There are few things scarier for a small business owner than staring at a blank piece of paper or an empty computer screen wondering where to start on your marketing plan. Where do you begin? How do you decide what's a priority, or where to place your precious resources?
Not to worry. It’s our mission to demystify what can be confusing or daunting processes. Over the next seven weeks we’ll pose seven questions you should ask yourself and your team that will inform your marketing plan. Each is important in building a complete picture, so you know how to focus your energy, time and money when it comes to promoting your business.
Question 1: What are your business goals?
So, what are your business goals? This may seem like a simple question and yet many people stumble when asked it. Put simply, what can you quantify about what you want to achieve with your business? How many euros/dollars/pounds do you want to earn? How much do you need to cover costs, pay staff and even make a profit? How does that translate into numbers of customers, products sold, reservations made, heads in beds, etc.?
Here are some examples that might help:
Margaret runs a dog grooming salon. She can book up to 20 sessions per week to fill out her calendar. At €50 per pet, that’s €1,000. Additionally, Margaret sells accessories – shampoos, grooming products, toys, dog beds and more. So, Margaret needs to think about how many doggy makeovers and how much product to sell in order to meet her financial goals. From there, she can decide on the relative priority of each part of the business, and start to map out her ideal customers and how best to interest them in buying.
Barry sells handmade food products at local festivals. He wants to expand the business and create an online shop. How many jars of jam does he want to sell and at what price point? What is his capacity to fulfill orders? Will increasing the scope of the business mean hiring staff – and what will that cost (recruitment, salary, benefits, training, etc.)? Will he need new technology, premises, equipment or contracts? A clear grounding in these numbers can help him set clear marketing goals around his new online audience, product pricing, promotions and more.
Caroline is a graphic designer. She charges €50/hour, meaning in an average month she has a potential to work on client projects about 30 hours per week, or 120 billable hours per month. How many clients does she need to reach this and also account for overheads like taxes, equipment, subscriptions and memberships? Unlike Barry, Caroline’s sole ‘inventory’ is her time, so drawing a clear financial picture will help her prioritise which customers are likely to help her meet those goals, and which marketing methods are least time consuming so she can focus on billable services.
How are these relevant to your situation? Just like these fictitious business owners, you need to do your homework and delve into any quantifiable business goals in detail before you invest in a serious marketing programme – otherwise you’ll be taking a shot in the dark and spending money potentially unwisely that you can’t replace later.
Next week we'll explore Question 2: ‘Who’s your audience and why should they care?’ Now that you’ll have business goals in mind, we’ll look at how to hone your perceptions of who’s the right customer for you and where to find them.
I'm Tim Hart, owner, coach and trainer at LoveSmallBiz.com. I'm also owner of marketing communications firm Hart Communications.