Congratulations on starting your own business! Isn’t that why you are thinking of developing a startup marketing plan? Often new business owners don’t think they need a formal business or marketing plan. But I say these two living documents are a must — not an option — to not prepare (and refer to often). Not sure how to create those plans yourself? Hire a consultant. For marketing plans, you can even use the services of a Score counselor for free.
Without marketing, no one will know about your business. A marketing plan offers a detailed outline of the strategies and tools that you’re going to use to effectively communicate and create awareness of your business among your target audience. Like a business plan, the marketing plan will help you focus. A marketing plan will also help you understand your business and industry.
Your first step is to do the research. Don’t guess about who your target audience is and where they can be found. Are you targeting single 20-somethings, married 30-somethings with children, or retirees? Are they on Facebook, Twitter, or Internet forums? Not doing the legwork will cost you valuable marketing dollars.
Step two is to define your goals, both short term and long term. In developing the marketing plan, you will need to have clear and specific achievements for your marketing efforts, such as building a positive online reputation or attracting more business from a particular age segment. Think in terms of what you really want to accomplish within a specified time period. You can set the goals for x months. Next, take these goals and translate them into measurable objectives: maybe you want to increase Facebook engagement or traffic to your website. Objectives will give you metrics that will be helpful in focusing your efforts.
Strategies are next on the list. Strategies are developed together with tactics to attain your goals and objectives. This could be an emphasis on social media or becoming an authority through blogging. The tactics will need to be aligned with the tasks people need to complete to make things happen. Tactics need some form of coordinated execution. Maybe you assign one person to manage your Facebook and Twitter accounts and someone else to blog. Assign everyone specific tasks and give them the means to complete those tasks; then make sure everyone on the team can coordinate their efforts with those of their team members.
At the end of the exercise, you should have a document with the following sections:
- Summary or Overview: No more than one page long. The summary should provide a brief description the business and the major points in the plan. This section is to be written last.
- Situation Analysis: A detailed and honest assessment of the market, competitors, opportunities, and challenges the business faces. Can be done through a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.
- Marketing Strategy: Keeping in mind the SWOT analysis results, create a strategy to help you take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges. The marketing strategy should focus on helping you achieve your marketing goals and objectives.
- Marketing Tactics: The tactics are created in line with the strategies. They are a plan of action plan to execute the broader strategies.
- Marketing Budget and Timelines: Includes the projected costs and timelines for the marketing plan.
Writing a marketing plan for your business should become a yearly ritual. I also believe you should evaluate your results every 90 days and make adjustments if appropriate. Just don’t change everything at one time, because you will never know what is working and what isn’t. Make one change, measure the results and then move forward. It could also be important to revamp your marketing plan whenever you are launching a new product or service.