Any business – big and small – needs to have a marketing plan. Often marketing plan is confused with business plan and many a times with advertising plan.
So how does one go about making a marketing plan?Its a critical part of the business planning and its not that difficult as it sounds to build a marketing plan. Below are my tried and tested guidelines for a marketing plan.
4 Strategic Tips
- First identify your purpose: Startups and smaller businesses usually are clear in their purpose. Unfortunately though, in today’s world, this purpose is moving from serving a need to ‘how to fund my startup’. This is a colossal error. A business – no matter the size – exists to serve a customer in a market. It is important to understand the purpose well. I would say in bold letters, document your vision and mission statement and keep it in front of you when you are starting to make your marketing plan. Do not redefine purpose of the company for sake of marketing convenience. It should always be the other way round. Ask yourself, what need I am fulfilling for my valued customers?
- Different Customer Personas: The most important aspect is to identify what kind of customer would you cater to or are catering to with your business? If you a B2B business, your customer is the final decision maker who will make the purchase. Think about that person as your person. In B2C business, enlist all the different personas you cater to. It is very rare that B2C businesses serve only 1 type of customer persona. One must identify all the customer personas they are catering to.
- Identify the strengths: I often meet entrepreneurs who tell me that they have a unique idea. Lets be real. Unless you are an Elon Musk or a Jeff Bezos, chances of a unique idea are rare. My suggestion is to be brutally honest with yourself and then list down all direct and indirect competitors you have for your business. This would help you to identify the arena n you are operating in. Next identify what are your strengths as an organisation – whether it is customer connect or it is quick response or it is location or it is technology or it is something else? Think about it. You shall have an answer. This will help you to identify what are your points of parity with competition and also your points of differentiation.
- Acknowledge your limitations: For years, I kept thinking that I would be a fiction novelist. Though this desire is not dead but I believe that it is something that requires me to train myself with grow my right side of brain, the creative side, more. Many of the entrepreneurs I meet, identify capital as their only limitation. That is an easy excuse. Identify where are you lacking in terms of skills, processes, operations, strategy, etc. This will help you learn where you would fumble when your customers arrive to explore a purchase with you. Either fix this limitation or just acknowledge it. A customer loves a genuine business more than an overly advertised one.
The above points help you gauge your inner strengths and also give an inside-out view of the world you are competing in. Next 4 tips are some tactical tips that you can use to build and retain your customers. These are primarily for B2C businesses but some can be adopted for B2B businesses as well.
4 Tactical Tips
- Be creative and advertise: Once you identify your strengths, you should advertise them in a very creative manner. Here are some quick tips on advertising:
- Engage freelancers on Fiverr.com or Upworks.com for creative work and digital marketing work if your business has online presence. This is very cost effective and your cost to failure is low.
- Use traditional methods of getting your word out – For B2C, explore local newspapers, inserts and regular flyers to advertise. This is a small scale advertising and very localised in nature. For B2B, see if there are any magazines or journals where you can advertise or contribute with an article.
- For small local business, surely get listed on local directories like JustDial.com (in India) or Craiglist.com (in the US) and similar such online directories. Make catchy and appealing text for your businesses here.
- For B2C businesses, explore whether you can advertise in local area TV channels. They are usually very cost effective and have a solid captive audience in your catchment area.
- Hyper-local marketing with Google Ads, Facebook and such online/social media are very effective platforms for advertising.
- Build Loyalty within your customers: For any startup, my firm advise is to give a reason for your customer to return to you for their next purchase. A loyal customer not only becomes a profitable one for the business in very short duration but also becomes a self-appointed brand ambassador of your business. What can you do to build loyalty?
- Give some discount coupons for next purchase.
- Install a loyalty point system and encourage your customers to enroll in it. You can decide what kind of loyalty program you want to build for your business here.
- Invite your loyal customers for preview or soft launch for any new features/services that you launch
- Build relationship with your customer: Irrespective of the nature and size of your business, it is important that you build a relationship with your customer.
- Randomly call up your customers and check if the product/service that you sold served the purpose well.
- If you maintain their Birthdays and Anniversaries details, send a small gift or a simple call or text message to them. You can also insert a special discount or offer to them in your message.
- Build alliances and partnerships: This is an oft overlooked strength marketing technique for any startup. There is an old saying that when done with properly synergy, 1+1 is 11 and not 2. Business Partnerships do exactly this for your own company.
- Multiple alliances and partnerships help to get your name out faster and also it may be a significant growth trigger for you.
- Identify businesses who may offer complementary products or services to you and partner with them.
- This way you can provide your customers a comprehensive offering as well.
- Identify any Industry level forums that you can get attached with.
And the “Super Tip”
Its an old saying that what cannot be measured, never gets done. For everything you do in the tips above, identify a way to measure the outcome. Without measurement, you would know what is right for your business and what it not. Below are some of the measurement criteria that you can use. This are only indicative in nature and you would need to build your own for your product/service.
- Number of Leads Generated
- Number of Repeat Customers
- Number of People viewing your ad (for technology platforms)
- Number of discount coupons redeemed
- Number of people invited versus the attendees count for any event that you organize
- Number of referrals from your business alliance
- And more…
I truly believe that this article would be a good starting point for you to cater better to your customers and then would help you to emerge a winner in the marketplace.
All the best!
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