Author: Cassie Scott
What’s your strategy to get customers in your store? A marketing plan is as crucial to your success as a business plan. Marketing connects your business and products to the consumer, bringing your business plan full-circle. A marketing plan helps you reach your target audience, boost your customer base and increase your bottom line. Think of it as a roadmap to achieving your business goals.
“A marketing plan is your framework for what you want to do and what you want to accomplish,” said Allison Jasper, ATA’s director of marketing and communications. “Creating a plan helps keeps business owners organized and accountable for what they want to try when it comes to marketing.”
If creating a marketing plan sounds daunting, don’t worry. With these six steps, it’s easier than you think.
1. Identify Your Business Goals
What are you trying to achieve? Analyze your business to identify strengths and weaknesses, and create goals based on your aspirations. Do you want more customers? More sales? Better programming? More brand awareness? Be specific, and create quantifiable goals. If this is your first time preparing a marketing plan, set modest goals to start. Keep your objectives challenging but achievable.
Outline their demographics: age, sex, lifestyle, income bracket, geographic location, and more. Discover which types of media your target audience uses for information and how they like to be approached to maximize your effectiveness. Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo.
2. Identify Your Prospects
Next, define your target audience(s). Become familiar with your location, community and the outdoor industry, but most importantly, understand your customers. Outline their demographics: age, sex, lifestyle, income bracket, geographic location, and more. Discover which types of media your target audience uses for information and how they like to be approached to maximize your effectiveness.
3. Brainstorm Marketing Techniques
Determine what marketing techniques are available to you and will be effective for your area, customers or business. Hubspot found “outbound marketing strategies” – like TV commercials, outdoor billboards, direct-mail campaigns, and radio, newspaper or magazine ads don’t reach millennials. Rather, “inbound marketing strategies” – such as videos, e-books, whitepapers, blog posts and other how-to information – are more effective for younger audiences. Also consider email marketing, press releases and ads on your website and social media accounts. With a little research, you’ll find hundreds of other marketing strategies to implement.
4. Establish a Budget and Timeline
While a word-of-mouth strategy might be the least expensive marketing option, you often can’t rely on customer reviews alone, as they can be inconsistent, according to Jasper. However, don’t despair. The author of an Entrepreneur article wrote, “with so many different kinds of tactics available for reaching out to every conceivable audience niche, there’s a mix to fit even the tightest budget.” The author advises businesses to adjust their tactics until they find an affordable mix, and recommends companies never stop marketing. The Whole Brain Group suggests businesses dedicate two to five percent (or more) of their top-line revenue to marketing depending on the company’s goals. Determine how much money you want to invest in marketing and set a realistic timeline. Most companies develop a six- or 12-month plan.
5. Get Input from Your Core Group
Jasper also advises owners to enlist help. “Don’t be afraid to think out loud and ask people who care about you and your business for their input,” she said. “Talking through your ideas with people who are vested in your interests might flush out any issues or introduce you to other opportunities.” Creating a marketing plan is not a one-person endeavor. Get input, insights and feedback from your employees and business partners, especially since they’ll likely be involved in the marketing efforts outlined in your plan.
Talking through your ideas with people who are vested in your interests might flush out any issues or introduce you to other opportunities. Photo Credit: govloop.com.
6. Formalize Your Plan and Create a Task List
Once you’ve evaluated your options and feel satisfied with your overall marketing strategy, write it out to hold yourself accountable. As far as format, use whatever method is most convenient. You may prefer a desk calendar, Word document, Excel spreadsheet, online calendar or other management system. To execute the plan, break down the steps into task lists and assign deadlines. These tasks should be specific, actionable and time-sensitive.
Your marketing plan needs to change and evolve as your business grows. It shouldn’t be a static document; it’s a strategic document that should be reviewed frequently and assessed for results. Jasper recommends that businesses tweak their plan to support what’s working and move away from what’s not. “Once you take the time to create a plan, don’t stray from it or forget about it,” she said. “Marketing requires some trial and error. Don’t get discouraged.”
For more information, visit the Small Business Administration website for tips and a free example marketing plan.