It goes without saying that one of the most important components to building a strong business is having a strong business plan. It then also makes sense that successfully marketing your business requires both creating and following through with a strong, well thought out marketing plan.
I have often heard business owners complain that customers are not coming through the door or that sales are down, and it comes as no surprise for me to often find out they have no marketing plan, or a poor one at best. Furthermore, I have seen companies embark on a “marketing” campaign, only to watch them put out advertising that stands in stark contrast to the goals they are actually trying to fulfill or should be trying to fulfill. For example, doing a steep incentive campaign when the goal is actually to build a brand image; conversely there are others who embark on an image campaign when their biggest need is short term sales fulfillment.
So what is a good marketing plan? While the following information should not replace getting a good marketing professional to help you build a marketing plan, these are some crucial elements to consider…
First things first—Set out to clearly define your business for your prospect.
- Who are you? – At its most basic level, this question asks what your business name is, the industry you are involved in, and where people can find you (your contact information). Going a little deeper, this also means defining what core beliefs you stand for.
- What do you do? – This would be the products you sell or the services your business provides. Basically, the “who you are” and the “what you do” could double as a mission statement for your company. Plus, it not only means what you do, but also how you do it.
- How does that benefit me? – Just like a superior resume, your business needs to clearly communicate what benefits the buyer will gain by choosing you instead of another brand. However, great care must be taken to define benefits in terms the prospect understands and cares about. Remember, it’s not about you…
- Why should I choose you instead of someone else? – What is your USP; your unique sales proposition—your main argument as to why they should choose you? Have you created a new niche or at least redefined one? Is your product/service demonstratively better somehow? Are you more qualified? Are your products a better value? (And remember to back up your claims rather than use empty, vacuous words like “better value” or “higher quality”…)
In the end, if you can’t clearly, succinctly and convincingly describe the “who, what and why” of your business, then how do you expect your prospects to know?
Who is your target market?
Do you currently know who out there wants what you are offering? Furthermore, do you know how to reach them? Or, are you “selling by accident?” One of the most important things a business can do is figure out who wants them and how to reach them. Or, as is the case with some companies, their services or products are universal, appealing to every type of prospect. In that case, figure out who your primary target is and then focus on them.
All types of research are out there to help you do it. Also, take a survey of your current clients to figure out who comprises your core target. Additionally, work with a marketing professional who can help you ask the right questions, get hold of the right research, and help you sort through the information to arrive at the correct answers.
Where are you in the “purchase funnel”?
The purchase funnel is one of those sales and marketing terms that gets discussed by national and multi-national companies, but I believe does not get enough attention from smaller and mid-sized businesses.
Simply, the purchase funnel defines the complete buying process of your prospect. For purposes of marketing, we’ll look at three key elements: 1. Awareness, 2. Consideration, 3. Purchase:
- Awareness—Do prospects know you exist? Do they know anything about you? Do they recognize your brand name but are still unclear about what you provide? If not, your company needs to develop an identity in the mind of the prospect before that prospect will move on to consideration and purchase.
- Consideration—Once you are “known” by the prospect, you then need to work so that they will consider you. This means that out of the brands they are aware of, they are mentally compiling a short list of brands to consider and research deeper. This requires making sure they know the benefits you provide and making sure they perceive those benefits in such a way that they put you on their mental short list.
- Purchase—This, of course, is the ultimate goal. Once a prospect knows you and considers you, a final push is often required to get them to buy you. This sometimes involves incentive advertising, but it can also be taken care of by reinforcing their awareness and consideration to the point that the others on the short list start to get bumped mentally. Purchase advertising often takes place where the prospect is reviewing their consideration short list; often while they are doing final research on the web or perhaps even at the point-of-purchase.
The point is this: each part of the purchase funnel demands a different approach when it comes to advertising. A different type of message, and sometimes even medium, is required to initiate awareness, as is true for initiating consideration and finally purchase.
Also, you’ll notice that the funnel gets smaller as you move through it. That is because, of all the people that know you, less will consider you and even fewer will buy from you. That is why reach is so important in advertising—it takes “a wide net to catch enough fish.” The most successful companies are not necessarily the best known. Rather, they are the companies who know how to move the most prospects from awareness, through consideration, and on to purchase (as illustrated by the second funnel diagram).
In conclusion, these are just three basic points to consider in your overall marketing plan. While this information is not meant to be your template to a complete plan, these three points offer some basics guidelines for starting a good and actionable plan. Think through these basic components and see what you come up with, then invest in your business by utilizing a good marketing professional who will guide you to success!