luxury, thriftiness, comfort from food, etc.
• Geographic Segment —Location such as home address, business address, etc.
So, for instance, if you owned a clothing store in Fairhaven you might say that your target customer was married and single women ages 18 to 35 who want stylish, but not expensive clothing, to wear to dance clubs, and who live in the south side of town.
VI. What are your marketing goals?
Be specific about sales goals: “we want to use this marketing plan to help increase our widget sales by 10% this year.” Put a sales chart on your office wall and monitor your progress.
VII. What is your marketing strategy?
What concept are you selling about yourself? High quality, cheap prices, most selection, most unique, best service, nicest ambiance, or what? Can be more than one of these, but can’t be all of them. You need to place yourself in a niche and then image it with the appropriate logo, typestyle, wording, etc.
VIII. Develop a marketing budget
Allocate a percentage of gross sales toward marketing and don’t cut it back to save money, just get creative with what you have. You may have anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent in a typical business. Divide up the money between the media in number IX.
IX. List your media
Choose the proper mix of media to reach your target market. Media ideas include print magazines, newspapers, the Internet, TV, radio, etc. You should also include such expenses as postcards, posters, brochures, etc.
X. Plan a marketing calendar
Create a schedule for when ads will run, when you will do mailers, when you might have customer parties, or sales, or send a newsletter.
Don’t wait until Christmas to buy holiday ads or rearrange your store. Coordinate press release timing with events. Keep your calendar updated and make sure your staff knows what’s going on.
Taimi Dunn Gorman is the owner of Gorman Publicity and a founder of the Colophon Café and Doggie Diner. She teaches seminars in marketing for small businesses at WCC and has worked in small business and marketing for over 30 years.