The business landscape is fierce and if you aren’t clear on the direction of your business, who your customers are and how you’re going to reach them then you might as well get ready to fade into the background while your competitors reap the rewards.
Every business needs to know what sets them apart and how they’re going to let their customers know just how great they are so including a marketing strategy in your business plan is the best starting point for achieving success.
Before You Write Your Marketing Plan…
It’s a bit difficult to simply start creating your marketing strategy if you aren’t too sure about your offering, your market and your key differentiators, which is why market research is such an important step.
When you are done with your market research you should be able to answer the following questions:
- Who are your potential clients?
- Where do they reside?
- What kind of people are your potential clients?
- Will they be interested in and willing to buy the product or service you’re offering?
- Are your prices attractive to your clients?
- Are your products and/or services available at the right time and place?
Divide your research up into primary and secondary categories in order to explore all of your available options. Start with secondary market research, this involves looking at information that has already been published and can be used to get an idea of your industry, market trends, competitors and potential customers. Below are a few ideas on where to obtain secondary data:
- The internet
- Industry magazines and trade journals
- Newspapers and magazines
- White papers
- Pooled data collected from interest groups
Turn to primary data sources if the secondary data didn’t quite give you all the information that you needed to develop your marketing strategy and plan. Primary data is collected from scratch and if you can’t afford to pay someone to do it then it’s simple enough to gather it on your own. You can collect primary data using the following methods:
- Interviews (Web, telephonic or personal interviews)
- Questionnaires and surveys
Developing Your Marketing Strategy
Now that you have a better idea of the market you are targeting you can start writing your marketing plan. Marketing strategies are there to map out an action plan for your business. This plan is not only useful for keeping track of progress and strategic direction but it’s a part of your business plan that investors will be interested in too.
Aim to include the following elements in your marketing plan to reap the best benefits:
If your marketing plan is going to form a part of your business plan then there is no need to create a second executive summary as it will be a repeat of information. If your marketing strategy is going to be a separate business tool then you can briefly describe your business and what sets you apart as well as touch on your vision and mission statement.
Start this section of your plan by explaining the current status of your business. Provide a few details on what you do, how you do it and how long you have been operating to date. Next you can provide answers to the following questions:
1. Who is your market?
This should be quite in-depth so it’s not uncommon to write up to two pages on your target market. Describe who your customers are, their demographics, needs and habits. Look at trends and growth in the market place to give investors an idea of where your business fits in and how you can cater to the needs of these clients.
2. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
Take a page to explain what your strengths and weaknesses are as well as where opportunities and threats lay in your specific industry. You can download a SWOT analysis template here.
3. Who is your competition
Define who you are going up against by entering into your industry. What are your competitors offering your potential customers and what are they doing differently to you? Will they be a threat in the long run or won’t this be an issue for your company? Click here to view a competitor analysis example.
4. What are your key differentiators?
How do you stand out from your competitors and what will you be doing to ensure that you continue to be a top name in your industry? Are there any issues that you need to address in order to be successful in the short and long term?
When you develop your strategy, keep in mind that the main goal is to establish how you aim to increase brand awareness, create a relationship with customers and ultimately grow your business.
In order for a strategy to be effective it needs to be realistic, so this means taking your resources, time and budget into account. It also needs to be continuously implemented, tested and changed if required. Your strategy needs to contain the following information:
1. Marketing goals
List your objectives and what you want to achieve in the next month, year or 5 years. Your objectives can include anything from providing your customers with top-notch service to the increased profitability that you would like to achieve in the next 6 months.
What is your current position in the market and what do you need to do improve it? You might be competing against two top brands and you want your business to be one of those brands. How will you do it?
3. Marketing Mix
Now that you know what needs to be done you can explain in detail how you will achieve the goals that you set out above. This information is one of the most important parts of your marketing strategy and it’s important to note that your mix might change every now and then depending on trends and growth in your market. You need to list the following points in this section:
- Product strategy – What will your exact offering be
- Pricing strategy – How much will you be charging clients for your product or service and why?
- Distribution strategy – How will you make your product or service available to your clients?
- Promotional strategy – What will your marketing efforts be in order to create brand awareness and generate interest around your product or service?
The best guideline for deciding how much to spend on your marketing is anything from 1%-10% of your annual sales. This is mainly dependant on the industry you are in as well as how established your business is. The catch is that sales are dependent on marketing and vice versa so it’s important to put enough time and effort into this area of your business.
Go into some detail on the amount of money you will be assigning to marketing, how often you will be engaging in marketing activities and how you will monitor the effects. Some of the financials that investors might want to see and that will be useful as a monitoring tool are:
- Your break-even analysis
- Sales forecasts
- Expense forecasts.
There are many ways that you can also cut down on marketing costs and still get the most bang for your buck. Here are some ideas:
- Aim to attend industry events where you can network with potential customers and partners
- Make use of free online social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook
- Decide whether it’s necessary to hire outside creative help for the project that you have in mind. A headshot for your newsletter and a photo for a magazine advert have two different requirements. Try and do as much as possible yourself, within reason of course
- Your business cards can be an affordable and memorable marketing tool so don’t overlook this
- If you want an online presence there are tons of free platforms that you can use to design a basic website
Implementation and Control
This is the part where you give yourself timelines and deadlines. Define what needs to be done and by when so that you can monitor progress and make any necessary changes. Some of the areas that you can monitor are customer satisfaction, repeat business and the cost of acquiring new business.
Marketing Plan Resources
If you feel that you want more information on developing marketing strategies and devising a plan here are some useful links:
- Download a free marketing template
- (Video) Tips for building a great marketing plan
- Topsy – Search and analyse the social web
- Survey Monkey – Create online surveys and polls
- Access sector stats and trends on the DTI website
- Access South African white papers and reports from the SA Government website
Ask These 3 Questions To Determine Where To Spend Your Marketing Budget
Stretching your marketing budget is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing rands to stretch.
As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So, if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know.
First, great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different.
For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention.
3 Questions that Cut Through the Clutter
Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.)
1. In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns
It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: 10% of your audience will buy, 10% won’t and 80% will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80%, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly.
2. If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly
(This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market.
3. If you already have an audience, turn them into super-fans who will bring their peers into your universe
Identify previous buyers and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process.
Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.
Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?
How do you market your company to this generation?
According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.
They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.
So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?
1. By being transparent
Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.
Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs
Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.
Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.
2. By offering options
A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.
That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.
3. By being forward thinking
We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.
On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.
1. By being transparent
As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.
2. By offering options
Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.
Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.
Related: The Z Generation
3. By being forward thinking
They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.
The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.
Free Sample Marketing Plan Template
You don’t need an MBA to write a marketing plan for your business. While no two businesses are alike, all solid marketing plans need to provide specific information. Use this sample marketing plan template to get you started on the right foot and cover all the essential information.
Your marketing plan should provide a comprehensive blueprint of the business, its market and associated market activity, its position in the market, target and expected customers, offerings, competition, solutions and contingency plans.
Using a sample Marketing Plan Template can save you a lot of time in creating your own marketing plan.
Download a Sample Marketing Plan Template
Use the free templates below to help make sure you’ve covered all the important bits:
Recommended Marketing Reads:
- Smart Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
- Mega Guide to Online Marketing
- Marketing Toolbox for the Entrepreneur
- The Ultimate Marketing Tool Library for Entrepreneurs
Business Ideas Directory1 week ago
20 Innovative Business Ideas Doing Well Overseas (That Could Make You Money In SA)
Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs2 weeks ago
How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape
Entrepreneur Profiles2 weeks ago
30 Top Influential SA Business Leaders
Women Entrepreneur Successes1 day ago
Alphabet Soup Founder Nikki Lewin Discusses How They Compete With The Big Boys
Entrepreneur Profiles2 weeks ago
Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)
Women Entrepreneur Successes1 day ago
Erna Basson Of Erabella Hair Extensions On Acting The Part And Finding The Gap
Entrepreneur Today1 week ago
Nedbank Brings Silicon Valley’s Plug And Play To Africa In Disruption First For The Continent
Lessons Learnt2 weeks ago
6 Habits Long-Time Millionaires Rely On To Stay Rich