Marketing plan well worth the effort

Daniel Hannaher

Have you ever said to yourself: This town has too many hair salons? Or have you noticed that yet another pizza joint has opened? Of course, it’s entirely possible such ventures are all making a good profit. But sometimes you have to wonder whether small business owners sufficiently evaluate local markets to ensure their products and services are competitive.

Marketing takes time, money and lots of preparation. One of the best ways to prepare yourself is to develop a solid marketing plan. Such a plan will ensure you’re not only sticking to your schedule, but that you’re spending your marketing funds wisely and appropriately.

A marketing plan should include everything from understanding your target market and your position in that market to how you intend to reach that market and differentiate yourself from your competition to make a sale.

A marketing budget should be a component of your overall marketing plan. Essentially, a budget will outline the costs of how you’re going to achieve your marketing goals within a certain timeframe.

If you don’t have the funds to hire a marketing firm or even staff a position in-house, resources are available to guide you through the process of writing a marketing plan and developing a marketing budget. In Grand Junction,  contact the Small Business Development Center at the Business Incubator Center at 243-5242 for a free marketing counseling session. There are also many private-sector consultants in the area to assist you.

Once you’ve developed your marketing budget, it doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. There could be times when you need to throw in an unplanned marketing tactic —hosting an event or creating a newspaper ad — to help you reach your market more effectively. Ultimately, it’s more important to determine whether sticking to your budget is helping you achieve your marketing goals and bringing you a return on investment than to adhere to a rigid and fixed budget.

That’s why it’s important to include a plan for tracking the results of marketing. Consider what effects certain marketing activities have had on your revenues during a fixed period, such as a business quarter, compared to another time period when you focused your efforts on other tactics. Consider the tactics that worked as well as those that didn’t work. You don’t have to cut the tactics that didn’t work, but you should assess whether you need to give them more time to work or whether the funds are best directed elsewhere.

Granted, some tactics are hard to measure — the efficacy of such print collateral as brochures and sales sheets, for example. But you need to consider the effects of not having these branding staples in your market tool kit before you reign in the budget for graphic design and printing.

Marketing plans should be maintained on an annual basis at a minimum. But if you launch a new product or service, take time to revisit your original plan or develop a separate campaign plan you can add to your main plan.

At the end of the day, the time spent developing your marketing plan is time well spent because it defines how you connect with your customers. And that’s an investment worth making.