Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @thep3solution. Sherron Washington is an energetic marketing and communication professional, with a record of achievement in creating innovative marketing and communication solutions for non-profit organizations, small businesses and entrepreneurs. She’s the author of Market Simple. For more information about her book, visit www.thep3solution.com
SmallBizLady: What is the biggest mistake small business owners make with marketing?
Sherron Washington: Doing it ALL by themselves. Although DIY (Doing it Yourself) marketing is one of the most preferred methods among small business owners, it is best to take it on alone. It can be time consuming, frustrating and challenging to master if the business isn’t versed in marketing, branding and/or design. Small business owners should hire marketing professionals to work ON their business so that they may have more time to work IN their business.
SmallBizLady: Why is it important for small businesses to develop a marketing plan?
Sherron Washington: A marketing plan is pivotal because it is the key element in charting directions and goals of the promotional activities for businesses. Quite often, because of time constraints, small business owners tend to forgo planned marketing, throwing together promotional materials in a hurry without really thinking through the process. In this case, the importance of profit supersedes preparation; however, without a plan – especially a marketing plan – small businesses have to potentially spend more money. So developing a plan can be very advantageous for business owners because it can help to empower profitability, and give a competitive advantage.
SmallBizLady: Can a one-page marketing plan be effective?
Sherron Washington: Absolutely, a one-page marketing plan can be just as, if not more effective than multi-page plans, especially for small businesses. It removes the fluff from the framework and provides a direct course of action without confusing the process. A one-page plan also removes the anxiety associated with being overwhelmed by multi-page plans and allows you to clearly see how to meet marketing goals.
SmallBizLady: What is the first thing small businesses should know when they are beginning to develop a marketing plan?
Sherron Washington: It is necessary to have a basic understanding of marketing, branding, and public relations before you begin. Although marketing and PR work hand-in-hand and overlap in some areas, they have very different purposes. Marketing is about attracting profit for your business; whereas, PR primarily focuses on exposure. Simply put, marketing gets you paid, PR gets you seen. Similar to PR, marketing and branding often get lumped into the same category but, in actuality, marketing is a channel for branding. Branding creates position, whereas marketing promotes your position – it is the method(s) used to promote your brand. Popular examples of branding are the red in Coca-Cola™, the Nike™ swoosh, and the golden arches of McDonalds™, which are marketed in various channels, including: ads, TV, and social media.
SmallBizLady: You’ve developed a six-step process in developing a one-page marketing plan, what is it?
Sherron Washington: Market Simple maps out the marketing plan process in six simple steps,
- Step One: Identifying Your Goal
- Step Two: Targeting Your Ideal Market
- Step Three: Developing Your Strategy
- Step Four: Implementing and Executing
- Step Five: Developing Your Simple Budget
- Step Six: Evaluating Your Success
These steps are intended to provide an easy plan that will help small businesses effectively promote their services and products.
SmallBizLady: When developing a marketing plan should a small business tackle multiple goals?
Sherron Washington: In order to determine a goal, one must be able to isolate the problem. It is never wise to tackle several problems at one time, neither is it wise to take on multiple goals. Small businesses should begin their marketing plan with the end in mind, setting an objective that creates a clear path on how to reach one specific goal. Small business should tackle one goal at a time to prevent complicating, duplicating and/or ruining marketing efforts. Setting one marketing goal at a time allows businesses to properly select an attainable end that can be measured, to help grasp an understanding of how and where your business can grow.
SmallBizLady: How should small businesses determine their ideal target market?
Sherron Washington: There are various ways that small businesses can determine who is an ideal client/customer. One way that they can discover their ideal target market is to join several groups in their social media platforms. This allows them to engage with potential clients/customers— asking questions to determine if their products and/or services are the right fit for these individuals. Another way is to partner/sponsor a meet-up or focus group at a conference that attracts their ideal audience. This will allow for the opportunity to facilitate discussions in order to develop the right messaging and promotions to the right crowd. Small businesses should keep in mind that they cannot be everything to everyone. It is better to focus attention on one or two targets, rather than trying to pursue a large gambit of people. The idea here is to cast a smaller, more precise net that will yield more rewards but not limit opportunity.
SmallBizLady: What are some things that a small business should keep in mind when developing a strategy?
Sherron Washington: Do not implement a strategy if it does not directly help you to reach a goal. Many times, businesses have a clear view of what promotion, campaign, or marketing materials they want to use, not considering a goal or target first. Their idea of a fun campaign or promotion usually supersedes what and who they are trying to reach, which may cause problems when trying to build marketing efforts that are effective and impactful. Businesses may discover that mimicking a cutesy campaign may not be best suited to achieving their goal. It is best that strategies and tactics are lead with a goal in mind, so that a more effective marketing campaign can be created.
SmallBizLady: When and how often should small businesses develop a marketing plan?
Sherron Washington: Marketing plans can be created anytime of the year, so businesses should not feel like they are behind the eight ball if it was not developed by January. However, plans should be created before beginning any marketing outreach to save time and money. Marketing plans can be developed for as little as three months or as far out as a year, however it should be noted that plans should be developed with an ample amount of time to correctly assess effectiveness. Businesses may not be able to determine if the plan really worked if they only gave it a limited amount of time to evaluate its success.
SmallBizLady: Should small businesses create a budget with their marketing plan?
Sherron Washington: Absolutely, budgets are required before you execute any marketing plan whether you are small or large. A one-page plan is still very thorough and precise— and a budget is necessary in determining in how much spending will be on marketing efforts to ensure that unrealistic expectations are not placed on the strategy. Having money budgeted for marketing allows businesses to determine what small and big-ticket items are required to execute the plan properly. Once a small business is aware of its specific tactic, it will be able to create a “shopping list” of the various items needed (e.g., flyers, business cards, event decorations, etc.) which allows for flexibility within the budget if it needs to be pared down or built up.
SmallBizLady: What is an easy way that small businesses can measure their marketing efforts?
Sherron Washington: Small businesses should include an evaluation component that refers directly back to the stated marketing goal. Assessing marketing efforts helps to determine if the marketing goal was met. Remember, evaluation methods must be realistic, credible, and specific in order to provide evidence that the strategy and tactics have worked.
SmallBizLady: What advice can you give to small businesses on where to start when developing a marketing plan?
Sherron Washington: Businesses should begin by researching their industry to get an idea of what has worked and what has not worked. Remember, having a marketing plan is one of the most important components in building a successful foundation. However, there is no one specific marketing formula that will perform magic. Keep in mind that marketing plans can be developed in multiple ways to organize your thoughts as well as provide a better understanding as to which road to take in order to promote your business. Remember, marketing does not have to be complex in order to work, it begins with one simple task: Developing a plan.
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