Getting Started: Writing a Marketing Plan

Last month, we offered an overview of marketing plans and their value in increasing sales. This month, we offer tips to get you started.

The key to writing a great marketing plan is asking the right questions. The discovery process will help you reveal:

  • Important market trends
  • What your competition is doing
  • Where you fill a gap in the marketplace
  • Who your most profitable customers are

Here are 12 questions to ask yourself as your plan your marketing strategy:

1.  What are my marketing goals? Are they Clear, Quantified, Achievable, Realistic, Timely, and Measurable goals?

Examples may be to increase weeknight sales, or drive more traffic to your farm-stand.

2.  Did I reach last year’s marketing goals? If not, do I know why?

3.  Am I investing in marketing/advertising activities that can be measured in terms of performance?

  • If you send out a newsletter to your customers, can you track how many read it?
  • When you make special offers or discounts, do you ensure there is a way to track responses?

Examples could be numbered distribution flyers or specific coupon codes used at checkout for delivery services. If you participated in Groupon, did you notice an uptick in sales after the initial surge of business?

4. What industry and consumer trends might shape my plan?

  • An interesting article about specific consumer trends is here.
  • The Griffin Report shares interesting trends specific to the food industry 2011 Consumer Marketing Trends, such as using iPads instead of ‘Specials Boards’.

5.  What is my budget for marketing in 2011?

  • In general, restaurants should allocate 3% – 5% of sales.

I recently reviewed a marketing plan for a customer, and she listed dozens of great ideas.  But with limited time and budget, she did not have the resources to execute all of them. If you’re not sure where to focus, put resources toward marketing to the 20% of your customer base/target audience that will generate 80% of your revenue.

6. Who are my competitors? What are their weaknesses? Who has entered the market in the last year? Who has left?

  • As a restaurant, your competitors can be restaurants with similar cuisine, other restaurants in the same neighborhood, and even with customers cooking at home.

7. What is special about my restaurant or farm?  Do my customers know about my unique qualities? Why should a customer visit my farm or restaurant instead of the other options?

Example: A farm I’m working with offers “pick-your-own” sunflowers in August.  While many farms offer PYO, none offers this flower specialty. 

8. Can I accurately describe each of my customer segments? Who is my most profitable customer segment?

  • Your customers can be the lunch/work crowd or the stay-at-home moms who need a healthy alternative to home meals.  These customers should be directly targeted with offerings specific to their interests.
  • If your customers work in a different location than your farm or restaurant, then you will need to figure out to reach them creatively.

(Still need help defining your customer base? See the Calendar of Events for information on a business demographics workshop!)

9.  What am I doing to maintain and deepen relationships with my existing customers?  What am I going to do to “wow” customers to stay memorable? What are some low-cost, high-impact strategies I can use?

  •  Remember, it is cheaper to maintain existing customers than to attract new ones.

This could be as simple as offering a small amuse-bouche when diners sit down or remembering your customers’ favorite wines.

10.  What feedback do I have from customers that can shape my marketing plan?

  • Customers are usually happy to tell you what they want… you need to be conscientious to ask and listen.

11. How have behaviors of my target audience changed? Am I using the right media to communicate to my audience?

  • If your customer base is young, then the more social media tools, the better.
  • If you are targeting an older base, then more traditional print media may be better.

Remember, it is cheaper to maintain existing customers than to attract new ones.

12.  Have I taken advantage of the many “free” marketing tools available online to build my marketing program?

  • Click here for tips on using social media.

After you have spent time pondering these questions and answers, organize your thoughts into a cohesive plan.

Spending the time now to plan and make strategic decisions can save you a lot of money and missed opportunities this year as well improve your results significantly.

If you struggle with these questions it would make sense to talk with a marketing consultant to help you, rather than put to the side and think that, ‘my marketing will just fall into place later’ because it won’t.

Best of luck marketing! Feel free to email comments here or to our marketing consultants.

This article was co-authored by Doug Betensky, President of Upside Business Consultants, a marketing consulting and internet marketing firm that helps companies grow.

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