Why Do I Need a Marketing Plan?

First, you will need to have a strong desire to be successful because all successful companies have a well planned and executed marketing plan. Many components comprise their marketing plans and they may vary depending upon whether you are a B2B company, B2C company, a manufacturer, a retailer, a service company, a reseller, a non- profit or other specialty business.

Marketing Research will be the first component for your marketing plan. You may be doing this in house or you may elect to hire a top marketing agency, a marketing consultant, or maybe a specific marketing research firm. You need to obtain and capture all data about your business along with your products and services to help you properly facilitate any potential marketing problems. You may also be able to get some marketing data from an industry trade association or from other businesses within your specific industry.

Most of your marketing research will fit into 5 or 6 categories: Surveys, Focus Groups, Interviews, Observations, Secondary Research, or Experiments/Field Trials. We will not go into specifics for each research category on this particular blog.

Regardless of the marketing research methods that are used, you need to uncover who your customers are or will be, you need to uncover what the demand is for your products or services, you need to know every competitor in the marketplace, and you need to know the market share for each company in your industry categories.

Once you have completed your marketing research, you will then be ready to start developing your marketing plan. We will discuss marketing plan components that will fall more general in scope as opposed to focusing on a specific niche category for a business.

  1. You will need an Executive Summary to give a brief synopsis to summarize your marketing plan contents.
  2. You will need to define your goals and objectives. We always encourage companies to make their goals S.M.A.R.T. which means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive with dates attached. Most goals are calculated on an annual basis. However, the more ambitious owners or executives will look ahead at 3, 5, and 10 year goals as well. And if you are in Japan, you will be setting 100 year goals.
  3. You will need to develop or define important information about your company. In your business plan, you should have developed a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, and a Culture Statement. If you did not develop these three items, you must create them immediately before continuing onward. It is vitally important that everyone knows about and buys in to these three company statements with all employee staff so that every person inside the business will communicate these items correctly to all external people outside of the business. You want their belief and confidence as high as the owners or top executives.
  4. You need to know everything obtainable about your customers. This list will get you started. You will need their age, sex, marital status, income levels, education levels, geographic locations, where they shop, if they go to church, if they have kids, ages of children, political affiliation, what they like about your company, what they don’t like, why they shop with you, what they value about your products/services, what they like the most/least about products/services, and whether prospects are unaware of your brand or products/services. Customers want you to know certain things about them and if you do, they will remain loyal to you as you take time to know them.
  5. You must know your competition in and out. Keep your friends close, but keep your competitors closer. You need to know all the things that you learned about your customers except fill in the blank for each competitor on all of those above items. Learn how you are the same/ different. Learn the similarities/differences about each product and service you offer. Learn how they sell or promote their products /services.
  6. You need to define your location with a description of all advantages and disadvantages. I would include the operating hours and scheduling in this section.
  7. You must develop a unique selling point for your business. You will need to provide details about every product/service that you provide and give their features/benefits/values.
  8. You need to itemize your budget with breakdowns for advertising and promotions. Include any design, development for needed materials to facilitate the marketing. List the media outlets that will be used to execute your marketing plan and break out the online, social, e-mail marketing, e-brochures/e-catalogs, TV, print, radio, PR, tradeshows, sponsorships, philanthropic partnerships, direct-mail, telemarketing, and other outlets. I would also identify which components that will be completed in house and whether you will have an outside agency to help with your media buying and planning.
  9. You will need to develop your pricing strategies for all of your products and services. Do you want to be higher or lower versus competitors? Do you plan to include labor/overhead/materials in costs? Be sure to list your pricing strategy for each product or service

A comprehensive marketing strategy will ensure your success because it will tell you how to obtain and keep customers, how to compete in your marketplace, and what resources you will use to achieve your goals and objectives.

Marketing Plan Schedule Implementation – Scheduling Your Home Business Workload

Marketing plan schedules are important in any business, and a home business is no exception. In fact the way that you implement a marketing plan schedule is even more important with a home based business, either one that you run by yourself or with only your family, simply because of the limited number of people actually doing the work! So here we take a look at the best way to plan your marketing schedule for every week, and also look at the websites and services you should be using.

Your marketing plan schedule should ideally fit in around your work and family commitments, yet still leave plenty of time to adequately complete all of the tasks you need to each day, week in week out. Of course in the real world that is easier said than done, and it sounds great when you read it in an article, but how do you actually implement such a schedule?

Firstly you need to start by taking a moment to analyze your day to see when you have quiet periods of time that you can actually get some work done without being interrupted. It’s no good starting a complicated task if you are not going to have the free time to finish it without being called upon to do something else.

You actually need to do this for every day of your week, so that you can see what free time you have available, as it is likely some days will be busier than others. If you are still working whilst running your own home business, then your days off will contain the most free time available to you and the days you have in work will contain the least, obviously.

A smart marketing plan schedule will allow you to do most of your work on your days off, and some of your promotional work should be setup to automatically complete whilst you are in work. This will give a more consistent feel to your promotional efforts, and will help to avoid the feeling that you absolutely must get something done even after a hard days work, because you will already have done it in advance when you had the chance!

To better visualize your marketing plan schedule we will take my own personal schedule as an example. This schedule was originally based upon my 4 days on 4 days off shift pattern in work, giving an interesting 8 day week plan (8 day weeks previously only existing in Beatles songs) which had the added benefit of my work never appearing in the same place on the same day each week. This meant people could not simply visit once per week for content, they would have to visit more often than that to find my updates.

I would do most of my promotional work (things such as writing blog posts, articles, press releases, classified ads etc.) on my 4 days off, and schedule as much of it as possible to be posted during my 4 days on. This would have the appearance of me working away and being consistent despite the twelve hour shifts, and look to all as though there was a constant stream of content coming from my website.

My marketing plan schedule worked quite well for me, at least as long as I stuck to it, which was until circumstances changed beyond my control, and yours will work well for you provided you implement a schedule you can actually stick to, hence the earlier reason for analyzing quiet periods in each day of the week. So do this now before reading any further!

In this section of the article we will look at the websites and services you should be using. Which service you use, and even the particular day that you use them is entirely up to you. No doubt there is extensive research on the particular day of the week to complete certain tasks, but that is beyond the scope of this article. You can always adapt your schedule later if you experience better results on different days for the individual tasks in hand.

Adapting my marketing plan schedule to your own.

(Please note the difference between the major tasks and the minor tasks as we go through my schedule below. A major task, for me at least, was one that required more time and research to complete, the minor task version was one that could be done without any research at all and on only a moments notice)

FIRST DAY ON

On my first day on I would look into posting a Yahoo answer (a minor task). For those that don’t know Yahoo answers are a wonderful place to post questions others can answer usually in minutes. The fact that they can answer them in minutes is excellent, because this means that Yahoo answers gets indexed by the search engines very quickly indeed. You can get links back to your own website once you get enough points built up by answering questions. You can also get quite a lot of traffic this way, provided your answers are good enough.

The truly great thing about Yahoo answers is the fact that it is usually placed very highly in the search engine positions if individual keywords matched. So if you work it well enough, you can get your answers to be displayed at the top of Google for a search, and get most of the people that find your answer over to your website! Yahoo answers should be part of any successful marketing plan schedule implementation strategy.

In addition to Yahoo answers I would also send out an email through AWeber (another minor task) to my email subscribers. The AWeber email archive page is indexed by the search engines, is a good source of traffic in itself and also helps to improve the positions of pages linked to it from there. The email could be about anything I was planning to do with my website or other announcements. Sending out a simple email and answering one question doesn’t take up much time, and so that’s the reason for including it on a busy work day.

SECOND DAY ON

On my second day I would upload a video to YouTube (another minor task). Usually the video was largely completed on one of my days off and simply needed some tweaking before uploading. YouTube is an excellent source of traffic and the videos are again indexed extremely quickly. Commenting on videos was another quick and easy way of getting traffic over from popular videos.

Additionally I would also make a small post on the Yearn2earncash.com blog (another minor task). This would be nothing special, often only something as simple as stating the fact I had uploaded a new video to YouTube, and rewriting the description of the actual video slightly. The reason for making small posts is to keep the search engines robots coming back to the blog as often as possible. (By the way, always use free services to “Ping” your blog, unless your blog already automatically uses ping services like WordPress.org self hosted blogs do)

Again both the uploading of YouTube videos and posting of small blog posts are something that could be done even after a busy day in work.

THIRD DAY ON

On my third day on I would create a classified ad (another minor task), usually through Craigslist and also a website called USFreeads. The search engines really like classified ads and they index them very quickly. They can be a very good source of traffic; they get placed quite highly in the search engines results, and are really quite easy to write. Choose good keywords as your ad title.

FOURTH DAY ON

On my fourth day (the last of my 4 on, 4 off work schedule) I would simply find some do follow blogs to comment on (another minor task, with the right software). For those that don’t know do follow blogs give you SEO benefit, and so they are they best blogs to comment on. If you comment on blogs then make sure that you don’t spam them, simple leave normal helpful comments on subjects you are interested in. In addition to getting SEO credit from do follow blog comments you can also get some traffic if your comment is good enough and helpful enough.

Additionally on my fourth day I would create another short blog post, usually just about how good one of the other do follow blogs was, or something I had just discovered on one of them. Again, just something quick and easy would do to get the search engine robots back to the blog.

So now we are halfway through my own personal marketing plan schedule, and hopefully you are now well on your way to implementing your own schedule. This is where the work really starts though; because once I was on my 4 days off I had to really start creating the work in order to have some that could be scheduled to post even on the next set of work days!

FIRST DAY OFF

On my first day off I would write an article (a major task), usually to be posted on EzineArticles although occasionally posted on Isnare for massive article distribution. Although articles have become slightly less important in the search engines eyes of late, they should still form a major part of any successful marketing plan schedule implementation strategy. They still draw a lot of traffic over to the websites linked to from them.

Not being the best writer in the world I would find writing the article to be somewhat time consuming, due to the amount of research often required, and it was for the best that I did this on a day off.

SECOND DAY OFF

On my second day off I would research and create my main weekly YouTube video (a major task – lesser ones can be created and uploaded anytime, but I always like one important one each week) plus make a forum post (another major task, requiring some research on the subject matter). The forum used was often warrior forum, although any popular one will do.

The warrior forum is perhaps the most important forum for internet marketers and can be an excellent source of traffic. I have also noticed some good SEO benefit from having links coming from forum posts and signature links, and so ideally you should use more than one forum. Google really approves of forums, and the posts get placed quite highly in the search engines results. So always make time for forum posts in your marketing plan schedule.

Additionally I would make another small blog post, this time a rewrite of my forum post answer so that I could effectively use the same content twice, but hopefully get even more traffic by implementing different keywords.

THIRD DAY OFF

On my third day off I would write a press release (a major task, not so much because it required any research as such, but mostly because it really requires writing in the “third person” – which was a skill I never really got the hang of). I have only ever used PRlog for my press releases because I have been amazed by the speed with which traffic was generated by them. I had hundreds of views very quickly (within minutes for my best efforts!) and could get indexed by the search engines quickly too.

Given that press releases can now contain images and also videos they should be the most important factor in the implementation of your marketing plan schedule. If you are prepared to pay for it, you can even have the extra feature of keyword anchor text in the links back to your website – One of the most vital link types you can get.

Again writing press releases for me was time consuming, and so best left to one of my days off.

FOURTH DAY OFF

On my fourth day off (my last day off work, sadly) I would create my major blog post. This would be the most important blog post of the week, and would contain the sum of my discoveries and experiences online during the week. It would also contain any announcements I wanted to make to my visitors. As Google loves blogs you absolutes must have one and post to it regularly, regardless of the home business you have or the type of content you plan on posting.

Thus completes my marketing plan schedule. It is important to note that although some tasks were only mentioned once per week, they were actually repeated more often than that. For example, my yahoo answers postings were sometimes made more often than once per week. The schedule above was only the minimum number of times I would do it per week. Often I would try to post on yahoo answers more often than that, but never less.

Additionally as partly mentioned earlier in the article you should note the minor tasks. For example I would create small blog posts as often as I liked, even every day if I felt like it, provided I had made one at least every other day that was fine. I also made smaller YouTube videos that required no research and simply contained my reactions to something that had happened that day. Provided I made at least one major YouTube video in the week, again that was just fine.

In the implementation of your marketing plan schedule you must attempt to reach a happy balance between not getting enough done, and having so much on your schedule for the day that you feel overwhelmed and decide not to do anything! Try simply to create a minimum schedule of work that contains all of the tasks you want done each day/each week, and then do more if time allows.

One good option would be to print out copies of your marketing plan schedule so that you can tick off completed tasks each day, then after the week is complete start again on another copy. Better still, have a whiteboard so that you can write on it and wipe it off after the week is complete.

The final area to be covered is the sharing of your own content through social media. I would share through Facebook and twitter all of my posted content from the week before. I would also click on the Facebook like button, and any other sharing buttons available in order to get more of my marketing content out there. You should be sure to share your own content through as many networks as possible, usually a week later in order to give it time to be scheduled, indexed and seen by a few people. Plus that avoids the issue of having all of the same subject matter appearing in your status updates in the same few days.

Now its time for you to implement your own marketing schedule. Whatever work schedule you have simply adapt my plan schedule above to suit and use all of the mentioned websites and services, plus as many more as you have time for. Get going!

Why Your Small Business Needs a Professional Marketing Plan

Many small business owners know that they need to promote their businesses – in other words, they know they need to be doing marketing activities of some sort. Yet choosing the right mix of activities seems like an impossible task. Should they focus on building a new website? Running ads in the local newspaper? Sending out direct mail or email, or perhaps posting to social media?

Even if a business owner chooses a few activities to try, often they’re not sure when or how often to run those ads, send out the emails, or mail postcards. Understanding small business marketing and developing an action plan often feels overwhelming for a small business owner. Combine that overwhelm with time pressures and the limited budget of a typical small business and you suddenly understand why few actually have a written marketing plan in place.

What’s so important about having a written marketing plan in place? Why can’t you just sit down with your staff and come up with a few ideas, then go out and use them to promote your business?

You can certainly sit around the table and brainstorm ideas, but without a written plan, how many of those ideas will actually be carried through to completion? And if you do have several ideas you need to choose among for your activities, how do you sort and weigh them to understand which promotional idea can potentially yield the best return on investment? Who is going to actually create the promotion, make sure it is placed or mailed on time, and then follow up to count the responses to see whether or not it was worth it?

As you can see, there’s a lot to know and remember when you’re planning your small business marketing. That’s where a marketing plan and a professional marketing consultant can help.

A marketing plan created by a professional marketing consultant who knows and understands the unique challenges that your small business faces may focus on several key areas. These areas may include goal setting for your business, understanding the business and competitive environment, defining the products you’re selling and the messages to share about them, and then creating a marketing strategy and action plan (tactical plan or marketing mix) to direct your activities in a focused and measurable way.

I’ve seen some great marketing plans that were detailed and creative, but they sat on a shelf and gathered dust. Why? Because they weren’t focused on action! A marketing plan without an action plan and clearly defined tactical steps is like a scientific research report; rich with information but offering little practical value. Small businesses don’t need a research report – they need a focused, clear action plan.

There’s a balance between the background information that informs the action steps a small business should take and a tactical-only plan that focuses solely on the promotional methods. As a business owner, you have to know and understand the marketplace forces, your customers, what you’re selling and the advantages you have before you roll out any promotional campaigns. Yet most business owners focus solely on the promotional aspect because it makes them feel like they’re finally taking action and getting some marketing steps accomplished. Action without strategy, planning and forethought, however, can lead to missed opportunities and wasteful spending as you put money into marketing activities that may not reach your customers nor communicate the messages that will resonate with them. And marketing activities without some sort of assessment or tracking can lead to wasteful spending. If you don’t know how many new customers you have reached or how many sales you achieved from your promotion, how do you know it was worthwhile?

Before spending more money on your current marketing activities, take a moment and consider what it would take to have a professional create a marketing plan for your business. With a professional marketing plan in place and someone to coach you through the activity steps, you may have a better chance at achieving your goals, attracting new customers, and selling more. And in the end, isn’t that the result you want from your marketing programs?