Last reviewed 9 March 2022

Marketing has the primary aim of generating revenue for your business. But marketing should not be undertaken in a vacuum, it needs to be directed to ensure that marketing effort is not wasted.

To provide focus identify a revenue figure for the extra amount you want to generate in your business for 2022; how much extra revenue do you want in 2022 compared to what you made in 2021? Then decide how much of that revenue you would like to be from sales to new clients and customers and how much extra revenue is to be generated from sales to existing customers. It is often harder to generate revenue from new customers. Existing customers know your products, and this familiarity should make it easier to sell to them.

The marketing plan created needs to identify how much product is to be sold, to whom and when. Targets need to be set and allocated to the people or divisions within the business. These targets need to be tracked to ensure that the business, and individuals in the business, meet the targeted revenue figures.

The business plan should be referred to on a regular basis —monthly at least — though every week would be better. Having a meeting with managers and other key personnel each week to discuss progress should help focus everybody on the targets set. Where targets are not being met the reasons for this can be discussed, remedial action taken, or targets reset.

What is your business?

You should know what your business is, but what do your customers think it is? What is it your customers value? Is it price, after sales service, availability of the product? Businesses often think that their product is different, but often there are many competitors that offer similar products. Why, therefore, should customers come to you? What is your value proposition, what value do you provide that other suppliers do not? Sometimes it is as simple as the relationship you have built up with the customer, but is that enough to keep them loyal to your products if a better priced or higher quality product starts competing with you.?

When creating a marketing plan, you need to consider how you would describe it to yourself, to your staff, to customers and also to the general public. Get customer feedback on what they think the business is and see if that ties in with your vision. Do these views on the business and products coincide with the way they are described in marketing literature and the website. If not, new customers may be disappointed by their experience with the business.

Once you have established what your business is, consider if this is what you want the business to be. If not, what do you need to change? Are there parts of the business that are not working, that are not making a profit? If so, can this be remedied, or should that line be deleted? Are there other products that can be brought in to enhance your business, to complement your existing products? Can you use your existing sales to leverage into these new product lines (or vice versa)? But, take care not to diversify too much. Four or five core products or services is usually sufficient for most small or medium businesses, rather than diversifying too much and spreading yourself too thin.

When reviewing products, are there some parts that are not complementary to your main products? Or are some difficult to deliver as they are not part of your skill set? Do you want to hive these product lines off to another party, or just discontinue them?

When considering the business’s future, also consider how to fits into your life plans. Are you looking to slow down, or pass on the enterprise to other family members? Are you looking to expand and generate profits to make the business attractive for a sell off? All these will impact any marketing plan.

Market positioning

Where are your products or services in the market? Are they cheap and cheerful? Do you offer a premium product? Do your prices match where your products or services are positioned? Does the marketing reflect the way your products are marketed? Premium products often need non-core supporting items, such as packaging, after care service, time spent with the customer in choosing products, etc.

Profit or loss?

It is surprising how often a business does not understand its cost structure or profit margins. Too often a business concentrates on revenue only, not considering costs or profits. Do you have a proper costing system so you know how much your products or services cost to deliver? Does this take all aspects into account, such as returns, after sales services, marketing expenditure, etc.? It is also important to calculate the value of each customer. What profit is being made form each customer? If there is little gross profit (the sales less the direct cost), it is likely that an overall loss is being made as the period costs (or overheads) will eat into this gross profit.

Measures need to be taken to make unprofitable customers profitable or they need to be discarded. Similarly, low profit products or customers need attention to make them more profitable or potentially they should be discarded. But, it should be noted that while some products may be unprofitable, or make low profits, they may be essential to make sales of other products. That is a “loss leader” or a product that entices customers to you.

Another aspect to consider is when do you get paid? Although you may be showing a paper profit, it is meaningless if cash is not coming in through the door. How much credit is given to your customers? Are customers paying on time? Do large customers exploit their position by being slow payers, if so, what is being done to address this? Are there proper credit controls and are overdue debts being managed?

Customer types

Are there typical customer characteristics? Is there a common demographic, or gender, income range, lifestyle? Understanding common characteristics may help identify where you can expand the business and where to target your marketing. Are these the type of customer that you want to serve? If not, how can this be changed? Knowing your customer, or potential customer is paramount. Without customers there is no business. Create a typical buyer persona. Identify the customer that you want to serve. Only very large businesses can supply a wide market. Small businesses can operate a niche profitably, niches that large businesses cannot reach.

Current marketing

What marketing is currently being undertaken? Does it target your desired customers and accurately market your products or services? If marketing is based on newspaper adverts, do your customers read these newspapers? Is social media being used, do your customers use that type of social media? Are Google Ads actually reaching customers and new customers? What leads are converted into sales? Can you track marketing to sales? Does your marketing cover all the products and services you want to sell? Are products or services that you wish to promote highlighted? If not an opportunity is being missed.

Marketing strengths and weaknesses

Many businesses undertake a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis, but they should also consider identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their marketing campaign, and how these strengths deliver the marketing. This may help identify where professional help is required to deliver the required marketing campaign; try to identify areas you do not understand or have little experience of. For example, if you are not tech savvy, assistance may be required to market through social media or other electronic means.

Only the lucky few can manage without a marketing plan. To grow, your business needs to create a marketing plan, and that plan needs constant revision as the business grows, products develop and the customer base changes.