Every small business owner and entrepreneur is constantly looking for ways to improve their business, whether it’s to increase new sales, grow their brand awareness, or enter new markets to find new clients. One of the best ways to do this is through marketing. However, marketing is only effective if it is based on a well-planned marketing strategy.

There are so many different ways to market small businesses today that most business owners can become overwhelmed with all the choices.  Should they use social media and if so, which ones?  Perhaps they should be blogging?  What about media outreach, paid advertising or even print advertising?  How much does it cost?  What kind of return should they expect?  How do they measure it?  The list of questions can go on and on.  The best way to intelligently plan for marketing to ensure you’re getting the best ROI for your efforts is to start with a marketing strategy.

The thought of creating a marketing strategy plan can seem daunting, but they can be very simple to start.  The first step to marketing strategy creation is to identify a few key areas that you need to understand in order to create a good plan. Below are a few areas to consider to get started.

Who is your target audience?

This can actually be a much more difficult question to answer than you might think.  For many small businesses, especially when you’re first starting out, ANY business is good business as you try to bring revenue in the door.  However, you will quickly discover that not every client is going to be a good fit for you.  To avoid spending a lot of time marketing to the wrong audience, try to really understand who your true target audience is.  Who is your ideal client?  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What industries are ideal for my product or service?
  • Am I targeting B2B or B2C industries?
  • What’s an annual budget range my ideal client would have to spend with my company?
  • What kind of problems would my product or service be able to solve?

The more questions you can answer regarding your target audience, the better you will become at determining your ideal customer.

Who are your top competitors?

Before you say, “No one does exactly what we do” stop and consider this:  while no one may do exactly what you do, other companies may be similar enough to lure away customers that could potentially be yours.  So perhaps a better question to ask yourself is, “Which companies are attracting clients who could be a good fit for my products or services?”. It’s not always obvious who your competitors are. Below are a few bullets to help you start identifying who your competitors are:

  • Which companies offer the same products are services as you? These are your direct competitors.
  • Which companies offer products or services that could be an alternative to what you offer? These are your indirect competitors.

Competitors can be any company who you lost business to when trying to acquire a new client.  They could be anyone who is attracting traffic to their website over yours, even if you don’t feel they can compete with you.

What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?

This might also be called your unique value proposition (UVP). Really take some time to determine what makes your product or service unique.  When going through this exercise, don’t list all the features of your products or services; what makes you unique is going to be the benefits of your small business.  Benefits speak to your clients; they are what addresses the needs or problems that your customers have.  What makes your small business offerings unique to customers?  Establishing a compelling UVP is going to go a long way in creating a marketing strategy that will help your business.

The three considerations addressed above are just the starting point to creating a good marketing strategy plan.  The key is to start a marketing strategy plan to help you plan your marketing efforts. Marketing takes time, money, and a lot of effort. One of the best ways to effectively do small business marketing is to develop a strong marketing plan. This plan will ensure you’re marketing efforts are in line with your target audience, elevate you above your competition, and highlight your unique value proposition to your customers.

Patty Hughes
Follow Us!