Creating a marketing plan or strategy for your business might sound scary, but it’s important not to become overwhelmed when you first start. If you Google “small business marketing plans” you’ll get more than 77 million results with a huge variety of pointers about things to include. That’s a lot of advice to sort through. So, we’re going to cull it down to 3 simple questions to help you hit the ground running with your plan.

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to be a year from now?
  • How do we plan to get there?

These questions may seem pretty simple, but the thought you put into them now will pay off throughout the year.

Question 1: Where are we now?

This seems like good section to skip to save time, but don’t! The answers you come up with here will lay the foundation for your plan. You should be able to write concise answers to these questions:

  • What kind of business are we in?
    • Retail store
    • Online
    • Service
  • What products or services do we provide?
  • What are our current sales, in both dollars and units (if applicable)?
  • Who are our current customers?
  • How did we get the customers we have?
  • What do our customers like about us?
  • Why do we lose customers?
  • Who are additional potential customers?
  • What are our prices, how did we arrive at them, and are they still reasonable?
  • What are the major developments in my line of business?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • How do we stack up against our competitors?
    • Is our product/service better?
    • Do we provide greater value?
    • Do we have any differentiating factors?

Answering these questions will likely get you thinking of additional information relevant to your specific situation – include these answers as well!

Question 2: Where do we want to be a year from now?

Now that you know where you are, it’s time to decide where your company is going. This is a step that many people don’t put nearly enough thought into. Some want to dive right into marketing tactics, but if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, your marketing tactics will be scattershot at best.

You should set goals that are measurable and specific. “We want to increase our profitability by 10%” is a good goal. “Make more money” is not. “Win 5 new customers generating at least $1000 of revenue” is a good goal. “Get more customers” is not. You get the idea…

Make sure your goals are challenging, but attainable and identify potential obstacles that might prevent you from reaching your goals. For example, do you suddenly have five new competitors in your local market? Also look for opportunities you can take advantage of, like a cost decrease in your product line.

Many of your goals will be financial, but remember other aspects of your business that can differentiate you. Think about things like:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer service
  • Reviews and ratings on sites like Yelp
  • Employee retention

Question 3: How do we plan to get there?

This is where the rubber meets the road. Here, you’ll plan out specific tactics to achieve your goals.

Say you’re a personal trainer and want to get seven new clients in 2013. Your tactics might look something like this:

  • Create a “New Year’s Resolution” package and promote it on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter
  • Send a “share with a friend and you each get 20% off” email offer to everyone who used your services last year (provided they are of course, on your mailing list)
  • Use Facebook ads to target brides – and grooms-to-be in your area (everyone wants to be in shape for the big day!)
  • Tweet a last-minute deals when you have availability
  • Build and strengthen relationships by sending a monthly newsletter to everyone on your mailing list
  • Have a free group class every month to expose your services to more people
  • Reach out to 10 customers that may not have visited you in a while each month via email or personal calls
  • Offer four hours of private training as a prize at an auction or raffle
  • Become a guest speaker at fitness focused events, or for groups like Weight Watchers

Now create a calendar and map out what you’ll do and when. For example, you’ll want to promote your New Year’s resolution offer in December and/or January. And, don’t just file your plan away to be revisited next year. Refer back to your goals and tactics every month and hold yourself accountable. Monitor your results, and do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.

We hope these questions help get your juices flowing as you start to develop your marketing strategy.

Do you have any helpful advice for fellow small business owners? Let us know!

© 2013 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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