Sure-fire marketing plan in eight easy steps

If you’re serious about getting the best value you can for your marketing budget, you’ll need to develop a marketing plan. Below we outline eight simple steps for making your marketing efforts more effective.

1. Know your customers

Firstly, you need to identify your target market. You probably have an idea of who buys from you but make sure you:

  • Define your target market in detail.
  • Write down who your target market is.

For example, if you run a restaurant in a commercial area, your target market could be workers in nearby offices and people passing by on foot. Take advantage of this by advertising with a local focus.

Spend time finding out about your customers’ preferences and habits, to help you focus your promotions more effectively. To get the best return on your investment, look at the way your message is structured, worded and designed – and where and when you advertise.

2. Study your market

Market research is an effective way to help find out about your target market. Conduct online or in-store surveys, or simply ask customers for feedback when you see them in your shop.

Ask questions such as:

  • Why do you purchase from us?
  • What could we do better?
  • What additional products or services would you like us to offer?

Your customers’ responses will highlight what works well and will help you attract more purchasers. This feedback can also help improve the service you offer – and encourage positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Show that you’re listening and improving where you can, and you’ll gain greater customer loyalty.

3. Identify your competitors

Find out who your direct competitors are – and gather as much detailed information about them as you can. Try:

  • Visiting their websites.
  • Reviewing their advertising and promotions leaflets.
  • Observing their relative strengths and weaknesses.

If you want consumers to differentiate between you and your competitors, come up with a fresh marketing and advertising approach. Your competitors’ weaknesses will present opportunities for you to market your points of difference.

4. Determine your competitive advantage

Sit down with your staff, advisers and mentors to brainstorm the best competitive advantage for your business. Your competitive advantage can be anything that sets you apart from your competitors in your target market – such as price, service, or location.

It should be something that:

  • Makes you stand out from the crowd.
  • Exploits a gap in the market that your competitors haven’t thought about.
  • Suits your business and the current market condition.
  • Is important to your target customers.

After you’ve worked out your competitive advantage, use it in all your marketing. Ensure that your competitive advantage is clear in any customer communication.

5. Create a promise

A promise helps clarify what the most important aspect of your business is to your customers. You want the customer to value your promise, or guarantee.

For example, if you offer a product or money-back guarantee, you need to stand by these assurances. Your customers will find out if you can’t stand by your promise and they’ll quickly lose trust in you and your business. You’ll also run the risk that they’ll warn their friends not to buy from your business.

6. Make it simple to do business

Ensure it’s easy for your customers to interact with your business. They want to have enjoyable experiences regardless of what product or service you’re selling. Exceptional service is one area that should be non-negotiable. Also consider the following:

  • Is your business easy to find and is there sufficient parking?
  • Does someone always answer your business phone promptly?
  • Can people get the answers and information they need?
  • Is it easy for customers to purchase from you?

7. Build a reliable brand

It’s vital you develop an integrated marketing strategy that makes sure all your promotions, advertisements, and marketing communications convey the same unified brand message and consistent brand values.

Also, make sure you maximize the opportunity to cross-market your message. For example:

  • Mention your website in your email signature.
  • Market your social media presence on your website.
  • Use your various social media platforms to cross-market content effectively.

8. Evaluate your marketing and update your plans

Measure the return on investment on all your marketing efforts and update your marketing plans based on what works and what doesn’t – for your business, your market conditions, and your customers.

Some returns are easy to quantify, like the number of sales or the value of sales generated from an advert or promotion. Others are harder to put a value on, like the number of followers gained on social media or the number of visitors to your website. Some are a lot more difficult to measure, like customers’ perceptions or increased brand awareness.

Marketing experts will be able to advise you on the best ways to measure the hard-to-quantify parts of your marketing plan – and will help you improve your efforts for maximum results.