Most businesses approach marketing in one of two ways Systematically or Creatively.
The systematic approach is very scientific, organized, and structured. It generally has the philosophy that if you put one dollar into marketing or advertising, that dollar will generate many more dollars in increased revenue. On the other hand, when a business owner subscribes to the creative side of marketing they believe the more creative and clever an advertisement is the more it will entice a customer to purchase their goods or services. They will spend hours crafting the perfect advertisement using puns, parodies, or sometimes something a little controversial in an attempt to make their company stand out.
A great marketing planning process will realize that both approaches are important, and you need both to succeed. But too many small businesses spend money on marketing and get little to no return. After several months of spending money on marketing but seeing poor results, most companies give up on their marketing efforts, cut their marketing budgets, and start the process of the slow business death. They fail to have a successful marketing planning process.
Here are 4 steps in your marketing planning process to help you succeed with your marketing.
1. Remember Markets are Fluid
Marketing efforts need to change with their products, change as the demographics morph, change as economies progress. They need to change because we as consumers change. A successful marketing plan has to be progressive. A great marketing plan does not create a new advertisement because they think they need to be creative—they create a message that appeals to their target market’s existing characteristics. People change because they age, mature, make more money, move, marry, divorce, have kids, acquire new technology, change personal preferences, adapt, etc. A great marketing plan recognizes that their target market changes, and they use data to stay fluid.
2. Great Marketing Planning Requires Data
Smart marketers do not make decisions without first understanding how their clients think. They utilize demographics, psychographics, GIS, and other data in order to design a marketing campaign that will appeal to their client’s needs. A number of entities can provide you with this data at minimal to no cost—Small Business Development Centers, your local SCORE chapter, Women’s Business Centers, your local Chamber of Commerce, US Census Bureau. Some of those entities can even help you create a marketing plan or campaign.
3. Create a Marketing Campaign – Not an Ad
Too many small businesses create an ad for a specific sale or event. Each time they create the next ad it should look and feel different from the last ad. This sends a confusing message to the consumer. Great companies have marketing campaigns that last anywhere from one to five years. Every ad builds up or supports the last ad. Marketing should be about a consistent reoccurring message that supports your product or service.
4. Your Message Needs to Support Your Operations
How often have you gone into a business that claims to have great customer service, the best food, superior products, etc., only to find the opposite is true. There is nothing more frustrating. You put your trust in that company’s marketing campaign only to find that they cannot or will not support the message. This action alone will do more damage to a business than any other marketing mistake. If you say you have the best pricing, people will check your competitors to make sure that you do. If you say you have great customer service, then make sure all your employees have great skills and attitudes. Take the time to evaluate your message in relation to your operations.
The marketing planning process is not a principle that you cannot learn. It is the process of creating the right message at the right time to appeal to your current customer’s needs or wants. Use the systematic approach for the data, and the creative side to sculpt an appealing message.