If you want to grow your business, what is the first step you
should take? Create a marketing plan! Even if your idea has "wow"
potential, you need a plan to guide you. You must be able to
anticipate future events and have strategies for achieving your
business objectives. The process of creating a marketing plan
forces you to define specific objectives and appropriate actions,
which helps you anticipate environmental changes and compares
actual results with expectations and goals. Using the marketing
plan as a reference point makes you aware of potential problems and
However, a marketing plan is only as good as the information it
contains, and a successful plan takes effort, creativity, and
thought. A good marketing plan should contain
- mission statement with vision and goals
- assessment of environmental challenges
- SWOT analysis
- products and services offered
- organization of the firm
A mission statement should address what business you want to be in
along with the benefits your clients are looking for. It also
should reflect the market you are attempting to serve - who are
your clients and what they want? You objectives should be
quantifiable. In other words, specify that you want to achieve a
certain dollar volume within a year. Again, this gives you a
measurable goal and a tool for measuring performance.
For example, Star Financial Planning will achieve a $1 million
volume by the end of year 2008. The SWOT analysis will include a
list of strengths (certified financial planner) and weaknesses
(little marketing knowledge) along with any resulting opportunities
(a large network) and external threats (experienced planners in the
industry). Always analyze strengths and weaknesses so you can turn
them into opportunities. In doing this, you will be able to list
products and services to focus on along with appropriate pricing.
The last item in your overview should identify your firm's type of
ownership (for example, independent sole proprietor).
Don't try to be all things to all people. Address who your
potential clients will be and what their demographic profile
represents (for example, age, income, and location). Also, try to
describe your ideal client. Then you will know the type of
consumers you are looking for.
What makes you stand out from the competition? Develop a unique
selling proposition (USP). The USP explains specifically what
benefits you offer potential clients in your target market. In one
statement, it establishes a unique reason that a client would
choose you as a service provider over the competition.
System for acquiring clients
You must have a system for acquiring your clients. Investigate ways
to find your client base.
Descriptions of marketing tools
You may want to create written materials, such as brochures, cover
letters, and FAQs. Some other marketing tools include email,
websites, phone, marketing events, advertising, and sponsorships.
You will need to develop a message for these materials that
indicates what you want to accomplish, such as serving a need,
solving a problem, or getting the client to take action on
something. You also will want to make sure the message meshes with
your target market.
Guidelines for client service
Establish a method of client contact utilizing the marketing tools
you have identified. You will need to identify which tools you will
use to build or keep trust, maintain service levels, keep clients,
and eliminate bad clients. For example, FAQs can answer potential
clients' most basic questions.
This section of your marketing plan should include organizational
specifics or an evaluation plan, which includes your budget for
operations or a financial summary, a process for measuring the
effectiveness of your marketing tools (for example, the number of
clicks on FAQs), appropriate record keeping and information systems
needed, and a schedule for putting your plan into action.
Summary or final assessment
The remaining summary or assessment should answer such questions as
- Why will this work?
- What are the flaws or weak points?
- What is the disaster plan?
Appendix (marketing tool examples & research)
Finally, your marketing plan should have an appendix packed full of
examples of your marketing materials, messages, and research on the
environment, industry, and target market.
Following this process will bring help you bring in new customers,
build them into committed clients, and develop your business and
success. And if you find yourself at a crossroads or unsure what
step to take next, you can turn to your plan to guide you!