Developing an Integrated Marketing Plan

Before developing a small business marketing plan is to complete market research in your niche.  This article deals with how to organize and evaluate your data, and then apply what you know to building a strategic, integrated marketing plan.  While you may have no shortage of ideas for marketing your small business, it is important to have an organized plan that enables you to track the effectiveness of your efforts. Remember, the success of the small business does not necessarily rely on sales volume; rather it succeeds by fulfilling an unchartered customer need and providing the specialized product or service at a profit for the company while controlling growth and maintaining high customer satisfaction. Your market research should have led you to target specific customer segments and locales and know the trends in your industry and the strategies of your competition – it is time to design an integrated small business marketing plan based on your solid research.

Develop an Integrated Small Business Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is organized around what have been called “the four Ps” – Product, Price, Promotion and Place.  In this case place, refers to distribution for your product.  So what do you sell, how much will you sell it for, how will you promote it, and where will you sell it?  As you develop your plan, consider each element of the mix and how it will function to contribute to the overall goal of the plan.

Product and services:

Are you selling a product, a service, or a combination? Your products and services should be highly specialized and target a specific geographic or customer segment.

Price:

Are your products unique or higher quality than your competition?  Can a customer justify paying a higher price for your product?  Compare the value of your products and prices to those of your competion – can you justify a premium price?

Promotion:

How will you get the word out about your business?  Product awareness, recognition and interest lead to a purchase.    For small businesses, traditional marketing campaigns that include brochures, radio, TV, newspaper and magazine advertising can be too costly. Here are some avenues to consider for positioning your product:

* A couple strategically placed print ads reaching a target audience can be more effective than a general media sweep.
* Utilizing social media such as Facebook and Twitter are free Internet billboards that can reach infinite potential customers, and they have the advantage of creating and maintaining relevancy for your business.
* E-commerce is an essential marketing tool for small businesses that can bring you more customers and create online visibility. Before making a purchase, most customers will search for and visit company websites before picking up a phone or placing an order. There are many companies that specialize in small business e-commerce. Demandmart.com works with small businesses to create an integrated web presence where customers can market and purchase products and services online.
* Write regular press releases that highlight the benefits of your products and services that exceed industry standards backed up by customer testimonials and references. Make sure you target a specific customer base and select media to work with. There are many local and industry specific media outlets that could write feature articles about your small business and help create a buzz.

Distribution: How easy is it for targeted customers to purchase your products or services? The nature of your products and services generally determines the best distribution methods. The following offers a few models for distribution:

* Direct Sales: Your small business sells products and services directly to the customer in a physical location or through e-commerce.
* Indirect Sales Retail: Your small business sells its products to a retailer who then sells it to its customers.
* Indirect Sales Wholesale: A wholesaler is an agent who sells your products to many retailers.
* Indirect Sales: Multi-level Marketing: This method is a combination of direct and indirect selling of your products and services.

While small businesses usually have local shops and physical locations, it is increasingly possible to distribute your products via your website or partner websites as well  Keep in mind, for a small business, the distribution method should facilitate ease and excellent customer service during the sales process. The direct sales model offers the small business owner the most control over product placement, marketing and customer service.

Your marketing plan should be a working blueprint for how your small business initially conveys its brand and reaches a community of customers. An integrated small business marketing plan based on industry research is an invaluable tool for small businesses to implement and build upon as their business takes off and grows.