It’s time to update your marketing plan

December 30, 2011

All small businesses want more sales. In today’s business environment, this has become more than a desire, it’s a matter of survival.

One vehicle to help you determine how to reach more customers is a marketing strategy. You probably conducted some market research at some point, but if your business has changed over the years, it may be time for an update. Here are some tips to help you assess your current business needs and help you establish a new plan to address your new growth goals:

Assessing your business and market

It’s important to set new goals, especially if your customer base has changed, if you have added new products and services or if you’ve repositioned the business — for instance, if it’s shifted from mass market to upscale, luxury.

Research your new target market. Determine whether it is growing or shrinking. You also want to know key information about consumers in that market — what is their average income, what are their spending habits, how much do they spend on your type of product or service?

It’s also helpful to know their age, ethnicity, gender, marital status and whether they have children. For business customers, you want to know the average company size, geographic locations, years in business, industry, products/services sold and number of employees they have.

Research your target customers’ channel preferences. How do they prefer to buy your type of products and services — online, in a store, through a salesperson?

Analyze your competitors. How are they marketing their products? Start with your local competitors. You can also get ideas by observing how competitors outside your geographic area market their businesses or how they market themselves online.

Devising action plan

Now that you have a good idea of your marketing needs and know a lot about what has changed in your target market, it’s time to develop specific action steps that will bring your marketing plan to life.

As you devise the steps, ask yourself: Will this help achieve my goals? Will it reach my target customer? Does it fit my budget? Do I have adequate staff to implement the step?

Now put all the options into a written strategy. Develop a detailed plan with a timetable for each action step. Implement your plan and evaluate the results.

Some of your action steps will work better than expected and some worse. But overall, your business will improve and you will feel great about the positive steps you have taken.

Bruce Gitlin, who co-founded Content Guard Inc., is vice chair of the Washington-area chapter of SCORE.

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