Why Your Small Business Needs a Marketing Plan

It will help you attract and keep loyal customers and better compete against competitors

Startups and second stage businesses tend to pay more attention to getting new sales rather than making sure their existing customers are fully satisfied. Business owners need to learn how to focus on marketing, which is not the same as sales. What you sell is all about your product and services and what you market is all about your customers. This is why you need a marketing plan to help you develop new customers and maintain existing ones. However, too often this planning gets overlooked and deemed less pressing than other aspects of the running the business.

Crain’s Detroit Business talked to six area marketing experts to come up with 10 questions you need to ask yourself when building your marketing plan:

  1. What is the difference between sales and marketing? Marketing focuses on branding, positioning, and pricing. Sales is building relationships and converting leads into purchases and orders.
  2. What are you really selling? You have to understand what message you are putting out there in the marketplace. How are you being perceived in the marketplace?
  3. Do you understand your brand? Your brand is the personification of your company. However, branding is about interfacing with customers and creating a positive experience.
  4. What is your story? Consumers like personal stories whether it is about triumphing over tribulations or beating the odds. Yours could be about creating jobs or empowering millennials in underserved communities.
  5. Are you focused on your customer? It’s always about satisfying the customer. What are you doing—surveys or other metrics for feedback—to make sure your customers are happy?
  6. Is social media right for you? The key is to know how your customers want to interact with you. You don’t want to be on all forms of social media—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Vine — but to pick to the right one(s).
  7. Are you being consistent? You need to practice strategic integrated marketing campaigns. Your marketing has to be consistent with all of your customers. Your online promotion should be the same as your in-store promotion, for example.
  8. Are you ready to evolve? Your marketing strategy and actual tactics need to evolve over time. For instance, consumer preferences are moving toward images and video online. Your may want to consider a mobile version of your website.
  9. Are you spreading your own message? The best marketing comes straight from the CEO’s mouth. What do you stand for? What change are you trying to create for the customer and also what change are you trying to create for the world?
  10. Do you need an agency? A company like Johnson & Johnson can spend $10 million on a new branding campaign; you don’t have to spend like that to be effective. A good gauge: project how much revenue/profit you expect to generate.
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