Many owners and leaders of small and mid-size businesses decide on the marketing tactic they want to pursue as a reaction to a specific incident. Rather than taking the time to develop a Marketing Plan specific to their company objectives, they use quick fix solutions to address broader issues. Does this sound like you?
- A new business needs a logo. Make a logo.
- Sales are down. Run an ad.
- New office location. Send out a direct mail piece.
- Holidays are coming. Send holiday greeting cards.
While all of those tactics may be good ideas, they aren’t part of a cohesive plan to grow and develop your customer base and maximize their contribution to your business results. By themselves they may be mildly effective and yield short-term results, but no single tactic will sustain your brand.
A better way to do grow your business is to develop an integrated brand development and marketing plan. Not as intimidating as it sounds, a full brand and marketing strategy is a road map that keeps you on track and focused on goals, budget and results. Here are the eight steps we use to build a marketing strategy.
What are your goals and objectives?
List all quantifiable goals such as sales increases, customer survey results and P&L standards as well as softer objectives like skills training for employees and community service.
Develop your message
Your company goals and objective should lead you to your message. The what, why, where, when that is important to customers. Because this is the key to branding your business you may want to bring a marketing expert in to work with your team on the focus points and how to craft a succinct, viable message that will affect a positive response from your audience.
Determine your Marketing budget
It is so important that you have an idea of what you can afford before you begin planning a strategy. Many companies budget based on what they spent last year, but that isn’t always valid. Some businesses use a percent of sales as the benchmark, researching their industry standards as a reference. Whichever method you use, be sure to consider factors like new product launches and expansion plans when setting your budget.
Which customer group impacts each goal?
Look at both internal and external customers to better understand where your marketing needs are greatest and identify target customer groups. Plan to use every customer interaction to your advantage. Begin to attach volume numbers to each goal.
How can you reach your target customers?
Take time to analyze your target customers’ habits to better understand how they may best receive information. There are always multiple ways to reach them based on your budget. Review all selling methods used by your company as well as throughout your industry. Direct selling and indirect selling will require different support mechanisms to grow sales.
Analyze your options
Multi-channel marketing is nearly limitless. Even businesses on a strict budget can diversify their approach to capture a broader audience. A marketing professional should be able to provide options, costs, projected return and will work with you to validate results.
Quantify your results
Put numbers to every project and evaluate success against your goals and objectives. Not all of your marketing efforts will be on target, but as you progress through your plans you will begin to better understand customer preferences and how to more effectively drive results.
Course correct…and keep going!
Do not stop marketing efforts because of a failed project. Tear it apart, analyze why it failed and move on. One of the most damaging mistakes small and mid-size companies make is to stop advertising or marketing when business is tough. That is when you need marketing clarity and focus the most. Revise your budget based on performance and demand creative, cost effective solutions from your marketing team. Stay in the game-you can’t win if you don’t play!
The amount of effort you and your team put into building and supporting a marketing strategy is always reflected in your company performance. Take the time to create a brand message worth sending and put it out there as often as you can. Marketing should be a vibrant and exciting part of the company strategic plan, part of the face and the voice of any organization. Make every impression a good one.
Claudia Trusty is passionate about working with small and mid-size companies to develop strong marketing and branding messages that drive results. For twenty years Trusty and Company has produced graphic design, advertising and interactive tools for clients in retail and service industries. Visit them on the web at http://trustyandcompany.com/