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As I’ve discussed before, marketing is identifying a particular need in a specific group and explaining why your product or service is the best solution for that problem. We talk about the “4 P’s” in marketing: product, place, price, and promotion. In other words, what you are selling and for what price, where it is being offered and how you are telling others about it (promotion.)
Marketing isn’t mystical or mysterious, it is a set of actions taken to achieve a specific goal — the meeting of the customer need — and as a result of meeting that need, your sales goals are reached.
Having defined those terms, how do we begin to line out those actions?
#1 Know Where You’ve Been
If you’ve been in business for any amount of time at all, you have data for a starting point. We have any number of software programs today that make looking at sales and financial data and generating reports easy. The thing is you have to look at them. Those numbers are much more than simply something you compile to submit to the IRS. They are a report of how your business is doing.
When I was in business school, we created a business plan for the university student cinema. We found that the cinema was losing money on every candy bar it sold because it was priced below cost. The students operating the cinema had no idea until they saw the report. At some point, someone priced it and that price was never questioned again.
What were your sales by month? If you offer multiple product or service lines, what was the breakdown of sales between them? Were there variations between months, and if so, can you explain what went on?
Public companies are required to give quarterly reports on their earnings. They have to explain to analysts how their business performed as well as the factors underpinning those results. If you are a private company and don’t have investors, imagine that you have someone to whom you have to give a report.
Create a one page sheet that shows the sales for your product or service (your business lines), your expenses, and the net. Then write a short summary of what happened during the year.
# 2 Define Where You Want to Go
Now that you have defined your starting point, the next step is to define what you want to achieve. Often, businesses will create long-term business plans, for example, 5-years or 10 years, and then the annual marketing plan is designed to further that long-range plan. However, if you don’t already have one in place, begin with a one year plan. Where do you want to be December 31, 2019?
What are your goals? Maybe you want to increase sales by 20%, add a new business line, or open a new location.
Identify the Steps to Reach Your Goal
Once you know where you are and where you want to go, the next step is to identify the steps needed to reach that goal. Looking back at past and current activities will very likely be your most valuable resource in creating these steps. Look at variations in your sales and your net, both the peaks and valleys. Do you know what caused them? Do more of what worked and less of what didn’t work.
Are there new strategies you would like to implement? There are two ways to increase sales. The first is to get more customers. The second is to sell more to existing customers. It is much more expensive in terms of marketing and promotion to obtain new customers versus increasing sales to existing customers. However, marketing to existing customers is not free and it doesn’t happen automatically. You have to have a plan for that as well.
If you focus on nothing else, my recommendation is to have a solid plan for deepening relationships with existing customers. This is part of the reason we created our “Customer Conversations” program. It is more than content marketing, it is designed to create “brand evangelists” among your customer base.
Over the next several weeks, I will be giving tips on how to use your business website as part of that marketing plan. My book, “10 Steps to Success with WordPress” is coming out in April 2019 and these tips will tie into the concepts in that book.
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Keeping it simple is so important. Having a blueprint can help a lot of businesses. Great work on getting this information out there.?
This a pretty nice post. I don’t see how you can establish a business plan without talking about competition though, it is so important in order to choose your objectives, and even your strategy. You can use marketing matrices, do a benchmark, and so on. Some people think it is a waste of time but it isn’t, it is actually an investment. Either you invest your time to get some more money, or to get insurance. The most important to consider here is you reduce a lot your exposure to failure.
Keep writing, I enjoyed this article, I love marketing.
Yes, defining your competition is part of your basic business plan and leads into developing your marketing campaign. This post is speaking specifically to planning a business’s annual marketing strategy. It assumes there foundational work is there.