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How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan

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Knowing where your business is headed is a big part of figuring out how to make it a success. While every startup should have a business plan, it's a good idea to make sure your business plan includes a separate section on marketing.

A marketing plan can be formal or informal, but it should detail who your customers are, where they get their information and how you're going to deliver your marketing message to them. While you should seek creative ways to market your business, don't expect them to work unless you first understand the basics and develop a marketing plan and a marketing strategy.

"The single most important thing for a small business to include in its marketing plan is a very clear understanding of its customers and its competitors," explained Robert Thomas, professor of marketing at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

[Digital Marketing a Top Priority for Small Business Owners ]

Thomas says the development of a marketing plan requires four specific tasks:

  • Develop a very clear and focused insight into why a potential customer would use your business. More specifically, what is the core need that your offering will meet — is it to help your customers get through the day more easily, is it to enable them to do their job more efficiently or is it to be respected and admired by friends? Your offering should be designed to meet customer needs better than the competition.
  • Identify your target customers. There are numerous potential customers in most markets, but to succeed faster and better, a small business must study the market to determine the characteristics of its best target customers. The target customer should be described in detail. In doing so, a business also develops a clearer picture of the expected sales revenues and financials.
  • Identify the competitors that would also want your target customers, and/or from which competitors you will take customers to build your business success. Small business managers seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth. But you must understand who your competitors are, what is their core competitive advantage and how they will respond to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.). There is always a competitor — never make the mistake of assuming there isn't.
  • Write down your brand-positioning statement for your target customers. At the end of the day, your brand and what it symbolizes for customers will be your strongest competitive advantage. You should be able to write down a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are very single-minded and focus on target customer needs.

Those tips are good stepping-stones for businesses, but in reality, companies need to incorporate multiple channels into their marketing plans. Some of the most popular marketing channels for today's businesses include the following:

Social media marketing

Social media has become an essential part of businesses' marketing plans. Businesses that have yet to realize the opportunities that Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networks provide them are truly missing out. Even though the concept of social media marketing may overwhelm certain small business owners, the process does not need to be a challenge, as more services and companies are popping up more and more frequently.

Email marketing

Though email marketing may not be as new of a concept as social media marketing, it is just as effective and popular for many small business owners. Companies can implement email-marketing techniques in a number of ways, including newsletters, promotional campaigns and transactional emails, to name a few.

Mobile marketing

The popularity of smartphones and tablets has helped to change the way companies target their customers. As a result, companies are looking to implement strategies that reach customers on their devices.   

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

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