Savvy Marketing Secrets
Tips and Tactics to Reach Your Best Customers
 
 

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Start With a Marketing Plan
 
Increase Your Chances of Success

We've all heard the statistics. Ninety percent of small businesses fail or go out of business within five years. The truth is that many owners quit because the business isn't earning enough to justify their time and expense.

Every one who starts a small business believes their idea is the one that will achieve a breakthrough success. Sadly most don't. So what do you need to do to insure that your small business will not be one of the casualties?

Most experts agree that a well thought out marketing plan that defines your target market and maps out how you plan to reach it is a critical key to success.

I can hear you thinking: "A marketing plan will take a lot of time and I'll probably scrap it when things don't go as expected." I disagree. Here's why. Taking time to research your market will payoff big if it prevents you from wasting time and money on ventures doomed to fail.

Often when you come up with a good idea, you haven't really tested it to see if anyone wants what you plan to offer.
In many cases, the person without a plan, has little idea how much it will cost to put their idea into action.
You may think your idea is unique until you start researching the market for competitors. A quick keyword search on the Internet will quickly reveal hundreds of other sites with similar ideas.
If you really feel you don't have time to create a marketing plan, consider following the steps outlined in the graphic below to create a very simple plan. This may help you see some of the issues you should consider for your plan to succeed.

5 steps to a marketing plan

What the planning process can help you do?
Spending the time to develop a marketing plan can yield some pretty significant benefits.

If you carefully identify your best customer -- your target market -- you'll find it easier to develop laser sharp messages that will resonate with this audience.
Scrutinizing the competition will help you find a way to offer something that is slightly different than all of the other choices out there. If you don't stand out in some way, it will be easy to get lost in the vastness that is the Internet.

Talk with enough prospective customers and you may find a problem you can solve. Instead of creating a product your prospects may not want or need, you can create a solution to their problem.

 
Once you start a new business things happen fast. The money you put in to the business flows out faster than you can make it. Finding new leads and turning them into paying customers often proves harder than you expect. And in keeping with Murphy's Law, whatever can go wrong, will.

A good marketing plan can help you identify trends or issues before they derail your business.

My favorite activity is a SWOT Analysis where you review your company's strengths and weaknesses, and identify its opportunities and threats.

It can be an eye-opener to learn that a proposed regulation could increase your costs or limit how you can operate your business. I worked with a small restaurant once that almost signed a lease before realizing that the location's limited parking would not meet the city's zoning codes. Had she signed the lease, she would have been liable for the lease while having to scrap her plans.

The process of creating a marketing plan forces you to answer a lot of critical questions. It also forces you to face worst-case scenarios. By identifying what can go wrong, you're in a better shape to avoid the problem or survive it.

Helpful resources
There's no question that it takes time to create a good marketing plan. But it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Most regions have Small Business Development Centers, which are connected to area universities. If they offer courses to help you write a business plan, you may be able to connect with other small business owners who are working on theirs.

You also can get help from a SCORE counselor, which stands for the Service Corps. of Retired Executives. These expert individuals have often worked for large corporations and some have run businesses of their own. They can give you objective feedback that may help you see past your rose-colored glasses.

Need an outline to help you get started, try this sample business plan outline. Or if you would like more help, consider How to Write a Business Plan . . . Made Easy.

There also are a number of software programs that can help you create your marketing plan. I've included some in the resource section of this site. Take a look at the article on Using Mind Mapping to Create a Marketing Plan. You also may want to check out 10Step Marketing. 10 Step Marketing by Marketing Consultant Debbie LaChusa simplifies the process of creating a marketing plan into 10 manageable steps. The program also comes with a number of audio tapes to walk you through the process.

You may also want to consider buying a Small business planning guide for specific businesses from Entrepreneur.com. This publisher has done a lot of the hard work for you and will provide you with a good template to customize for your specific needs.

Marcia Ming

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