Why Your Small Business Needs a Professional Marketing Plan
Many small business owners know that they need to promote their businesses – in other words, they know they need to be doing marketing activities of some sort. Yet choosing the right mix of activities seems like an impossible task. Should they focus on building a new website? Running ads in the local newspaper? Sending out direct mail or email, or perhaps posting to social media?
Even if a business owner chooses a few activities to try, often they're not sure when or how often to run those ads, send out the emails, or mail postcards. Understanding small business marketing and developing an action plan often feels overwhelming for a small business owner. Combine that overwhelm with time pressures and the limited budget of a typical small business and you suddenly understand why few actually have a written marketing plan in place.
What's so important about having a written marketing plan in place? Why can't you just sit down with your staff and come up with a few ideas, then go out and use them to promote your business?
You can certainly sit around the table and brainstorm ideas, but without a written plan, how many of those ideas will actually be carried through to completion? And if you do have several ideas you need to choose among for your activities, how do you sort and weigh them to understand which promotional idea can potentially yield the best return on investment? Who is going to actually create the promotion, make sure it is placed or mailed on time, and then follow up to count the responses to see whether or not it was worth it?
As you can see, there's a lot to know and remember when you're planning your small business marketing. That's where a marketing plan and a professional marketing consultant can help.
A marketing plan created by a professional marketing consultant who knows and understands the unique challenges that your small business faces may focus on several key areas. These areas may include goal setting for your business, understanding the business and competitive environment, defining the products you're selling and the messages to share about them, and then creating a marketing strategy and action plan (tactical plan or marketing mix) to direct your activities in a focused and measurable way.
I've seen some great marketing plans that were detailed and creative, but they sat on a shelf and gathered dust. Why? Because they weren't focused on action! A marketing plan without an action plan and clearly defined tactical steps is like a scientific research report; rich with information but offering little practical value. Small businesses don't need a research report – they need a focused, clear action plan.
There's a balance between the background information that informs the action steps a small business should take and a tactical-only plan that focuses solely on the promotional methods. As a business owner, you have to know and understand the marketplace forces, your customers, what you're selling and the advantages you have before you roll out any promotional campaigns. Yet most business owners focus solely on the promotional aspect because it makes them feel like they're finally taking action and getting some marketing steps accomplished. Action without strategy, planning and forethought, however, can lead to missed opportunities and wasteful spending as you put money into marketing activities that may not reach your customers nor communicate the messages that will resonate with them. And marketing activities without some sort of assessment or tracking can lead to wasteful spending. If you don't know how many new customers you have reached or how many sales you achieved from your promotion, how do you know it was worthwhile?
Before spending more money on your current marketing activities, take a moment and consider what it would take to have a professional create a marketing plan for your business. With a professional marketing plan in place and someone to coach you through the activity steps, you may have a better chance at achieving your goals, attracting new customers, and selling more. And in the end, isn't that the result you want from your marketing programs?
Jeanne Grunert is the president of Seven Oaks Consulting, a marketing and writing firm that helps businesses focus and clarify their marketing messages and strategies to attract new business. Her expert insights, motivational seminars, and inspiring writing have helped many small business owners achieve their goals. Visit Seven Oaks Consulting to learn more.
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