First things first: marketing is not the same thing advertising, though advertising can be an important part of a marketing plan. Marketing is promoting or selling products, services, or programs. It includes activities like market research, building your brand, identifying customers or constituents, building relationships with them, developing creative partnerships, among other things.
The marketing plan that's right for you is as unique as your business. Here are a few tools and resources to consider.
To go beyond advertising in the yellow pages or on the web, start with this ten-point guide from Alyssa Gregory at The Balance. We have included a summary below, but click through to her post for more details: 10 Questions You Need to Answer to Create a Powerful Marketing Plan.
"A marketing plan is an essential marketing tool for every small business. Start by answering these 10 questions:
- Marketing Strategy: How will your marketing plan support your business goals?
- Mission Statement: What are you trying to accomplish, and why?
- Target Market: Who are you trying to reach with your marketing activities?
- Competitive Analysis: Who are you up against, and where do you rank?
- Unique Selling Proposition: What makes your business unique?
- Pricing Strategy: What will you charge, and why?
- Promotional Plan: How will you reach your target market?
- Marketing Budget: How much money will you spend, and on what?
- Action List: What tasks do you need to complete to reach your marketing goals?
- Metrics: How are you implementing, and where can you improve?
Once you have completed each step, you will have a marketing plan that you are ready to use as a blueprint for your marketing activities in your small business."
If you don't have the juice to create and implement a full-on marketing plan, don't worry! Start small. There are many free or low-cost ways to boost your marketing program. Choose a few actions you can take to build connections and find clients or customers: examples include attending a mixer, writing an elevator pitch, or starting a client appreciation program. Here are more ideas:
6 Ways to Market Your Small Business for $100
10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget
101 Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
Either way, challenge yourself to write down the marketing tools you will use next year, and attach a time cost and a dollar cost to each activity. These numbers will help you create your budget for 2018.