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How to create a marketing plan for start-ups

You’re about to start off on what is arguably one of the biggest adventures of your life – which it probably is, from a professional point of view.

You have your business idea; you may have your premises sorted (if you’re a bricks and mortars operation) and you created of your digital assets (if you’re operating in the online space). You’ve set up a bank account, a website, you’ve got your stock or products ready to go – but then you have one of your biggest challenges to face.

How do you engage with potential customers?

It’s very easy to get swept along by the many and varied hurdles you have to jump over when you’re starting a small business, but don’t make the mistake of forgetting about a vital cog in your wheel – marketing.

You know that you have to have some form of strategy in place – particularly if you’re looking for funding or financing where the bank is likely to want to see a long term view – so it’s important that you put all the pieces together.

If you haven’t thought about creating a marketing plan then now is the time to do it, because without it you are more than likely to struggle.

For anyone setting off on their own for the first time, what to include in a marketing plan can be a huge challenge.

What is included in a marketing plan?

A marketing plan should include:
- A summary of what you want to achieve as a start-up, with objectives and goals
- An introduction into your brand identity and target audience
- Clear information around your USPs
- Marketing materials and digital plans

You may also want to reference the 7 P’s of marketing which are: product, price, promotion, place, people, process, and physical evidence.

How to create a marketing plan

If you’re wondering how to write a good marketing plan, you should always start with who you are as a business. What we mean by good is one that is relevant, achievable and strategic.

The best way is to look at a tried and tested formula, where you can put all of the information under various headings, which should give you a clear vision of what you want to do.

Start with a summary of your business and what you want to achieve – you can even add in your mission and values at this point.

The next step when you’re considering how to create a marketing plan for a small business is to start thinking about your customer. Are you appealing to a primarily local audience because the service/products you’re offering aren’t relevant beyond strict geographical confines? Think about your consumer and what would capture their attention, turning them into brand advocates

Other marketing plan ideas include identifying the market that you want to enter into – and who are your competitors in that field. What are they offering that you aren’t? What are they offering which is the same as you? What can you do better than they are?

Online and offline marketing

If you’re just starting off then it’s likely money may be tight so you don’t want to put your budget and your precious time into resources that might not work for you. Think about offline and online marketing – ignore one for the sake of the other at your peril.

Social media may be a quick way to give your business exposure but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will automatically translate into sales, so think about who your customer base is and that should give you an inkling of the best way to engage with them.

A combination of both online and offline marketing materials in a must. We all know that there’s a value in social media but perhaps not quite as much as you think – so don’t put all of your effort and cash into this one platform.

In which case you may already need to start thinking about some low cost – but highly effective – marketing materials such as flyers, brochures or leaflets which you can use.

Think about your marketing goals – it needs to be much more details than merely “I want lots of customers.” Put it in a timeline, that will give you something to work towards.

Also set a budget fairly early on and try to stick to it – this will make sure that your finances don’t get out of hand and you are using the money you have available in the most effective way possible. This might all sound very scary if you’re just starting off and you’ll probably be wondering how to write a marketing plan for a beginner?

Don’t get too concerned, if you do your research you’ll see that a strategy like this is simply a tool to help your business get off the ground and to hopefully proper and grow.

Use the money that you’ve earmarked for your marketing wisely and effectively – your plan will help you make these decisions. Pop up banners/posters are a great way to make people aware of your existence and again, don’t cost the earth.

Many small businesses or start-ups fall into the trap of thinking marketing isn’t for them, it’s for large scale organisations with scores of staff. True they may have bigger budgets, but the principle is exactly the same – as is the importance to your business.

Branding and promotion are also vital tools in your business growth, so again factor them in. Your brand is your calling card, it’s what makes you recognisable and so it’s worth all the time and effort you put into creating it.

The same goes for your promotional activities. Perhaps you can create a loyalty card to ensure your customers stay with you, an introductory offer or a recommend a friend scheme. These are easy, quick win ways to help spread the word and can easily be added into your marketing activity.

Think about attending networking events where you can meet others, making sure you’ve got lots of eye-catching business cards to hand out.

It’s worth taking the time and putting some effort into creating your marketing plan. It will guide you, inspire you and keep you on the right track. It’s also a moveable feast that you can amend, adapt and alter as you grow or as other opportunities present themselves.

As long as you have that initial blueprint in place, then business success is just around the corner.


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