Don’t Know How to Market Your Startup? Here is a 7-Step Plan to Get You Started

by: Adrianne Glowski

It’s not just large companies that need marketing plans; your startup needs one, too. Like a business plan, a marketing plan will help you focus and decide where and how to spend your resources. A marketing plan won’t guarantee success, but what it will do is give you a guide that details how, when, and why you’ll carry out certain efforts. This is extremely important because it increases your chance for success. Not only that, the work you put into developing such a plan will help you better understand your business and industry.

Here’s how to get started:

1.) Brainstorm
Before writing a marketing plan, consult your business plan. Review the goals you’ve set for yourself and look at the products/services you offer. How do your products/services benefit a potential customer? How do you differ from your competitors? What makes you stand out? Start with a brainstorming session to determine your selling point and think about what you hope to get out of your marketing efforts.

2.) Identify Target Audience(s)
Defining a target audience is essential before developing a marketing plan. Your products and services may appeal to a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your time and money trying to reach everyone. Determining an audience can help you distribute what limited resources your startup has.

Consult your business plan

  • Anything you do to further your company should align with your original business plan. Before you decide to market your company, look at what you offer and figure out how it satisfies a need for your potential customers.

Research

  • Gather information from secondary sources. If you can swing it, conduct some primary research.
  • Use this research to determine how to carve out your niche.

Customer profile

  • After you’ve taken the time to research, create a customer profile. This is an in-depth description of who your typical customer may be. It includes both demographic information—like age, gender, and location—and psychographic information, which offers insights regarding interests, hobbies, or behaviors.
  • Both types of information are essential to gather early in the process of developing your marketing plan.

Find your customer

  • Take this step literally! Find out which social networks or apps your potential customers use. Which websites do they like? Determine everything you can about possible channels to reach your audience.

Monitor and evolve

  • After you’ve determined who your potential customer is and have gone through a campaign, evaluate whether you hit the mark in terms of targeting the right audience.

3.) SWOT Analysis
shutterstock_106514090Before you set your marketing efforts into motion, you need to know where you stand. A SWOT analysis is an assessment of the internal and external factors or issues a company is facing. SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Why is this step in the marketing process important? When you determine your marketing objectives, you need to make sure they’re built on the knowledge you acquired during a SWOT analysis because the information can help dictate those objectives. If you learn during your research that there’s an untapped market that might be interested in your products or services, you can be the first among your competition to reach out to that audience. Essentially, it helps you establish YOUR place in the market.

Strengths:

  • List your advantages.
  • What’s your selling point? What’s the thing you think you do better than anyone else?
  • What resources do you have that give you an edge over your competition?
  • Do you already have a loyal customer base?

Weaknesses:

  • Are there things you can improve upon?
  • Do you have low customer retention?
  • Do you lack financial resources or staff?

Opportunities:

  • What trends can you capitalize upon?
  • Is there a new market you can tap?
  • Do your competitors have weaknesses that you don’t?

Threats:

  • Do you lack financial resources?
  • Is there new technology that might threaten your business position?
  • Do your customers or potential customers have tastes/interests that continually evolve?

These are just a few examples of questions you can ask yourself or items you can evaluate before developing the rest of your marketing plan. There may be other items that are pertinent to your business or industry that should be considered before proceeding—address them here!

Skipping ahead for just a minute, the last part of the marketing process involves adjusting your plan based on how your efforts have performed or the new information you have acquired. If you’re a brand new startup, that’s going to be essential because you might not be able to complete your SWOT analysis without some trial-and-error. Before launching your first marketing campaign, you can try to determine your SWOTs, but it all changes once you officially enter the market!

4.) Set Objectives
The information you compiled during your SWOT analysis should help guide the development of your objectives. For example, if you determine that you have low customer retention, you can take this into consideration as you complete the rest of your marketing plan. You’ll know to focus some of your efforts on boosting customer retention.

Your objectives need to have several qualities:

  • Specific: Write your objectives in a manner that is clear about what you would like to achieve.
  • Measurable: It doesn’t matter what objective you set, you need to be able to ascertain whether you were successful. That involves quantifying each objective.
  • Achievable: This step is tricky. It’s about ensuring you have the resources to realize the objectives you’ve set. This usually means having the money or people to support your objectives. As a startup, you might be short on both. Keep in mind what resources you have (or lack) as you develop your objectives.
  • Realistic: This might be one of the most difficult parts of developing objectives. You need to find the balance between challenging and obtainable. As a startup owner, it’s natural to have the drive and passion to grow your business. But, one mistake people make is creating objectives that just aren’t possible. This can be discouraging. Reach high, but don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Time-sensitive: For each objective, set a deadline.

5.) Determine Strategies and Tactics
Your objectives lay out what you hope to accomplish; your strategies and tactics will actually explain how you intend to achieve your objectives. You’ll develop a strategy to tackle each objective, then decide on the tactics. This section is where you get into whether you’ll choose to advertise, focus on engagement through social media, or run an email campaign. Make sure that the strategies you develop and tactics you choose align with the objectives you’ve set. In addition, make sure you put together specifics about how you’re going to measure all of your activities.

6.) Finalize Budget and Timeline
When you settle on the tactics you will use to market your company, you’ll be investigating costs for various activities. Create a budget and timeline section that lists the name of each activity as well as the cost and budgeted time. As a startup, this section may actually be more focused on time and human resources. Regardless of the tactics you’ve chosen and how they’ll be funded or accomplished, lay out how much you plan to spend and develop a timeline. Having all this information in one place will help you revisit it in the future and reconcile how much time and money you planned to spend versus actual costs and time spent.

7.) Evaluate, Review and Adjust
After you’ve completed your plan, your work isn’t finished. It’s up to you to monitor and adjust your plan as time goes on. Evaluate each marketing campaign you run. Figure out if you’re meeting your objectives. If you’re easily meeting your objectives, consider challenging yourself a bit more. If not, are you setting the bar too high? Is something amiss with your strategies or tactics? Your marketing plan shouldn’t be something that you write and set aside. It’s something designed to help and guide you, and it should be reviewed frequently and updated if new information is acquired.

Remember: There’s really no wrong way to compile your plan. Just make sure you’re gathering as much information as you can and putting your goals down on paper before launching your marketing efforts. Taking the time to do this is only going to help boost your chances for success!

About the author Adrianne Glowski @amg825
Adrianne is a PR/communications pro who’s spent the last seven years working in the non-profit world. She’s a Chicago native who loves everything about her hometown, especially deep dish pizza and the White Sox. Adrianne holds a Bachelor’s in Business Communication and a Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications. Connect with her on Twitter.

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