7 Simple Steps to Creating a Strategic Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

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People like your product or service and they’re telling their friends about it. You’re getting repeat business from existing customers. You’re doing okay, but sales aren’t growing as fast as you’d like. You know you need to expand your reach. Someone recently told you, “All you need to do now is build and implement a strategic marketing plan.”
But what the heck is that? You’re an entrepreneur, not a marketer. You don’t know how to build any kind of marketing plan, let alone a strategic one. It’s all very scary.
We know how you feel; we’ve been there. So here are 7 specific steps to help you design, build, implement, and maintain a strategic marketing plan which will reach the right people at the right times in the right ways.
First of all, let’s explain the strategic concept. All this means is that your plan needs to:
• Be well thought out
• Coordinate across multiple platforms
• Appeal to your customers
• Stay fresh
• Be easy to maintain
Here’s how to get started and keep moving.
1. Review your Mission and Goals
This should be part of the Business Plan you put together when you started your business. Dust off that section, take another look, and modify if/as needed. Does it still feel right? Maybe get someone else to take a look at it and give you feedback.
2. Reexamine your company’s personality
As an individual, you have your own unique personality. In order to be authentic, your company’s image, values, and interactions must match yours. Do they still sync up? Is there anything you want to change?
Once you have reaffirmed your company’s personality, think about how you want to project that personality so your potential customers will know it’s a good fit for them.
3. Take another look at your competition
We all operate in a crowded marketplace. Lots of other companies have products and services which appear at first glance to be comparable to yours. How will you stand out from the crowd? What are your Key Differentiators?
Perform a SWOT Analysis on your company and its offerings. Once you’ve identified your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, you’ll have a good idea how to communicate to your customers that you are in the best position to meet their needs.
Now that you’ve set the stage, you’re ready to ask yourself a few key questions.
1. WHO are your target customers?
Describe them in terms of demographics or groups such as age, gender, geography, education level, interests, profession and family status.
2. HOW do they want to be marketed to?
It doesn’t matter how you want to do your marketing. It only matters how your target customers want to receive your marketing messages. No matter how much you like Instagram, if your customers spend 2 hours per day on Facebook and don’t have an Instagram account, well… you’re going to have to use Facebook to reach them. Jot down some thoughts on where your target customers live and play online. Which will lead you to…
3. WHICH marketing channels or platforms are you going to use?
Pick the top three to focus on for now. Start with the one you personally prefer so you’ll be excited and insightful. Start thinking in terms of three posts per week for each channel. Does that seem like a lot? Don’t worry; you can reuse a lot of them material across different platforms.
4. WHAT do you want to say to your potential customers or clients?
Now read through the first three points again. Craft compelling messages or short stories which highlight your personality, purpose, and differentiators. Help your customers see your value proposition. Reinforce to them that you can solve their problems.
Just make sure you do it subtly. Don’t shout out your message. Be tactful, respectful, and polite.
A good rule of thumb is to make each message at least 70 percent about them, not about you. Talk to them about things they’re interested in. Help them with their daily lives. Suggest ways they can be happier. If you run out of ideas, look at the messages from companies you admire. Research your successful competitors. Look up something new on Wikipedia and think about how it relates to your customers.
As you start implementing your new plan, think about how you can evaluate the success of your efforts. Which things are working and need to be expanded? Which things aren’t working and need to be modified or replaced? Again, get good honest input from friends, family, and business mentors.
You can do it!

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Ed Weiser of SCORE Central Oregon

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