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Five Quick Steps to Your Marketing Plan

By Kelly Biedny

Marketing is essentially project management. A marketing plan consists of several projects designed to promote your small business using various methods. There are five basic steps to follow when putting together your marketing plan that will ensure you get the most marketing bang for your buck.

Step One: Marketing Goals
The first step is to write down the marketing goals you have for your small business. Whether it be increasing sales by 10%, releasing a new product, or improving online sales, you should write down all of your goals.

Once you've got everything written downs, go over each goal and make sure it is realistic (do you have the staff to service 10 new clients?), if not, revise.

Step Two: Set Your Marketing Budget
Before you can plan how to achieve your goals, you've got to know who much you can invest in the methods you'll use. Be realistic about your budget and don't spend more than you'll make back; there are plenty of low cost ways to market. But, DO invest in marketing, it will pay-off. If you're not willing to spend money on your small business' success, you devalue your products or services. Plus, if customers forget about you, they don't buy from you.

Step Three: Evaluate Marketing Methods
There are many ways to market your small business. In his book, The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Business, Jay Lipe shares a list of what he calls marketing "vehicles." His list includes (Taken from The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses, by Jay Lipe, 2002):

  • Newspaper Ads
  • Magazine Ads
  • Yellow Pages
  • Television Ads
  • Cable TV Ads
  • Radio Advertising
  • Direct Mail
  • Billboards
  • Telemarketing
  • Internet
  • Publicity
  • Trade Shows
  • Event Marketing
  • Direct Sales
I'd also like to add a few more methods or "vehicles:"

  • networking events
  • public speaking
  • article marketing
  • press releases
  • e-mail
  • event sponsorship
  • donating

Another great resource for inexpensive marketing methods is Making Dollars Out of Cents: 101 Tips for the Frugal Marketer," by Heather Jacobson. This ebook offers just what it says, 101 great tips that are inexpensive yet, effective.

Based on your goals and budget, choose the methods that will work best to help your small business achieve the desired outcome. Some of the methods will support multiple goals, others will revolve around one goal. Just choose the methods that best suit your small business.

Step Four: Time-line Out Each Project
Once you've chosen the marketing methods you'll use to achieve your goals. It's time to put them in the calendar. Each goal should have a deadline for achievement and each method should have a target completion date. Work backward from these dates, planning out when each part of the goal/marketing method needs to be done to move to the next step of the process, (For example, if the method is a postcard mailing, the post card needs to be designed by approx. 2 weeks before it is mailed, printed by one week before the mail date and labels need to be pulled the day before, etc...).

As you calendar out each item, be conscious of how busy you'll be and balance out your daily/weekly to-do's and the frequency your methods will 'hit' your customers/audience. Balance out each communication to ensure there's no overload.

Step Five: Execute!
Once you've got your plan and timeline, it's time to get started. Outsource the work you can't or don't want to do, but make sure things keep on track. Review everything for consistency of message and feel—remember, every time you communicate you are reinforcing your small business 'brand' with the public.

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