Up till now, we have defined our target market, and how to convert interested people to customers. However, we still need people in our target market to know that we exist. Otherwise, we will not gain any customers. This is what a marketing plan will help you do. For many people, marketing is a scary, confusing word. But in reality, marketing is about letting the world know about your services. Here are the main issues you have to consider in order to have a successful marketing plan:

Your main differentiator: What is the thing that is only unique to your company? What is the thing that really differentiates you from other competitors? If price is the first thing that comes to your mind, then you’ll have a lot of hard time building a successful, valuable business. There will always be someone who offers a lower price. Offering the lowest prices means you’ll have the lowest income. You need to think differently: Are you offering a unique service in your area? Do you have a unique product that is hard to replicate? Have you invented something and own the legal rights to it? Can you bundle multiple products/services together in order to create something unique? The key is to find something which is unique in the target market you’re addressing (you have already defined that, right? ). If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, then I suggest you read Blue Ocean Strategy, published by Harvard Business School.

Your marketing strategy: Now that you have determined your main differentiator, it’s time to let your target market know about your company. In other words, you will need to figure out the best way to tell people who might be interested about your products and services. Here are the two main approaches:

Online Marketing: The internet has increasingly become a great way to reach out to people interested in your products and services, in a way that was never possible before. If you need to target people who live in Brazil, speak English, are employed, married without kids and like sushi, then you are able to so with a few clicks. Compare that with having a billboard ad on a certain road; which one is more precise and effective? I strongly recommend you use the internet to reach out to your target market, and rely less on the conventional, offline methods. Online marketing is less costly and more effective. The only time when you will not be using the internet, is when your target market is not on the internet. So for example, if you’re targeting elderly people in my country Lebanon, you will find that most of them aren’t internet savvy, so you would need to stick to the more traditional methods. For more details about the online marketing methods you can use, check the green and yellow sections in the chart below.

Online-Marketing-Flowchart-1024x724

Offline Marketing: This is the more traditional method that has been applied over the years. Do you plan to publish advertisements or articles in publications your prospects read? Do you plan to place classified ads in select newspapers? Do you plan to distribute free coupons? Are you going to paint your car with your brand’s identity? No matter how you choose to proceed, make sure that your chosen methods are effective in telling people about your company. If you’re unsure, ask, test, track and adjust accordingly.

Your Marketing Calendar: Now that you have figured out your marketing strategy, you would need to transform those into exact steps to be taken in order to make your plan come true. For example, writing three blog posts per week is part of my marketing calendar. Developing a new product or service every month is another item.

That’s it for today. In my next article, we will be looking at building a successful team for your business.