One of the most powerful strategic planning tools your business can possess is a marketing plan. I'm not referring to an academic exercise found in college marketing textbooks. Your marketing plan should be a simple (in some cases, one-page) document that specifically answers who you are, what you do, who needs what you do and how you plan to attract their attention. It's a combination of the planning process and the completed action plan.
Follow these seven simple steps to build the perfect marketing plan:
Step 1: Narrow your market focus. Try to describe your ideal customer in the narrowest and most detailed terms possible, as though you're describing him or her to a referral source
Step 2: Position your business. Figure out what you do best and what your target market wants. Maybe it's how you serve a niche or package your products. If you don't know what it is, call up three or four of your clients and ask them why they buy from you. Craft a core marketing message that allows you to quickly differentiate your business.
Step 3: Create education-based marketing materials. Recreate all your marketing materials, including your website, to focus on education. Make certain every word in your marketing materials speaks of your core messages and to your target market.
Step 4: Never cold call. Make sure all your advertising is geared toward creating prospects, not customers. You must find ways to educate before you sell. Your target market needs to learn how you provide value in a way that makes them want to pay a premium for your services or products. You simply can't do this in a 3-inch-by-4-inch ad. Your ad must get viewers to ask for more information. Then you can proceed to selling. Determine all the ways you can get your education-based messages in front of your narrowly defined target market.
Step 5: Earn media attention. Create a list of journalists who cover your industry or community, and build relationships with each by becoming a reliable resource of information. Plan out an entire year of new items you can promote by season or event.
Step 6: Expect referrals. Create a referral marketing engine that systematically turns each client and referral network into a kind of unpaid sales pro. You must instill a referral marketing mind-set into your business's culture. Do this by making every customer a marketing and referral contact. Map every contact and build processes that focus on referrals.
Step 7: Live by a calendar. After you complete steps 1 through 6, determine what you need to do to put them into action. Then create an annual marketing calendar, noting the required monthly, weekly and daily appointments necessary to move your plan forward.
John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award-winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide. Find out more at ducttapemarketing.com.