Thursday, January 31, 2013

Even Home Businesses Should Have Marketing Plans

A business is a business, regardless of its size or location. Even someone with a work at home business and no employees should view the organization as a professional undertaking. This requires the development and implementation of goals, strategies, and plans. A marketing plan is one of the most important plans a business owner will develop. It ensures that marketing dollars are spent wisely on beneficial activities that generate corporate profits.

Everything from identifying and understanding the target audience and competitive position of the business to tactics designed to reach that audience and differentiate the business from its competitors can be included in a marketing plan. This plan provides the business owner with a path and schedule to follow on the road to success. It also serves as the foundation for a marketing budget that details the costs involved in achieving marketing goals.

For the smallest businesses, retaining a marketing firm or consultant or bringing a marketing professional onboard may not be feasible from a financial perspective. Fortunately, plenty of resources are available for writing marketing plans and developing marketing budgets and many of these are free. For example, the U.S Small Business Administration provides access to a downloadable guide for marketing plan development. Business owners can even review sample marketing plans to see what is involved.

The process of developing a marketing plan and supporting budget is not a one-time thing, nor is it set in stone. As situations and needs dictate, entrepreneurs can add, delete, and refine marketing goals, strategies, and tactics. In terms of budget, business owners should verify whether it helps them achieve their marketing goals and provide a return on investment or requires some tweaking. This can only be done by measuring spending on a periodic basis such as each quarter.

Business owners should give as much attention to marketing initiatives that were successful as they should to those that were not. An ineffective marketing technique should not automatically be discarded. It should be assessed to determine whether it could be more effective in a different situation or requires more time to yield desired results. Developing measurements for some marketing initiatives can be difficult but good advice is available through chambers of commerce, professional networking groups, and in online entrepreneurial forums.

A marketing plan should cover activities for an entire year and should be revisited on an annual basis to determine whether changes are needed. If the business launches a new service or product, the marketing plan and budget should be altered to accommodate this. In some situations, it may be easier to develop a separate plan specifically for the new marketing campaign, making this an addendum to the business marketing plan.

Though developing, refining, and redeveloping a marketing plan and its supporting budget requires time and effort, both are well-spent. At the end of the day, the marketing plan dictates how a business connects with its customers. Without these customers, the business would not exist so there is no better incentive for making this investment.

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