A marketing plan is necessary for small businesses

A marketing plan is the written document that will help you effectively share what is great about your product or service.

When developing a marketing plan for your small business, there are seven steps that are imperative to the development of an effective document. 

Step 1: Understand your customer and what they want – not what they need.
Until you know who your customers are, and what motivates them, you can’t prepare an effective marketing plan. Don’t confuse “wants” with “needs.”  

Ask questions like:

  • How do my customers get products and/or services that I offer – in stores, on the internet, etc.?
  • What are my target customer’s primary reasons for purchasing this product or service?
  • What hobbies or habits do my customers have?

Step 2: Understand your customer – wait! Didn’t I mention that?
You need honest answers to many questions, including their opinions of the product or service you currently provide. You can ask them individually, use a survey or even ask a group of customers face-to-face questions. Also ask non-customers; they are in a good position to compare you to your competitors.

Step 3: Pick a niche.
If you believe your target customer is “everybody,” then nobody will be your customer. The marketplace is filled with competition. Carve out a specific niche based on your customer. Make sure it’s a niche you can easily reach and make sure you dominate that niche before you consider expanding.

Step 4: Develop your message.
Your marketing message says what you do and why you’re the best. You need two messages. One should be short and to the point – a 30 second response to the question, “So, what do you do?” The second message is more complete and included in all marketing materials.

To make your message believable and convincing, include:

  • An explanation of your target customer’s problem (or need)
  • An explanation about why you have the best solution to solve that problem
  • An explanation of the benefits people will receive from using your product or service
  • Examples and testimonials from past customers
  • Your unconditional guarantee  

Step 5: Choose your medium.
Your marketing medium is the tool you use to deliver your message. Choose a medium that gives the highest return on your marketing dollar. You want to deliver your marketing message to the most niche prospects at the lowest possible cost.

Consider websites, Facebook, newsletters and e-newsletters, newspaper, television and radio ads, posters, news releases, contests, gift certificates, charity events, local festivals, sales letters, flyers, business cards, catalogs, window displays, banners, billboards, signs and always … personal referrals!

Step 6: Set marketing goals.
Goals are critical to success. If you haven’t written your goals, you’re wishing for success.  Make your goals SMART:  Sensible, Measurable, Achievable,Realistic, and Time specific.

Step 7: Develop a marketing budget.
How much money is available? Detail all financial aspects and show how your plan will be profitable.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educators are available to work with individuals as well as communities.  For additional information on this and other issues including business and entrepreneurial development or community engagement and leadership development, contact Ann Chastain, MSU Extension educator at 231-348-1770 or by e-mail at chastain@msu.edu.

Did you find this article useful?