How to build a Small Business Marketing Plan
Your marketing plan should contain details of all of your marketing activities, usually for a 12-month period.
By doing some research and understanding what marketing methods will work best for your target audience, you’ll confidently and accurately make decisions to grow your practice. And you’ll be spending your marketing dollars most efficiently.
Follow these eight tips to build a revenue-focused
marketing plan for your Business
1. Make a commitment
Too many marketing “plans” really aren’t plans at all. They contain ideas for activities like print ads, updating the website and doing direct mail. But they often aren’t grounded in industry research. And they don’t contain objectives or measurement standards. Often these “plans” are simply based on what the practice did last year and the year before that.
But things change. If your business is going to be successful at marketing, you need to adapt to the shifting landscape. Begin by committing to doing the research, dedicating the resources and budget, and following through.
2. Know your Market
You probably have a good overall understanding of your current customers. But have you really thought about your market for the purpose of targeting it? Review your customer database and make some conclusions about who you serve. This will include age, geographic location, common problems, occupation category, income level and more.
Only when you have this data can you make the best decisions about marketing. If you have three options for print advertising, and one best reaches your practice’s demographic, this is the clear choice.
You also need to think aggressively about who you want to be your patients. If your demographic consists heavily of a base that will decline in profitability, such as residents of a geographic area on the decline, you will need to shift your marketing tactics to reach the audience you want.
3. Know your competition
An important part of any small business marketing plan is evaluating your competitors and what they’re doing. Keep tabs on their marketing efforts, including newsletters, direct mail, website marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click management. You don’t need to mirror their spending dollar for dollar on each activity. But a little bit of research will tell you how they’re using their marketing budget. You can then analyze the activities your most successful competitors use for your own practice.
Don’t just look at your own specialty. You may not be competing with other businesses, but keep up to date with what they are doing in your region. You may be able to borrow from some of their best ideas and efforts.- ask them what works for them.
4. Measure what has worked
You cant manage what you cant measure ! What marketing activities have been most responsible for building your database over recent years? Has it been referrals from other customers, the yellow pages? Your website? Events in the community?
You should be asking your customers how they heard about you. You should then capture that data in your database. Too many small businesses neglect this important and meaningful step. Don’t be one of them.
Be honest in your assessment of what worked. If you were getting 25% of your business from your yellow page ad five years ago, but last year you only got 4% for the same investment, your marketing dollars should shift to reflect this.
5. Know your strategic objectives
It’s also essential to understand your specific marketing challenges. Some small businesses face an education problem in ensuring new customers understand how their services will help. Other specialists don’t receive as many qualified referrals as they would like. For others, their awareness in their community is too low for them to grow their business.
What are you challenges? By identifying these, you’ll determine what’s standing in your way to successful practice growth. You can then accomplish your strategic objectives throughtargeted marketing tactics that will work for your practice.
6. Determine the best marketing tactics
By this step, you should know who you’re reaching and who you want to reach, how your competitors and business partners are marketing, and what has worked for you.
You’ll be positioned to make sound decisions about tactics that should be in your arsenal. Seek useful data about the most widely used marketing methods by your industry. Do you know the most popular and least popular activities for your specialty?
If your market is younger and internet savvy, email marketing, social media and pay-per-click advertising may be viable options.
If most of your business comes from referrals from other businesses, you may want to broaden the breadth and sophistication of your outreach to these centers of influence.
Maybe your business isn’t well known in your region and you want to build your brand and shape credibility. In that case, consider public relations and participation in community events.
Be sure to select tactics with a purpose, based on step five.
7. Set your budget
Some small businesses start building their marketing plan based on a budget. Then they build their plan, only to find out the dollars they allocated were off target.
A better approach is to first understand what a successful and pragmatic marketing strategy will look like. Then determine what it will cost. While you should have some budget parameters set in advance, don’t make any hard dollar commitments until you understand costs.
The activities you pursue should work together to drive growth. This way, you’ll maximize your marketing spend. Don’t view direct marketing as one area over here, public relations as a silo over there and your customer newsletter as a separate entity. Your customers and prospects should receive multiple meaningful impressions from you on an ongoing basis. This builds trust and presence.
8. Measure success!
Measure the results of each marketing activity. The only way to do that is to ask new customers how they heard about you. You can also measure success of outreach to existing customers. Accurately and consistently enter the results into your customer database. Compare these activities against recent years. Then use that information to modify your plan as you go forward that year. But be sure to give each marketing method enough time to succeed.
Remember to allocate time to review your business and to strategically plan for success . It is so easy to be stuck in a constant state of activity and not reflect on business strategy ,marketing and development.
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