Building a Marketing Plan

It’s that time again, when many of us make personal resolutions to get in better shape, read more books or take up yoga. For business owners, it’s a great time to make a resolution to build or refine a marketing plan that grows your businesses. 

A marketing plan is a key component to making your business grow. Whether you’re the marketing director for a multi-national corporation or an owner/operator of a local business, the fundamentals are the same: identify your priorities, target your audience and strategize your plan.

Identify your goals and priorities
The first step to a successful marketing plan is to identify specific goals and priorities that you want to accomplish. The easiest way to begin is by looking back on last year’s financials for potential growth opportunities. 

The more specific you can be with your goals the better. Marketing is more effective when the strategy and intentions are well defined. For example, a restaurant owner may determine that evening and weekend business is strong, but notice a lack of weekday lunch crowds. Assuming the owner has the appropriate value proposition (right menu, right price, access to customers), he or she may choose to focus on growing the lunchtime part of the business.

Further analysis may determine an opportunity for starting a catering side of the business, a second priority for growth. The vague goal of wanting to do more business in the new year is now replaced with the specific goals of growing a catering business to $75,000 and increasing lunch business by 20%. Fun fact: growing a business 20% a year makes it more than double in just four years.

Don’t worry that you’re pigeonholing your marketing efforts – there’s always spillover on any campaign to a broader audience – but starting with focused messaging against focused objectives is most effective. With these two priorities and goals taken care of, let’s move to the second stage of the marketing plan: targeting your audience.

Target your audience
Go back to the weekday lunch growth example. You, the restaurant owner, now need to target an audience. Depending on the type of restaurant and its location, you need to know who to talk to.

Can you turn tables quickly and get customers back to work in under an hour? Then you may want to target office workers, if you’re in the right area. Are you a formal, two-glasses-of-wine-with-lunch restaurant located in an affluent suburb? If so, then you would target an entirely different audience. The strategies and messaging used to reach both audiences vary greatly based on your choices. 

Strategize your plan
With pre-determined goals and audiences, you’re now ready to build your plan. Start by taking an honest assessment of your skills, time availability and budget. Do you understand how to use social media? Better yet, do you have the time to make regular updates? Do you have design skills? Do you know how and where to get something printed and mailed to your target market? While it may be cost effective to do it yourself, it no doubt takes time away from running your business. It may be best to seek professional assistance. 

Whatever you do, make sure it’s targeted and consistent. Like New Year’s resolutions, they’re most effective when executed consistently and at a pace that can last all year long.