Every business needs to make themselves known, advertise, and generally, be creative to attract clients. In the business world, one mystical (and scary) term describes this process: marketing.
We all know our businesses need marketing, but how do we do market? Do we take ads out in the local paper, put up a webpage, and tell our friends? Maybe we should hand out fliers or mail brochures to likely customers.
All those are great ideas, but how do you know who your potential customers are? What do they need from your business? How do you convince them that they need your services?
Finding the answers to all these questions requires a marketing plan and a little research. Below are eight sure-fire steps to create a marketing plan, to implement it, and to monitor your success.
Step 1) Conducting Market Research
The first step, conducting market research, is the most daunting. You’re probably thinking: “What is that, and how do I do that?” In the simplest terms, you need to find out what other businesses similar to yours exist in your area. Searching on the internet is a great way to get a general idea for what competition exists in the area. Remember that the internet isn’t always 100% accurate or up to date, so we also want somewhere else to get more accurate information. The local library and city hall (websites and physical locations) should have records of local businesses, their locations, and how long they have been established. A little digging should also turn up which segments of the community they serve and their profit margins. Now we need to profile clients and identify your business’ unique difference: what products/services do you sell that others in the area do not?
Step 2) Profile Your Ideal Clients
Now we know which businesses serve which clients in town. By process of elimination, we can determine who the potential clients are, who is not being served, and which services/products they could use/enjoy. Think about which ages, professions, individuals, families, and ethnicities you want to target with your advertising. Who will your services/products benefit the most?
For example, let’s say you are opening a restaurant. Your town already has a pub and a pizza place that do not open until mid-afternoon, but nowhere serves breakfast or lunch. Knowing this, a mom and pop diner may go over well. If you open early, people could stop in for breakfast before work and/or come for lunch breaks. The retired portion of the community may also enjoy a place they can enjoy throughout the day for breakfast or lunch (or both), giving you a steady stream of business from early morning to the middle of the afternoon. Being open on the weekends would serve all segments of the population, maximizing business.
Step 3) Identify Your Unique Difference
Every business needs an angle to distinguish them from the competition. What is unique about your business? What services/products do you provide that similar businesses (your market) don’t?
Going back to our restaurant example, the town already has pub food, general alcohol consumption, and pizza covered. We already know that a general diner doing breakfast and lunch is a good idea, but what will make your diner unique. Do you have a theme in mind? Would a forties, fifties, or sixties theme work well? How about a Western, Rock and Roll, or Pop theme? Do you want to serve signature dishes like Mexican, Greek, or Bavarian? The choices are really endless.
The key here is to look at your business as a whole. Which unique strengths do you bring to the table? Does your customer service go above and beyond? Are your products made of better materials? Is your service package more comprehensive? Do you offer a life-time guarantee on products? Any of these can be a big, unique seller. The key is to figure out what works for you.
Step 4) Develop Your Business Brand
This step builds directly on the unique qualities of your business. Your brand will incorporate those unique qualities into any logos, advertisements, online presence, and literature produced.
For example, if we open a fifties diner, the logo may include a 1950s Cadillac and a chrome/red theme throughout the diner with a soda counter, ice cream station, as well as a jukebox. All of these combine to become your brand; your clientele will identify your diner with a nostalgic 1950s diner, ice cream, a soda counter, and good food. The diner’s logo could be a jukebox or a record player.
Incorporating something unique about your business into your logo, advertisements, and literature will provide an image and ideal that is memorable so that your clients can recognize your brand image on products, signs, and ads.
Step 5) Identifying Your Marketing/Social Channels
This step also requires a little research. We already know target client groups for our services/products, but how do we market to them? If you want to draw business from retired folks, where will a TV, online, or billboard ad reach them best? How about kids, families, young adults, or working parents? Always try to pick the appropriate type of advertisement marketed through the correct venue.
For example, our fifties diner is targeting retired folks for all day business, professionals/younger adults for breakfast and lunch, and families on the weekends. To reach the retired folks, consider advertising in places like the local senior center or the local newspaper. Ads at the YMCA could reach the entire community. An online ad on a social platform like Facebook or Twitter would likely reach young adults, professionals, and parents. Advertise at events like local fairs or the community center to attract families.
Always do some research to figure out what platforms you could advertise on like Facebook and Twitter as well as more traditional channels like newspapers, posters, and television ads. For products and services targeting a professional community, consider demonstrations at local businesses or product fairs.
Step 6) Build A Marketing Calendar
Now that we figured out how, who, and where to market, we need to know when. There are several factors to consider here. Are your products/services seasonal? If so, advertising before and during that particular season will be very important. All these coupons, ads, and signs need be drafted, prepared, and put up around normal business hours during your already busy life. A marketing calendar helps organize, prioritize, and establish realistic deadlines for getting all the advertising done.
Our fifties diner wants to keep the ice cream counter open later to draw extra business from kids and teens during the summer. To advertise this new service, make coupons available through the schools to the kids in the spring. In order for these coupons pass out these coupons on April 1st, make an entry on the marketing calendar to have the final coupon draft sent to the printer by March 5th with a delivery date to the schools of March 25th. This timeline gives reasonable preparation goals and reminds you to increase staffing on April 1st to accommodate the extra business.
Step 7) Set Your Goals and Budget
The timelines set up on your marketing calendar directly reflect many business and budget goals. Seasonal products/services directly affect production goals, advertisements to reach those goals, and budgeting for ads, staffing, and materials needed to reach those goals.
For example, increasing traffic at the ice cream counter over the summer months, reveals two goals: make the ice cream counter more visible and increase the profits from the ice cream counter. To reach these goals, allocate funds for printing the coupons, providing extra staff, and stocking extra ice cream.
Just like we need a marketing calendar to plan, to organize, and to implement advertising, we need to set goals for opening a business, keeping daily operations running, and achieving long-term business goals. These goals determine when and where to budget money for advertising and daily operations. Budgeting monitors financial assets and debts, allowing a business to avoid overspending and to have up-to-date financial information available.
Sometimes goal planning, marketing calendars, and budgets are too complicated or overwhelming to compile on your own. Many cost-effective tools and services exist to help organize and maintain a smoothly running business. Always be willing to seek advice, tools, or professional help from NextStep Marketing for guidance to keep your business running smoothly.
Step 8) Review and Monitor Results
Once goals, budgets, ads, and calendars are in place, do not be afraid to revise them as needed. In fact, keep your business on track by monitoring and revising these frequently to make sure we meet goals and finances are stable. Remember that even the best laid plans may fall through, so revision of plans is acceptable and often needed to avoid financial pit falls or to take advantage of a good business opportunity. Mistakes will happen, but treat them as learning opportunities. Remaining flexible and vigilant, keeps you alert and prepared in an ever-changing world.
Contact NextStep Marketing to help wade through these murky waters.