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by Rachel Goddard

September 15th, 2014

13 Steps to a Marketing Plan that works for your business

It’s that time of year again, leaves are turning golden brown, the nights are drawing in and the kids are back to school. Many businesses we work with see September as that time of year when you ‘start afresh’. Time to write your marketing plan.

Sounds simple, but where do you start? Here are 13 steps which we use when helping our clients to think ‘outside the box’ and get organised.

1. Vision - Give yourself headspace.  Take a moment to think about the long term and ‘bigger picture’ for your business. Where is it heading, what do you want from it? Is it more turnover, more profitable customers or to expand a new market?

2. SWOT – Get your team together and brainstorm what is great about the business, what your customers like and what you are best known for.  Then think about the areas where you could improve, maybe some products or services that are not being promoted and any things that are holding you back. Be objective and honest. List your biggest opportunities and note any possible threats to your business. Ask your customers for feedback.

3. Define your markets – Look at which markets you are in. Group together any products or services which are aimed at a similar market. Divide up your customer base into types of business or types of people so you can work out what makes them tick. Identify the most profitable product, service and market for you. Are there any that you could expand or are there some that are not bringing enough to your business and need a bit of a boost?

4. Competitors – Who are your competitors in each market place? What are their strengths and weaknesses. How do you compare?

5. Your Unique Selling Points -  Ask yourself why is your business different? What do people really buy from you? Is it your fantastic product range, or is it the way you sell to them? More often than not we find that customers buy because they have a relationship with a company and they like the service. Ask them and find out what really makes you special.

6. Your image – What does your image say about your business? Does it really reflect your strengths and show you in the best light? How is your website and other marketing material? Are you saying all the best things about the business, are your messages well-presented and easy to understand? How do you look compared with your competitors?

7. Your customers  - Who are your customers? Can you divide them into groups by either demographic, type of business or industry sector.  Could your existing customers buy more products or services from you? Are there new customers in sectors that you need to attract to your business? Remember it is far easier to sell to customers who already know you and so they are often a good place to start.

8. What are their issues? – What keeps your customers awake at night? What are their concerns when buying your product or service? How can you make sure your messages address these issues and engage them? For example if you are selling hotel bedrooms: Will it be noisy? Is there any parking? Will the beds be comfortable?  If you are selling air conditioning systems: Will it be difficult to install? Will it be reliable? How much noise does it make?

9. Prioritise – From all this analysis, which are your best opportunities? Where are you going to get the best return on investment for your business?  Do you have a new product or service that you need to communicate to existing customers? Do you need a campaign to attract new customers and expand your market?

10. Get on their wavelength  – Define three key messages for each of your markets. These can be about your business but primarily you need to think about what your customers need to hear? For example, if you are selling woodburning stoves, you might say that you are a supplier of the most prestigious range of stoves in the North of England, when in fact your customers want to hear that you have ‘a range of easy to install and beautifully designed stoves to bring warmth to your home this winter.’

11. How to get the message out there? - This is the confusing bit and often the place where people start. However before you do, steps 1-10 can help you focus more effectively on what will bring the best return for you. Look at your website – does it have all the right messages on there? With a bit of tweaking could it communicate better with each of the customer groups you have defined? Is all your social media feeding into your website effectively? Would an email marketing campaign work well for your business? Do you have an up to date list of all your customers and contacts? Maybe some advertising or media coverage would help to get the message to your customers?

12. Just do it! - Now you understand what you need to do and you are more focused, get on with it. It’s better getting on with some of your communications plan, than leaving it to gather dust on the shelf for next year.  Start with the areas where you are likely to have the most success and build from there.

13. Measure it – Work out what’s worked the most effectively and keep doing that. Monitor your enquiries and gain momentum to move onto another area that you want to promote.

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