“Somewhere, there is a map of how it can be done?” – Ben Stein
This quote makes me smile as many clients I meet want to know where they can find such a map for their marketing!

Unfortunately, there is no off-the shelf map you can buy to give your marketing the right direction. You have to create your own marketing map.
Someone can write a plan for you – but I would urge you to create your own or work with a marketing expert to help develop it, so you truly understand where the recommendations or actions have come from – the thinking behind it. As you will need to live and breath it every day in your business.

Each business and its particular situation is unique. Meaning that one size will never fit all! Beware of ready-made marketing plans you might find on the web.

Your plan has to fit for your business’s target audience(s), competitive situation, your strengths or weaknesses and respond to the current and possible future market conditions you may find yourself operating in. And a well-thought out and mapped approach rather than ad hoc initiatives, is much more likely to have greater results!

Try this 5 step approach…

In my view, people make marketing planning far too complicated and it is simply a systematic process to follow…and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I recommend a simple 5 step approach:

1. Where are you now?

The first critical step is to understand the context of where your business is now or will be when you start it.

This involves looking at and interpreting:

* YOUR MARKET SECTOR – its total size, state of growth, competitiveness, stability, future potential

* EXTENAL FACTORS – likely impact of technology changes, government legislation, social trends. What impact could changes in these have on your business’s ability to operate and survive based on your current operating model?


* Think about future OPPORTUNITIES or THREATS. What would happen if a copy-cat competitor entered your market?

* Review YOUR COMPETITORS – top 5 minimum – look at their strengths and weaknesses compared to you? How are you different? How can you make what you offer different and more appealing to target customers?

2. Who are your customers?

Think of them in terms of their LIFESTYLE and BEHAVIOUR…

* WHO?
Age, gender, life stage (e.g. married with kids, retired, young singles, couples), income level, car they drive, where they shop. Or for a business – size of company, number of staff, typical budget, culture of the company, types of staff they employ.

Where do they live? Or where is their office based?

When do they use your product or service? The occasion is very important e.g. weddings, time of stress, pain or grief, as a reward or treat, when moving home, system upgrade, office re-location, everyday requirement, response to changes in government legislation?

* WHY?
What is their ‘NEED’, ‘PAIN’, ‘PROBLEM’ or ‘DESIRE’? You need to identify how you benefit them to satisfy or resolve this need.

* HOW?
Where and how do they buy your product or service? Do they do research online first, then visit a shop, prefer face to face meetings or trust personal recommendation?

3. Set clear objectives

How will you know how far you have travelled or what you have achieved if you don’t set some objectives?  Set specific and measureable turnover and profit objectives.

4. What do you want your customer’s to think and do?

* Change the way they think about you? Or be aware that your business even exists?
For many businesses, creating brand awareness is a primary marketing objective and there are many effective ways you can do this.

*Buy more of product X or service Y?
Is this repeat business from your existing customers? And are you looking to increase share of wallet – that is, get your customers to give you a higher % of their total purchase of your type of product or service and therefore spend less with your competitors.

It costs 10 times more to get a new customer, so always focus on your existing customer base, however small, and look to build a relationship and repeat purchase from them first, before going after new business.

* New business
How many leads do you need, from whom and by when? Are you looking to encourage first time trial, perhaps there are some barriers to this. Look at how you could encourage customers to try you out – free trial, free sample, or an introductory offer perhaps?

5. Select the right marketing tactics to get your message across

There are too many different marketing tactics to cover in detail here. Some of your choices includes:
* Website – your own and partner sites to create backlinks
* Email marketing
* Search engines (organic – free listing)
* Pay per click / online advertising
* Affiliate marketing
* Social media – blogs, forums, Twitter, etc
* Advertising
* Publicity & PR
* Networking
* Recommendation/Referral – think about a structured
   scheme like ‘refer a friend’ with rewards
* Loyalty schemes
* Intro sales letter with phone follow-up
* Direct marketing including door drops and mailers
* Demo, free sample
* Exhibitions, seminars and events
* Testimonials
* Partnerships – complimentary businesses to provide leads
   and referrals

The list is not endless but some of the most frequently used marketing tactics. The right ones will depend on your situation, objectives and what you want your customers to do.

Lean, evolve & repeat!
The most important thing is to follow a systematic process define your action plan, implement it and then make sure you review what happened. What worked, what didn’t go quite to plan? Do you know why?

Then learn and evolve your plan to fine-tune your marketing. As I said it isn’t a science so there is no precise mathematical formula or silver bullet!

You need to create your very own marketing map – by working out what tactics and messages work best for your target customers.