Building a house is a process – there are specific steps that need to be completed in a specific order to ensure that the house is a solid structure capable of standing up to time, weather, and everyday living. Building a marketing and advertising program for your small business is very similar – there are four distinct steps that need to be taken so that your business stands up over time. The good news is that, unlike building a house, you can go back and fix any of the steps in your marketing program you may have missed along the way without the whole thing falling down! Let’s take a look at each step in the process:
START WITH A GOOD SET OF PLANS
Every small business should have three plans: a Business Plan, a Marketing Plan (that is separate from your Business Plan), and a Budget. Unless you are seeking bank or investment funding, these plans do not need to be massive, minutely detailed documents. They can and should be used as a tool for you, the owner, to lay out your vision for the business, your short and long term goals, the action steps you will need to take in order to achieve your goals, and how much money you will need to allocate toward achieving those goals.
- Your BUSINESS PLAN includes your company description, the products and services you provide, how your company will be managed and operated, an analysis of your competitors, a summary of your marketing plan, a sales forecast, and a cash flow forecast.
- Your MARKETING PLAN provides a detailed description of your products and services, your target market, your company sales goals, the tools and strategies you will use to accomplish your goals, how much you will spend to implement the tools and strategies, the detailed action steps necessary to implement the plan and who will be responsible for accomplishing them, and a calendar with your month-by month plan of communications, activities, events, campaigns, and deadlines.
- Your BUDGET should include your sales forecast, cost of goods sold, operating expenses, payroll, insurance, licenses, equipment expense, capital purchases, debt service, and marketing/advertising. Putting your marketing and advertising costs into your budget is a commitment to making the investment to grow your business – not an afterthought!
LAY A SOLID FOUNDATION
A solid foundation for your marketing program includes five (5) elements: your logo, brand standard, website, social media profiles, and business collaterals. These are the items that make your program stand strong across all of your strategies, campaigns, events, printed materials, media, apparel, and promotional products. It is your company identity and usually the first impression a prospect has of your company.
- LOGO. If you have a logo for your business, you should also have a Logo Suite. Simply defined, a Logo Suite is your logo in all of the various file formats needed to ensure that it can be used in all of the ways you will need it: print, digital, web, desktop publishing, and embroidery. You should have both color and black and white versions in each format. You should also have both a horizontal and vertical (stacked) variations.
- BRAND STANDARD. This is a document that details how your logo is to be used, the font(s) that you will use, and all of the color specifications associated with your logo. Make sure you define your colors in the following ways: PMS, CMYK, RGB, and Hex/HTML (web). If you use logoed apparel in your business, your Brand Standard should also specify thread colors to be used.
- WEBSITE. In today’s online world, any business that does not have a website does not exist. It is the basis for all of the search engines. Your website does not have to be complicated – a simple landing page that explains what you do, who you do it for, and how to contact you is a good way to get started.
- SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES. Your business should have at least two (2) social media profiles, one of them being a Google My Business verified listing. Make sure that your social media profiles are set up to match your Brand Standard and that they link to your website to establish a good online presence.
- BUSINESS COLLATERALS. Your business collaterals include business cards, letterhead, envelopes, thank you cards, business forms (proposals, invoices, statements, etc.), and your email signature. These items should all be consistent with your Brand Standard.
BUILD YOUR FRAMEWORK
Think of your framework as all of the elements you will need to build your house. Make sure everything you do incorporates your brand and shows your company in the best possible light. Included in your framework are:
- SALES MATERIALS. Brochures, flyers, product sheets, presentation folders, direct mail pieces, yard signs, etc.
- MARKETING TOOLS. These are the things you use to generate new business and communicate with your customers and prospects: email marketing, newsletters, trade shows, offers, free downloads, VIP programs, speaking engagements/presentations, networking, professional memberships, and video are all tools that you can use to market your business.
- ADVERTISING. As part of the planning process, you will have identified your ideal customer; choosing the right advertising medium to reach those people is part of your framework. There are many, many choices – radio, television, billboards, digital (online), direct mail, coupons, newspaper, and magazines are the big ones. If you are uncomfortable handling this part of your business, consider hiring an agency – they can often get better pricing than buying direct and a can help you navigate the many choices available.
- LEAD MANAGEMENT. The #1 complaint consumers have is that they can’t get someone to call them back or respond to an email / website inquiry in a timely manner. Part of your framework needs to be a procedure for how you will handle leads and prospects at each stage of the sales process. If you do not currently use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, there are many affordable options for every size business. Consider having a single person in your company who is responsible for managing leads, updating your sales funnel, and making sure that all communications are completed in a timely manner.
ADD THE FINISHING TOUCHES
Finishing touches are the things that make your house a home, so to speak. Your house won’t fall down if you don’t have these things, but when you can afford them, you should incorporate them! Included would be things like promotional products and apparel, but should also include things like your building exterior signage, parking lot and landscaping, your showroom or lobby area (any place that customers are allowed to be in), vehicle graphics, and client gifts. Incorporate your brand colors and your business personality into these items to further grow your customer and prospect relationships.
Overwhelmed? Don't be! Chances are you already have most of this done - somewhere. Take the time to organize your thoughts, put it in writing, and share it with your team so that everyone is one the same page!
To your success!
P.S. If you are a small business owner (or want to be one), whether you are just starting out, or have been in business for awhile, I hope you will become part of the Next Level family. Visit our website (www.marketingforsmallbiz.com) or check out our Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/NextLevelAd) for tips, tools, and resources to help grow your business. We now have a Facebook Group, Next Level U, for those who are interested in joining a private community of small business owners and marketers.
Laura Olson-Oxley is an entrepreneur, coach, speaker, marketing and business consultant, and sales professional. She has over 25 years experience working with small businesses in a variety of industries, focusing on strategic business growth through effective marketing and advertising. Also a strategist, numbers nut, project manager, and life-long learner, Laura looks at the big picture to analyze and recommend the most effective tools to take businesses to the Next Level.
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