Marketing is one of the most critical components of your business’ success. You may have a fantastic product or service, but if customers are not aware it exists, there’s no point to being in business. In order to make sure your product is exposed to consumers, you need to develop a robust marketing plan and budget. This is part one of a two part series on marketing. In part one, we’ll focus on how to develop a marketing plan, in part two we’ll discuss how to develop a marketing budget for your small business.
Once you’ve spent time identifying the five Ps, start adding some elements and details to your strategy. Let’s look at the areas you should focus on when developing your marketing plan.
Validate the Market
How do you know you have a great product that will be of value to your customer? Answering this question is part of the validation process. You want to validate the market or make sure there’s a need for it. Here are a few questions to answer in order to help you do this.
- How large is the market locally, nationally, and globally?
- How often do people buy your type of product?
- How large is your market opportunity?
- Will your customers buy daily, weekly, monthly, annually, or every five to ten years?
The answers to these questions will: 1) Tell you if you have a sustainable product, and 2) Help you form your marketing plan and tactics. After you’ve validated the market, start delving deeper into your target market or customer.
Define Your Target Market
In order for your product or service to sell, you need to answer the question: who is your target market? And the answer is never, “everyone.” If everyone can use your product or service, no one will. The best way to be successful is to develop a customer profile with as much detail as possible. Answer the following questions:
- Who is your customer?
- How much income do your customers make?
- Where are they located?
- Are they male or female? What age?
- What is their level of education?
- Are they educated or not? Manager or rank-in-file employee?
- Can you see the face of your customer? What do they physically look like?
Remember, the better you know your customer, the better your chances of making the sale. Once you’ve identified who the customer is, it’s time to articulate what makes them buy.
Create Customer Value
So many business owners are great at explaining the features their product and services. But, very few know how to explain their product or service in a way that illustrates value to the customer. Being able to communicate benefits is extremely powerful because if you can help the customer achieve a goal, the product will sell itself.
To do this, start by identifying what qualities your customers value most and least about your service. You must build your marketing strategy on customers’ perceptions of your product’s value to them. This approach is called WIIFM, or What’s In It For Me? It’s critical to keep your marketing plan customer-focused. By doing so, you are on the path to setting yourself apart from the competition.
Identify Your Competitors and How to Deal With Them
In today’s economy, it’s rare to find a product or service that has no competition. Your competition is targeting the same people you are, and as such, your message can easily get lost in advertising clutter and spam.
To avoid this, define what makes you special to your customers. Why is your product or service different and better? What is your competitive advantage? What do you offer that the company does not? Why should a customer hire you? Perhaps you offer a longer warranty than your competitor. Or you have proven results that another business does not. If you’re struggling with identifying your competitive advantage, the best thing to do is ask your customers why they bought from you.
Validating the market, identifying the target audience, creating customer value, and identifying your strengths from your competitors are the components that will shape the rest of your marketing plan. Once those steps are completed, it’s time to define the tactics you’ll use and determine your marketing budget.