Creating a Marketing Plan and Budget
STEP #1: DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you identify your marketing activities, take a moment to step back and ask some questions about where you are presently: Assess Your Current Business Situation Think critically about your business and what your present landscape is. Where are you located, and how does that affect your business? What are the services you provide, and how might they be the same — or different — than your competitors’? It might be helpful to write a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).
This is a great foundational tool for planning your overall strategy. Evaluate Your Current Marketing Initiatives Take the time to assess the marketing tactics you’re currently investing in.
How much time are you spending on them? What are the costs associated with those initiatives?
Have they had an impact on your sales numbers? The more you can compare your marketing to the revenue it’s helping to generate, the smarter the decisions you’ll be able to make. While marketing plays an important part in boosting sales, there are other ways to assess the success of your marketing efforts. If you find that your competitors are racing to copy your latest marketing campaign, it might mean your efforts are impacting their bottom line. Customer feedback may reveal that some parts of your marketing plan are reaching your target audience more than others.
Revisit Your Ideal Customer Profile
An ideal customer is one who gets their exact needs met by using the services you offer. One way to understand your ideal customer is to take a look at your current customer base. Are they business owners or homeowners? Do they belong to a particular demographic, or do they have specific traits?
What are their goals, and how does working with you help them reach those goals? How do they make their buying decisions? If you’re not sure about some of these answers, see if it’s possible to have a conversation with a few customers to get their insights. Asking them questions about what they need and how they felt about your services will help strengthen your marketing as a whole, because you can start to base your efforts on their challenges and pain points.
Research Your Competitors and Other Companies After you’ve looked at your own business efforts, it’s time to identify and evaluate your competitors.
Select a few of your direct competitors (ones who are targeting the same customer base) and a few indirect ones (who have similar services to you but may target a slightly different audience, or vice versa). Take a look at their websites, social media presence and online reviews. What are they doing well, and what could use improvement? Is there an industry trend or insight they’re talking about that you should also be focusing on because you have a perspective there?
It’s also important to note that marketing inspiration can — and should — come from various businesses, not just the ones that are similar to yours. When you see a company in a completely different industry doing something interesting, take note of it — it might be worth digging into.
STEP #2: PLAN YOUR EFFORTS
Now that you’ve done your research and evaluation, it’s time to make some decisions on the more tactical pieces of your plan: Set Your Marketing Goals To establish your marketing goals, you first need to think about the overall objectives for your business. If you’re a new business, your goal might be to grow brand awareness so that people learn about you and what you have to offer. Maybe you have a certain sales goal, or you’re hoping to reach a new audience with a new service. Once you land on those objectives, they can then be paired with specific, realistic and optimistic marketing goals that can help you get there. For instance, increasing brand awareness might mean launching a new website or increasing traffic to your existing one.
Decide on a Time Frame (and a Timeline) for Your Plan
It’s typically best practice to establish a yearlong plan for your marketing efforts, which could include smaller marketing campaigns throughout the year. Within that plan, it’s essential to scope out a timeline of when you’ll embark on specific tactics. It’s tough to do everything at once, and having a timeline ensures your marketing plan stays manageable — manageable plans have a better chance of staying the course.
Establish Your Marketing Budget
Deciding how much money to spend on marketing is a dilemma for many small businesses. You want to keep costs low as you grow, but you also need marketing to help with that growth. No matter your budget, it’s always good to have a full breakdown of your allocations, so you can be as specific as possible about how that money gets spent. Have a plan for tracking your budget throughout the year to ensure you stay on track.
Organize Tactics Within Your Sales Cycle
Your sales cycle is a series of steps that you perform to close business with a new customer. Typically, the stages of the sales cycle are prospecting, connecting, researching, presenting, closing and following up — and you’ll want to map your marketing tactics to each stage.
- For the prospecting and connecting stages, make sure you’re maintaining a consistent presence on your company’s social media profiles (you might even use paid promotion to target a specific audience with a post) and that your website is up to date.
- During the researching and presenting stages, build credibility by having a solid base of online reviews, case studies and success stories you can use in a sales presentation or on your website as well as testimonials and referrals to have a firsthand account of your services.
- When you’re closing and throughout follow-up, have a program or strategy in place for how you’ll capture referrals from your satisfied customers to aid in future marketing efforts.
STEP #3: LAUNCH AND MEASURE
After all the research and planning, it’s time to put your plan into action — and track the results of how each tactic performs. And because you likely didn’t get into construction because of your marketing expertise, know when you need support.
Test New Things
While it’s great to know what marketing tactics work well for your business, don’t be afraid to try new things here and there to learn what else works for you. If you haven’t thought about direct mail in years, you might consider sending a limited-run mailing to a specific neighborhood or demographic as a test. If you keep seeing ads from competitors in your social media feed, it may be time to experiment with a few promoted posts of your own. Staying the course with your plan is important, but make sure you’re budgeting a little time — and money — to seize an opportunity.
Track the Results
Track the performance of your marketing tactics to help you evaluate what is (or maybe isn’t) benefiting your business. When possible, compare the investment against the results to help you gauge your return on investment.
Know When to Ask for Help
You started your business because of your skillset and experience within your industry, not because you wanted to become a marketing expert. If you start to realize that the strategy you’d like to execute is beyond your expertise, consider enlisting a marketing professional for help or consultation. The next section of this eBook highlights just a few of the many levers you can pull in the development of your own marketing plan.