The secret to starting a successful small business is, in large part, successful marketing. Regardless of how good your services or product is, you need to know how to reach your market and make sure that there is a sizable demand for what you offer. Having a written marketing plan is critical for most businesses. But where do you begin? Here are some tips to help you get started.
What is a Marketing Plan?
In brief, a marketing plan is simply a written document that outlines how you’re going to get what you sell in front of buyers. There are three key areas to think about:
- Who are your customers? The more you can understand who your customer is, the more effective your marketing will be.
- Who are your competitors? Knowing the alternatives will help you position and differentiate your business from other providers.
- What is your marketing strategy? Once you understand the areas above, you can start to take your share of the market in the most effective way possible.
Identifying Your Customers
The most obvious place to start is to think about the problems that your offerings solve, and who has those problems. The next step is to look at how much potential clients are typically willing to spend on this solution. It’s also critical to make sure that there are enough buyers in your market to make your business worthwhile. It’s important not to guess with these figures either; You can get accurate information from sources like the Small Business Association and SCORE, a source for free business mentoring and education.
Know Your Competitors
To compete effectively, you will need to separate yourself from the rest of the market’s competitors. You should know who your competitors target, their pricing, and the “look and feel” of their brands. Of course, an easy way to do this is to search for terms associated with your business online. You can also search on social media sites.
Develop a Solid Marketing Strategy
The goals of your marketing strategy should line up with your business goals. The next step is to prioritize these tactics so that you can allocate the appropriate amount of time and budget to each. The budgeted amounts will also change as your priorities change, for example, from acquiring new customers to retaining existing customers.
Next, determine the best ways to approach potential customers. These can include many of the following:
- Printed Materials – The basics like business cards, plus flyers, postcards, and door hangers.
- Online Marketing – Including email marketing, a website, and posting to social media.
- Networking – Join relevant groups and speak at events.
- Referrals – Partner with local businesses that have the same clients or customers.