Create a Powerful Marketing Plan For Your Small Business

The marketing planning process need not be complex – it is simply a logical approach to looking at your business and its environment, deciding on your marketing objectives are and then deciding the marketing programs that need to be created to ensure that those objectives are met.

Marketing has been given many different definitions. It is sometimes confused with promotion – or even sales. It is neither. Marketing is concerned with the management of the ‘marketing mix,’ in other words the following: (sometimes referred to as the 4 Ps)

  • Price – how much you are selling the product or service for
  • Product (or service) – what you are designing, developing, manufacturing, providing and selling
  • Place (or channel strategy) – which channels you are using to sell your product or services (e.g. are you selling direct to customers over the Internet or are you selling through a retailer or other third party)
  • Promotion – what methods are you using to communicate what it is that you do to your market. This includes packaging, sales, brochures, exhibitions, advertising, direct mail, Internet marketing etc

Marketing planning is a creative process based on the solid analysis of your business and its environment. It also requires you to think about the future. We don’t know what is going to happen in the ‘invisible’ future – but there are things in the ‘visible’ future that we can take account of.

The Marketing Audit

Before developing a marketing plan, the first step is the marketing audit. In its simplest terms this means reviewing the marketing that you have done up until now to determine how effective it has been – preferably in quantitative terms. This information will give you practical guidance as to where to place your valuable resources in the future.

The SWOT Analysis

The first step in the process is to do a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats or SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis, is an easy to remember and simple process. There are two main aspects of the SWOT – the inward looking, i.e. what are the strengths and weaknesses of your business, and the outward looking, i.e. what are the opportunities and threats coming from outside your business.

Strengths might include company reputation, quality of employees, marketing skills, on-line presence, social media footprint. Threats might include new legislation or regulations, a new competitor, cost of fuel or raw materials

The analysis is best done by a group of people.The ‘brainstorming’ technique is useful. Every idea is written down – preferably where everyone in the group can see it, WITHOUT editing. No matter how seemingly stupid the idea, write it down. You can always go back and edit after the brainstorming session is over. Brainstorming techniques can be applied to all of the creative and analytical phases of the marketing planning process.

The PEST Analysis

Another useful technique when preparing marketing plans is the ‘PEST’ analysis. PEST is an acronym for:

  • Political and Legal
  • Economic and demographic
  • Social and cultural
  • Technology

And how each of these factors may affect your business. It is another way to help you think about the environment in which your business operates. It may be helpful for you to use this analysis when working on the opportunities and threats part of the SWOT analysis. For example, a future legal change may result in you having to pay greater costs in order to meet new regulations. Demographic changes may result in a population shift to your part of the country. This may result in more customers and hence, potentially more business.

Setting marketing objectives

Before embarking on a journey to is usually a good idea to have some idea of where you are heading. The same is true for marketing planning. Before setting marketing objectives you need to know the overall objectives for your business. This could be a certain level of profitability or volume of sales. To meet this business objective will involve a number of different activities within you business including: production, customer service, finance, and marketing.

Marketing objectives are what you are aiming to achieve through the marketing plan in order to meet the overall business objectives. Marketing objectives fall into four categories as follows:

  • Existing products or services in existing markets (penetration)
  • New products or services in existing markets (product development)
  • Existing products or services in new markets (market extension)
  • New products and services in new markets (diversification)

Marketing objectives should always be quantifiable, for example, sell a certain amount of product to existing customers (market penetration) or achieve a certain market share in a new market (market extension).

The Product or Service Lifecycle

All products have, what is called in ‘marketing speak’, a product or service lifecycle. The lifecycle describes the natural process by which a new product is introduced, is gradually accepted, sells well for a while and is then gradually superseded before, potentially, being phased out.

The product life cycle is a useful concept to consider when reviewing your product or service set (product/service portfolio). It is important to consider where a product is on the lifecycle in order to set marketing objectives and appropriate marketing programs. For example, if a product is in the introduction phase it may be appropriate to spend more on promotion than for a product in decline.

Set marketing strategies

Marketing objectives are concerned with what you would like to achieve, marketing strategies are how you are going to try and achieve these objectives.

Having set the strategies, individual marketing tactics will be created in the form of specific marketing programs. The difference between the marketing strategy and marketing tactics can be illustrated as follows. A valid marketing strategy would be to create an exhibition program in a new market. The tactic associated with this strategy would be a specific exhibition, the dates, logistics, size of trade show booth, and promotional events surrounding the exhibition.

The following are some of your marketing strategy options:

Price

When you first think about pricing your first inclination may be to apply a simple mechanism which adds a percentage to the cost of producing the product or providing the service, this is known as cost-plus pricing. This may be the best way of pricing your product, but you must also think about premium pricing. An expensive product may create an idea of prestige or luxury, irrespective of how much it cost to create the product. Branded perfumes and designer clothing labels fall into this category.

Other factors you will likely taken into account are the cost of competitor products and services together with the distribution costs that may need to be built into your pricing (for example, the amount you will need to pay your distributor).

Product

An area of enormous importance to be considered when you look at your products is the concept of the product and service portfolio. A portfolio implies that you are marketing more than one product or service. In actual fact, even if you only have one product, you will likely have at least one service offering connected to that product. In developing the tactical aspect of your marketing plan your need to analyze each product in turn.

Portfolio management involves managing the portfolio such that there is a balance between cash generated and cash required. It is important to visualize where products are likely to be in the future and how you can achieve those positions. For example, a new, but highly promising product has a low market share, but a high market growth rate.

Place

The channel strategy is your plan as to how you are going to get you product or service to market. It’s likely that you have already made some plans here. A business needs to find new and innovative ways in which you can gain the widest market coverage at the lowest cost. Options may include:

  • Setting up a distributor network
  • Finding ‘business partners’
  • Selling directly over the Internet
  • Creating retail outlets
  • Developing export markets
  • Find alliance partners
  • User new channels to market
  • Change delivery options

Promotion

Promotion is a highly creative process. You never really know which promotional method is going to be the most effective until you try it. The answer is to try different promotional methods and to measure and test each one’s effectiveness.

  • Marketers have the many methods at their disposal, including:
  • Internet marketing (both ‘organic’ Web site search engine positioning and PPC (Pay-per-click) Web advertising)
  • Social media marketing (e.g using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc)
  • E-mail marketing
  • Advertising (also known as ‘above the line expenditure.’)
  • Merchandizing
  • Sales – personal selling
  • Trade shows and exhibitions
  • Media relations (public relations – PR)
  • Direct mail
  • Network marketing
  • Branding

Conclusion

A marketing plan is not an end in itself, rather, it represents a process of examining and rethinking your business from a marketing perspective. By thinking through the issues you should get a greater appreciation of all the different marketing options as well as a few new ideas about things to try in your business.

Writing a Successful Marketing Plan

The key to any successful business is to have a business plan. Without a plan how do you know where you are going and what your goals are? The same can be said about a marketing plan. A good marketing plan will detail how you obtain clients and retain clients after the sale. The difference between a business plan and a marketing plan is a business plan is what you do and a marketing plan is how you get to do what it is that you do. If you don’t have a plan to obtain and retain clients how do you know where your sales are coming from? Here are a few tips to create a good marketing plan:

1. You must know your target market

Are you in the business to serve “everyone?” If you are, you may not be as successful as you would like to be. If you are constantly a catch-all for every type of consumer you will find yourself exhausted at the end of the day catering to every need of every consumer. Instead work smarter instead of harder. Take one or two target markets in your industry and focus on catering to their needs. Become an expert in that area and you will never have to wonder where the next sale is coming from.

2. You must know how you are going to reach your target market

Does your target market read the newspaper? Is there an industry publication that they subscribe to on a regular basis? Would direct mail help to get your name in front of your prospects? By doing some basic research on your target market’s buying habits and their needs you should be able to create an effective marketing campaign that will get your phone ringing in no time!

3. You must have a follow up plan after the sale closes

After the sale closes do you send out a Thank You card and hope the client will remember you enough to not only work with you, but also refer you to their friends and family? Business and profits are lost when you hope someone remembers you enough to work with you again. If you do not have a plan to consistently stay in front of your clients on a monthly basis you will be losing out on potential future business. Doing a good job for a client is expected, but don’t expect them to remember your phone number because of it. Stay in touch with your past clients; they are your greatest source of future profits.

4. You must implement the plan on a consistent basis

People want to hear from you, but they do not want to hear from you only when you have something to sell them. If you have done the work and are an expert in your target market cater your marketing to that group. Send them a newsletter of information that will be beneficial to them. Of course you can include that you are looking for their business, but don’t make that the sole purpose of every mailing. The key is to consistently implement a marketing plan that shows your clients you care about them after the sale. This helps continue the relationship long after the transaction is closed and it makes you referable.

5. You must measure your results monthly, quarterly and annually

Before you do any marketing determine what your goals are for your business and for your marketing efforts. Do you hope to receive 10 phone calls from a mailing with 1 new client from those phone calls? Then write it down and measure your results after you do a mailing. Ask clients and prospects when they call if they are calling because they recently received a marketing piece from you. Record this information and keep track of it on a regular basis. Set aside an hour every month and determine what is working and what isn’t working. Reevaluate your marketing records every quarter and every year to determine what is working and what isn’t working. When you are making your annual marketing plan the marketing records will guide you in preparing and implementing next year’s plan. Sometimes it can seem like your marketing isn’t working at all but in reality you haven’t kept track of the results so you don’t know if it is working. This is a great opportunity to determine where to spend your hard earned marketing dollars and to keep repeating a marketing effort if it has worked for you in the past.

By taking the time to do it right and create a marketing plan you can follow you should never have to wonder where your next sale is coming from!

Copyright 2010 Automated Marketing, Inc.

Investment Real Estate Marketing Plan – Putting Details Into Action

Marketing is one of the most important things a real estate investor can do to grow his business. It is also one of the areas that is easiest to make multiple mistakes. From failing to properly plan, failure to track your results and even worse, failure to control spending; marketing is fraught perils that beginning investors and long time investors alike must be aware and prepared to avoid.

There are 3 main areas of marketing to concentrate on when seeking to grow sales and revenues. The first is education, the second is planning and the third is tracking for adjustments and success. All three are important for investors to watch as they seek to grow sales and revenues and more importantly, build a business model that is sustainable through any real estate cycle.

EDUCATION

Educating yourself as a real estate investor and marketer is absolutely paramount if you are going to have success and grow your business. There is simply no excuse for not understanding the basics of each as they both are extremely important for the longevity and ability to stay relevant and profitable. Here a few examples of places to become educated on good marketing techniques for real estate investors.

1. Local Library – There may not be a better place to become educated on real estate marketing than the local library. Break the topic down into two subjects and you can have the basics down inside of a week. Under the real estate section there are multiple titles that explain the basics of real estate investing from beginner levels to expert levels. In addition, many of these books will give a basic outline of some simple marketing techniques and tools to get you started. When you combine that knowledge with a good Marketing 101 book from the library, you can quickly pick up the basic outline of why marketing must be done and how properly set up a marketing plan. The best part about an education from the library is the cost – practically free!

2. Real Estate Investment Clubs – Often times, these clubs are referred to in the industry as REIA’s. Associations of local real estate investors who come together several times a month to discuss topics relevant to real estate investing. These are great sources for so many things related to real estate investing, including marketing ideas and plans. By attending and immersing yourself into these groups, it is easy to develop friendships, partnerships and even mentors who can answer questions and provide guidance. By paying attention to what the top performers are doing in the field and how they are marketing their businesses, you can pick up ideas and integrate those ideas into your marketing plan. It is called modeling and it is one of the best ways to educate yourself on what is working in a particular real estate market. The biggest upside to becoming educated at a REIA is that you are surrounding yourself with the type of people that are going to be vital to your future success. The costs are usually very affordable and you can often avoid mistakes made by other investors before you.

3. Go it Alone – There probably does not need to be a tremendous amount of discussion under this heading. It speaks for itself and generally goes against all advice I could ever give any business person, especially a real estate investor. As far as education is concerned, it is an approach that many investors choose to take and often at a tremendous cost. Going it alone means deciding to jump into the deep end of the pool with both feet and learning as you go. Trial and error can be good and can sometimes lead to good results, but often after many hours and many ups and downs. Strictly looking at costs, many investors have experienced huge losses in the areas of marketing to learn what works in their particular market and often are a little behind the actual trends due to not properly learning to track and adjust.

My suggestion when it comes to education to use all the resources available including those that come with little to no costs. When you are becoming educated on how to set up a proper marketing plan complete with tracking and adjusting, then I would make sure I was a part of a local real estate investors association so that I am always up to date with the latest marketing techniques.

PLANNING

When I talk about planning and marketing, I mean to process of laying out the actual strategies you are going to use to market your business, the time frame you are going to use those strategies, the way you are going to track those results and the possible adjustments you are going to make as your results come in on your plan. One of the biggest mistakes that we see today in the real estate marketing world is not a complete failure to plan, but a failure to lay the full plan out from beginning to end. That being said, here are a few tips to properly develop a plan.

1. Know what you are currently doing and what results you are currently achieving. Even if the answer is that you are doing nothing, you can not work on where you are going if you do not know where you currently are starting from. You should be able to pinpoint today any marketing you are doing and the cost of that marketing as well as any results you are seeing.

2. Know what results you are looking for before you begin. So once you know where you are starting from, the next question is were are you going? Lay out concrete results you want to achieve and be specific. One of the glaring mistakes in this area is not being specific enough. You cannot track abstract goals. Your goals must be specific and detailed so that you can verify if you are achieving them. An example would be a specific number of new leads you want to bring in from each marketing source.

3. Give yourself set time frames to test your marketing. This is definitely the second biggest problem for real estate marketers and most marketers in general. Marketing plans must be given time to take shape and develop. Most real estate marketers are developing marketing plans which are call to action in nature. They are asking their target audience to take a particular action so that they can capture that action and develop a new lead. An example would be to “Call Today to Sell Your House Quick!”. This is a call to action marketing phrase. Often times, there will need to be multiple impressions of that message before the action is followed. Failing to plan a specific amount of time such as 60 days or 90 days, leads to a marketer stopping his action before his target audience responds. If you allow your plan to last longer and stick with all of your marketing pieces and techniques longer, you give yourself a greater chance for success in the long run. It allows for you to see over a longer period of time the results you are getting and that provides a clearer picture of what works and what does not work. DO NOT quit marketing after a couple of weeks simply because your phone is not ringing off the hook. Set your time period on the front end and then let your marketing plan work.

4. Failing to get input from other experts can be costly. If you have access to other real estate investors, I would definitely get their input on your marketing plan before implementation. If they are able to give you advice and direction it can often times help you to figure out the best route to take or at least if you are on track for success. If you have taken your time and all the steps necessary so far to put together a quality plan, then take advice from other experts, but do not be persuaded to change everything. Simply let others take a quick look for feedback, but be prepared to move forward with your plan and any adjustments they think would make a difference.

TRACKING

Tracking means having a way to actually follow and measure all of the marketing activities you are doing and the number of results each gets you. Here are some examples of the things that real estate marketers need to track for every marketing action they take.

1. What are the total number of leads generated per marketing technique tracked daily, weekly and monthly.
2. How many of those leads turned into qualified prospects daily, weekly and monthly. (qualified prospect means you were willing to invest more time to develop the lead)
3. The number of offers made to purchase property daily, weekly and monthly.
4. The ratios of offers made to where the original lead came from.

I am going to insert a quick note here to make sure everyone understands exactly how to track. It is not enough to simply know how many calls you are getting or how many leads are generated or how many offers or deals are being done. When you actually purchase an investment property, you MUST know where that lead came from at the very beginning. Tracking ratios is extremely important to this. It is important to be able to track and measure not only the leads but the quality of those leads. You can have one lead generator that gives you a majority of your leads and another that gives you a majority of your transactions. It should be obvious that you would want to spend more time and resources with the marketing technique giving your more transactions unless you are in the business to simply feel busy and not necessarily to earn a living!

5. What is the cost per lead generated, per marketing technique daily, weekly and monthly.

6. What is the average income generated from each transaction generated by each marketing technique daily, weekly and monthly.

When you are able to track your business in this way, it makes it much easier to make adjustments as you go and it definitely gives a clearer picture of how well you are spending marketing dollars. Often times, as legendary basketball coach John Wooden would say “we mistake activity for productivity” The entire reason for developing and implementing a proper marketing plan is so that we can determine what works, what does not work and what changes we need to make so that we are spending the fewest dollars possible for the greatest impact and result. If we fail to implement any part of this type of marketing plan, then whatever success we achieve cannot be measured against any activities and therefore cannot be duplicated.

I am a big proponent of education and immersion as the best learning tools available and I believe that when it comes to marketing, it is simply too easy to learn the proper way to plan and track. When you have the basics down and solid plan to follow, success will follow.