As a small business owner, do you often find yourself in a marketing role? Wondering how to solicit new prospects, engage your existing customers, increase sales, promote your business? This can be challenging even if you have a clearly outlined plan. But, many of the clients I have come across neglect to even develop a plan or strategy!
How can you track where you’ve been or where you’re going if you never make a plan? The success of any business hinges on its marketing strategy. Without developing a thorough marketing strategy, you open the door to start marketing and even operating inefficiently. It’s like you’re completely shooting in the dark and hoping to hit something. This is a waste of time and resources. Rather than throwing away your limited marketing dollars by experimenting with something that you think might work, take the time to develop a marketing strategy that is well though out, easy to implement and measurable.
So you’re asking, “Uhhh, where do I begin?” One method I use is called “SWORCH,” which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Risks, Competition and History (marketing history, that is. What marketing have I done in the past that was successful or unsuccessful and why?). Research and analyze each of these aspects of your business and include the relevant information in your marketing plan. Your analysis will help you identify many of the elements of your business that impact how, when, where and to whom you market your business. This is not a quick process; it requires a commitment on your part to really research, analyze and articulate how these components define or impact your business.
Once you’ve done your SWORCH analysis. You can list and discuss the marketing tactics you’re considering. These might include developing or enhancing you brand, discontinuing a product, launching a website, planning a sales promotion, engaging in social media, etc. Each potential marketing tactic in your list should include the following:
Cost: How much will it cost me to implement this marketing tactic?
Target market: Who am I trying to reach exactly, and it this the appropriate tactic to reach this market?
Medium: What medium or channel do I use to accomplish this tactic (internet, print publication, in-store promotion) and is this an appropriate venue for reaching my target market?
Implementation: What are the specific steps you need to take to implement this tactic?
Timeline: What is the timeline to run/use this tactic? Are there benchmarks to measure results or make adjustments as you go?
Measurement process: How do I plan to accurately measure results and evaluate effectiveness?
Projected results: What are the reasonable results I am hoping to achieve with this marketing tactic?
Consider the cost/benefit of using each of your proposed marketing tactics. Once you complete this list you may find that it’s beneficial to prioritize your marketing tactics. Or, you may even find that some are not worth the time, cost or effort on your part because it won’t reach your target market, or the potential return on your investment is insignificant. On the other hand, some of your marketing tactics may be worth implementing immediately. Prioritize your list and set a clear implementation timeline and measurement process.
That’s pretty much it. Once you accomplish this, you have a real marketing strategy to guide you through your marketing efforts. If this is the first time you’re developing a marketing strategy, consider making it a 90-day plan rather than a 1-year or 3-year marketing plan. This way you can track progress in the short-term and use the data you gather over the 90-days to create a baseline for use in your next, longer-term marketing strategy.
Don’t be misled; developing a marketing strategy is not easy. It doesn't have to be super-hard though either. You just need to devote some time and effort to creating and adhering to your plan. Not having a strategy can lead to a gross waste of your time and resources. And I know, I know, you still need to focus on the day-to-day operations of your business. If you don’t think you have the time or energy to focus on developing your marketing strategy, Dow Creative Solutions, or another marketing professional can provide the help you need. Another option is to download a marketing plan template and work on it when you can over time. It seems like tedious administrative work – and it is, I guess – but it really will help direct and improve your marketing efforts.