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5 Steps to the Perfect Practical Marketing Plan

  • Blog
  • 16 October 2015

Marketing needn't be something that worries small business owners. With a clear, simple and well thought-out plan, SMEs can market themselves effectively, even in crowded markets which include big-budget competitors. The trick lies in putting the right foundations in place and in executing your strategy.

5 Steps to the Perfect Practical Marketing Plan

Research and get the fundamentals in place

Carry out market research into your target market and typical customers, your competitors, the market in which you operate and any social, technological, economic, environmental and political influences that may have an effect on your business. Assess your product range and consider whether each product is growing, mature, or declining and whether or not it represents a profitable line of business for you.

By understanding which products are the most profitable for you, you can design your marketing strategy to focus on those with the greatest margin. Your strategy needn't be overly long, but it needs to be carefully considered and appropriate for your business. Ask your managers and other teams to review and input into it and hold a workshop to test thinking and stimulate fresh ideas.

As part of this document, create a positioning statement that defines where you are now, what your goals are, and how you plan to achieve them. Your plan will include a financial marketing budget and a plan that defines your year's campaigns and tactical activities. These are likely to include events, PR, print marketing, digital marketing and other related activities.

Set realistic goals

Gather analytics that measure your previous marketing activity and show which tactics were worthwhile and which were not. Consider your measures of success; some activities such as PR are harder to measure because they are more about brand building. E-marketing on the other hand tends to be easy to measure because the call to action is typically an immediate and online sign-up or purchase.

Plan the detail

Focus on the channels that work for you and don't waste time with those which are marginal. For example, rather than trying to set up multiple social media accounts across different platforms, invest in two that work for your business and devote time, skills and energy into developing them. Rather than creating endless leaflets and print flyers, create a carefully conceived set of materials that can be used with multiple customer groups across different scenarios. Rather than spend money on print advertising, consider digital advertising and PPC / SEO. Invest in your website and ensure that it is optimised for the best possible customer journey.

Auditing your channels

At the Federation of Small Businesses, our SME members tell us that social media is a hugely valuable tool that allows them to market effectively without needing a large budget. The other benefit of digital communication and marketing channels - whether social, a website or an app - is that you can access detailed analytics data that allow you to accurately measure how your tools are working, and how your customers are engaging with them. This compares favourably with some offline channels which are notoriously difficult to measure in terms of ROI; for example, print and PR.

The trick with effective marketing is to plan, review and refine your approach. Keep at it, refine, commit to continuous improvement and evolve. The results are there to be had.

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