IIf you ask 20 people, "What is a marketing plan?", You will get 20 different answers. Most refer to a marketing plan as a promotional plan which are the marketing activities that a business executes to to generate leads and revenue.
In reality, a marketing plan is much more than that, as a promotional plan without re-looking at the other 3Ps can end up not being as useful as it could be if you look at your overall marketing. It is also important to look at your branding and your target market as well. It is vital to develop a budget for the next year as well to determine how much you plan to spend as well establish the metrics that you are going to track to determine the success of your spend.
Product looks at the products and services you provide to consumers or businesses. It is essential to look at all of the products and services you sell and determine if there are ones that are not making money for your business are not sold on a regular basis and decide whether they should be discontinued.
At the same time, you should be looking to determine if there are additional products or services that make sense to add to your business.
With some of the changes that are or could occur over the next year or so with minimum wage increases and possible modifications to NAFTA that will affect businesses, it is going to be essential to relook at your pricing. You cannot wait until legislation is in place and make a drastic change to offset your costs. You are going to need to look at slowly increasing pricing over time to not lose customers. All businesses are in the same boat, so be sure to understand if you are going to be able to withstand the changes without an increase in your prices.
Promotion is where you will need to focus on what activities will drive sales to your business and will be important to develop a marketing budget to track what you plan to spend along with what achievements/metrics you expect for that spend. Do you need to update your website, outsource your social media, develop new brochures for new products and services, or look at events that make sense for your industry and business? You need to have an understanding of what you are doing, when the activity will be performed, the metrics for the activity, who is responsible, as well as what is the cost.
Placement is where you plan to sell your products and services. Do you plan to add an online store this year, or look for other channels to market? Placement can help in providing additional revenue to your bottom line and needs to be planned for in advance.
In speaking with several small business owners, when asked who their target market is they will say, everyone. The problem with this is that you are not focusing your market dollars on those who are those consumers or businesses who are best suited for your products and services and are fishing everywhere. Take the time to focus your marketing on those who will generate the most profitable revenue for your business.
Does your brand need some updating? Does your current mission, vision and value proposition still make sense for your business today? Does your branding resonate with your customers? The start of a new year is an excellent time to launch new branding if it is needed.
Over the years, having worked in marketing for extremely large companies and also for small ones, I found that there are some discrepancies when talking about marketing budgets. Typically in a company the marketing budget should be around 10-15% of your annual revenues, and when a company is starting the percentage is much higher in order to gain awareness in the market. The truth of the matter as we all know is that is the first budget that finance or investors go after to cut. Though we all know that is very short-sided on their part, unfortunately accountants don't really understand that just having a product and sales people does not a product sell. As hard as we all have tried to explain this over the years, it is a fact we all have to learn to deal with that will never go away.
On the flip side of this extreme are the large marketing firms that many small companies go to in order to get marketing help. Most of these marketing firms have name recognition in the industry for doing an excellent job helping larger corporations brand and market their company and products. In order to do this they have budgets of a million dollars or more to work with to create what is needed. The problem is the same firm that knows how to help a large company does not understand how to aid a small company get up and running. They will tell you that you won't be able to survive without the large marketing budget. The truth is that is a huge fallacy and your investors will not give you that kind of working capital and even if you had it at this point, the investment would not give you the return required.
If you are a start-up or a small business, there are definite ways that you can market and grow your business with a limited budget. Also understand marketing is not just marketing communications. The first step is creating a comprehensive marketing plan that covers all aspects of marketing from product, branding, pricing, promotion, lead generation, public relations, and communications to name a few. Many of these, you should be able to do yourself with a little help without blowing your budget. The key is having a plan that outlines the requirements, the priorities and expected costs and getting help in figuring out how to get what you need done on the budget you were given. Listed below are just a few tips to help get you started:
There are some excellent boutique marketing companies that can aid with branding, if you don’t have the expertise. You are not looking for the brand awareness at this point of Microsoft or General Motors. You are looking to create an understanding in the market of your product, understand your target market and how to reach them, what the perceived value is to that target market, and create a look and value proposition that is recognizable and understandable to the end customer.
For your marketing communications strategy, you can find some excellent graphic designers to create the required elements that you require for your communication pieces or web. In most cases, a graphic designer or web designer are the first key employees in a start-up or small business. For this reason, for your website I would recommend looking at a CMS (Content Management System). The graphic designer can create the look and the templates for you and you can concentrate on the content. A CMS allows someone who does not know HTML, PHP, Forms, and other requirements of a web today to develop and maintain their web site with tools without going to a web designer for constant updates. This can get costly over time. The same is true of your other communication pieces. Templates can be created for various pieces from datasheets, programs, press releases to case studies. These templates can be imported into Microsoft® Word, Microsoft® Publisher or other lower end tools which you can use to create professional looking collateral that you can maintain yourself without going back to a third party to make changes.
With the onset of SaaS (Software as a Service) products and other marketing tools, there are many ways to cost effectively perform lead generation without spending money on large direct mail campaigns where the return is around 1-2%. This makes sense still in a large organization, but the costs to create the mail piece and the lists cost the same for a small organization and are cost prohibitive for the return expected. Webinars are excellent in drawing a crowd when there is a topic of interest to your target audience. You will be able to find industry partners who in many cases are happy to present and then the last few minutes of the webinar can be left for small and subtle sales pitch.
Another product on the market that I found that was cost effective and was a wonderful lead generation/prospecting tool is called Goldmail. It is a SaaS service which allows you to create professional presentations with voice that creates a link for you to send to your prospects. Today cold calling in many ways has gone the way of the dinosaur. The decision maker you need to talk to hides behind voicemail, administrators, and various other walls that they create to avoid being bothered constantly. This tool allows you to create a professional short message which is personal, in your own voice and give you that 1 minute introduction that you would give if you were able to access them on the phone. You create the professional message / presentation and send the recipient the link. It even tracks whether the recipient read the message. It is at this point that calling will give you a better chance to get access to the person and get that appointment as they already have an understanding of your message.
In the past, when most said events, the first thing thought about were trade shows. In a lot of industries, trade shows have dwindled and if you have attended one, you will determine quickly you will never receive in most cases the return on your investment. I am not advocating cutting out trade shows completely as it depends on the product and industry, but there are other cost effective ways to spend money and get a better return.
There are events such as associations, and networking groups to name a few that can get you a better return at a lower cost than a trade show. Many of these have targeted table top trade shows that as a member that you can participate in for a fraction of the cost. There are many times speaking engagements as well at these events that you can look to your executives to participate.
New Marketing Mediums
There are many ways available today to market your company and products that didn’t exist years ago. One such medium is Social Media which you can utilize for basically nothing. If the 30 year and under are one of your target markets, then here is another low cost way to get access to that market. There are also other tools such as marketing voice solutions, SMS, and other mediums that can help you and are cost effective.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for ideas that you can use to help you market your company and products on a limited marketing budget. Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how you can master this for your business. Just because your executive, board, or investors have not given you the million dollar marketing budget, you still can use the funds you have effectively to get your desired results with the budget you have.
RK Fischer & Associates