In order to grow new revenue (and to look after existing customers) marketing forms a critical part of any business. Marketing helps attract customers to your brand and enables you to maintain a competitive edge. Like any other type of business expenditure, however, marketing can represent a significant sum of money and, if not planned in the right way, much of the money spent could ultimately be wasted.
A marketing plan formalizes the process of planning, arranging and evaluating the marketing to be undertaken by your business. It is a useful tool that can be implemented at any time and should be maintained on an ongoing basis thereafter, ensuring that the marketing budget is spent on the right things.
Analyzing the current situation -- the internal market
The marketing plan should identify each of the products and services that you offer, what their key features and benefits are, and what proportion of your overall sales each of them comprises. You should identify who your current customers are for these products and services, what your pricing strategy is, and how and where you sell these products (e.g., online, in stores, through catalogs). Identify how your people and processes underpin these sales, and how they contribute to the success (or otherwise) of these sales
Analyzing the current situation -- the external market
Your plan also needs to look at the issues and opportunities within the external market. An overview of the market is important here, identifying current trends and issues, but a more detailed analysis of your competitors should also be undertaken. Establish who they are, how they compare to one another and what their relative strengths and weaknesses are in comparison to your existing products and services. Establishing what it is that your competitors offer will help focus the marketing strategy that you employ.
SWOT analysis is a formal method of analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within your business. Your marketing plan should make the most of your strengths, identify actions to address the weaknesses, identify the opportunities that can be exploited and demonstrate a plan to mitigate the threats. Analyzing each of these areas in detail can include information listed in other sections, and it helps clarify exactly what it is that your marketing plan needs to support.
Your marketing plan must contain clear objectives that set out what you intend to achieve. Objectives should be SMART -- that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Within the marketing plan, the objectives should take into account all the analysis undertaken in prior sections of the document. Marketing objectives, for example, should identify how your business will cope with key issues and threats within the external market, looking at both the short and longer term. Your marketing plan must also include details on how you will evaluate the success of your marketing strategy. It should outline what you will measure, when and how, and should clearly document how you will gauge the success of your efforts.
A marketing plan can provide the detailed analysis required to help promote your products, services and brands in a focused manner. By looking at the opportunities and issues, your marketing plan can be specific in what it addresses, ensuring that all costs generate the right return on investment.
Whether you have a formal written plan for your business or just a bunch of great ideas in your head, there are always going to be goals you set out to achieve. You will often think in terms of what do I want to accomplish in the next six months, as well as where do I want to be in five years.
A lot of people have dismissed blogs as online diaries full of meandering thoughts. However, business blogging may be an effective route in marketing your small business.