DEAR business owner: You don’t have to be a marketing expert to develop a marketing plan that yields results! You just need to start with a clear understanding of what you want marketing to deliver for your business. The marketing plan is your roadmap to achieving your business objectives, and as a business owner, you can put one together for yourself using these 5 simple steps:

Step 1: Define your objectives

You need to define your marketing objectives to support your business objectives. A great way to do this is by answering the following questions:

  • Do you want to let the market know about your business?
  • Do you want to sell to more people and to increase your market share?
  • Do you want to sell more to the same people and increase your share of customer wallet?
  • Do you want to retain my current customers and increase their loyalty to your company?

Each objective will be supported by a marketing technique. For example, if you want to let the market know about your business then your marketing focus will be on creating awareness. If you want to sell to more people, then your focus needs to be on engaging with potential customers and building a database of leads.

Step 2: Define your customer

You must understand the demographics of your core customers and define their needs. Are you talking to a business person, an athlete or is it to the exhausted parent of a six-week-old? The more specific you are about defining this core customer, the better your chances of implementing a successful plan. A good way of understanding who your customers are and how to engage with them is by writing out a ‘day-in-the-life’ of a sample customer. This will give you clues not only to their mindset and what matters to them, but also direction around which marketing channels to use to reach them.

For example:

Stella is exhausted; she’s been up all night with her new-born baby who simply won’t go to sleep. Stella has two other children who need to get ready for school. With bags packed, Stella bundles them into the car and then faces the rush-hour traffic. Stella turns on the radio to drown out the fighting from the back seat. After dropping the kids at school, she must do some grocery shopping. She feels more relaxed as she listens to the news on the radio driving to her local Pick n Pay. As she waits at the traffic light, she glances at the street pole ad alongside the road. Walking into the shopping centre, she is handed a special offers leaflet at the front door. She notices some of the items she needs as she begins her shopping. Back at home, she makes herself a cup of tea and checks her smartphone for the latest updates on Facebook.

Step 3: Define your message

Once you have identified the ‘day-in-the-life’ of your customers, you will understand what their needs are. Their state of mind at certain times of the day will provide essential clues to create a marketing message. A marketing message is a short statement that focuses on the benefits of your product or service rather than features. Ask the question: How will this help my customer? This will give you an idea of how to formulate an effective marketing message that will be difficult to ignore.

Step 4: Define your channel(s)

This is where you may employ the services of a specialised marketing expert, depending on your knowledge of marketing channels and the complexity of the channels you want to use.

The channels you use should match your marketing objectives. If you are trying to create awareness then the following channels will provide the best reach: radio, in-store merchandising, inserts in community newspapers and digital banner advertising. If you are trying to generate leads then direct mail, email, events, activations and search marketing are good ways to go. Remember to also use the insights gained from your “day in the life” exercise, to understand which channels to use for your specific target customer.

Step 5: Evaluate your plan

It is important that measurements are included in your marketing plan. These measurements need to link to your business objectives and have to be specific with clear outcomes. Analyse what worked during a marketing cycle or campaign and what did not. This will provide key insights into what you need to chuck out and what should continue.

As you can see, it is not necessary to be a marketing expert to develop a marketing plan that yields results. Simply understanding the basic elements of a marketing plan will be all your need to become proactive in your market place.