As a business owner, taking the time to create a marketing plan is fundamental to your success. Whether you’re facing a period of slow sales or looking to expand your business and take it to the next level, a marketing plan will help keep you on track, ensure you are spending your marketing pounds effectively, and give you the game plan you need to take your business to the next heights of success.

To help you create an effective marketing plan for your business, I have pulled together five key points based on my own experience and the diverse number of businesses I offer marketing advice to.

1. Keep the End in Sight

Treat your marketing plan as a road map, a means to an end. Before planning your journey, you need to have a clear idea of your destination and how long it should take to get you there.

Take the time to work out EXACTLY what you want to achieve in your business and when? How much extra income do you want to earn? How many clients do you need each month to achieve this? What new services can you offer, to maximise the revenue that you can generate from each client? What new markets do you need to enter?

By locking down specifics, you will know PRECISELY what you want to achieve and choose the most appropriate marketing strategies and actions to get you there.

2. Choosing Marketing with a Fast Return on Investment

Advertising and marketing comes in different shapes and forms and at different price tags – take note that a highly priced form of promotion does not necessarily guarantee lots of new customers!

For any marketing activity that you undertake, think about how many orders you will need to generate to break even (get your money back) and how many you will need to make a profit. This is the concept of “Return on Investment” or ROI.

We’re living in tougher economic times and your business does not have the luxury of simply creating “awareness”. You need results, you need profits and you need them fast! Choose marketing strategies that provide you with the fastest possible Return on Investment, for the longest possible period of time.

3. Don’t Follow the Crowd

I see far too many businesses whose “marketing plan” consists of following their competitors and choosing marketing activities because they seem to be the “in thing” to do, without taking the time to analyze if choosing the right marketing strategy for their business.

As the saying goes “Average businesses blend in with the herd and get average results”. If your competitors are choosing expensive exhibitions with declining footfalls over relatively low cost internet marketing, based on their own lack of information, you can see why following the bandwagon is not going to take your business to great heights.

Choose marketing strategies, which you (or a marketing expert who understands your business) have thought through intelligently, which will help you achieve your goals with speed and the least possible expense, not those which are chosen “in the hope that they work”.

4. Keep Things Balanced

Keep your marketing plan balanced and manage your risk by never relying on just ONE method of promoting your business to bring in sales.

Your marketing plan should include a mix of intelligent branding, a website that stands out from your competitors with regular updates and revamps, search engine optimisation, social media marketing, PR, networking and finding a way to encourage client referrals.

5. Choose Marketing Strategies, With Measurable Results

My advice to you would be to ONLY undertake marketing activities where you can accurately and instantly MEASURE the results, to see what’s working and what’s not.

Biased as I am towards online marketing, I will unashamedly proclaim that one of the key advantages online marketing offers is a high degree of measurability, flexibility and low cost.

If you choose to undertake more conventional forms of marketing, put mechanism in place, which will allow you to measure the results, to gauge the effectiveness of your advertising and marketing activities.

In conclusion, an intelligently thought out marketing plan will help you focus on your business objectives and growth and provide you with a roadmap to get you there in the least amount of time.

Rahul Katrak is an entrepreneur and small business marketing guru, with over 10 years experience in branding, design, web development, PR and online marketing. His web design north london agency provides a range of branding, design and online marketing services to a diverse business clientele, helping them stand out from a crowded marketplace.

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