Does your small business have a marketing plan? A study by Marketo shows that companies with a documented marketing plan are more likely to be satisfied with their marketing efforts. As you might expect, however, smaller companies are less likely than large ones to have marketing plans. Overall, slightly more than one-third of the companies polled don't have a marketing plan. But only 56 percent of small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) have one, while among companies with over 1,000 employees, 81 percent have one.
Marketing plans aren't the only thing that some companies are missing. Although 71 percent of respondents say they sometimes or always meet their marketing goals, 23 percent admit they don't have specific marketing goals. As the saying goes, if you don't know where you're going, how are you going to get there?
Clearly, creating a marketing plan makes a big difference in achieving your goals. Here's what you should include in your marketing plan:
1. Who are your target customers? Do your market research to understand where your target customers live, their demographics (age, sex, marital status, income, etc.), their spending habits and anything else that makes them ideally suited for your product or service.
2. Who are your competitors? Which companies compete with you for your ideal customers? How do they market themselves, what are their Unique Selling Propositions (USP) and what differentiates your business from theirs? How will you need to market your business to stand out from the competition?
3. Where do your target customers get their information? To determine what marketing methods and channels will work best for you, you need to know, for example, if your target customers read newspapers or get news online, use social media or don't even know what that is, watch TV or listen to the radio and what websites/publications/stations they read, watch and listen to.
4. What are your marketing goals? If you're launching a brand-new product, your goal might simply be to raise awareness of what you sell and build your brand name. If you've got a long-standing business with a well-established brand, your goal could be to sell more to existing customers. Be sure your goals are measurable—not just "to sell more" but "to increase sales to existing customers by 10 percent per quarter" or other specific numbers.
5. How will you market the business? Based on your understanding of point #3, your marketing plan should list the different marketing and advertising methods you'll use, such as social media, print advertising, online advertising, event marketing, etc.
6. What's your marketing budget? It's important to set a budget for your marketing plan. Measure what you actually spend against your budget forecast.
7. How will you measure success and how often? Marketing takes time to work, so don't assume that a campaign isn't worth the money if you don't see immediate results. However, it's a good idea to measure results quarterly and see which marketing tactics are working best (or not working at all). That way you can redistribute your budget as needed.
Review your overall marketing plan at least once a year. Today, the world of marketing is changing at lightning speed, and your business needs to keep up.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades.