Starting a business is not like W.P. Kinsella’s novel, Shoeless Joe, which became the famous movie Field of Dreams. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean “they” will come. (Although that would be very cool and magical if your customers suddenly appeared out of a cornfield.)

Instead, you need a marketing plan to help you get things off the ground. Consider these steps to set the stage for marketing your business, or to improve the plan you have now.

  1. Know your business.

This probably seems like a rather basic question—of course you know your business. But can you sum up what you do into one sentence? Or even five words? If you can’t, start by writing out a paragraph about what your business does. Then start whittling that down as much as you can, until you have at least one sentence. The more concise you can be, the better.

  1. Define your customer.

It’s a lot easier to market when you know who you’re selling to. Is your customer primarily male or female? In a certain age group? Working in a certain industry? Living in a certain part of the country?

Depending on what your product or service is, your audience could be very narrow or very wide. Either way, that’s okay. What you want to do is create marketing personas for your potential customers. Personas are sort of like fiction, characters made up to represent your customers. You can have as many of these personas as your audience requires, from not many to a lot. Personas help you relate to your customers better, to think of them in terms of “real” people rather than just in theory. Personas can help you create content, new products and services, and decide on where to go next with your business.

  1. Research your competitors.

Who does what you do? Find out what you can about them. Research their website and online presence. Read their reviews online. Try to find examples of their marketing materials. Sign up for their newsletter. Get a feel for what they’re doing. While you’re at it, make sure you’re picking up any customer pain points you come across, as well as things that make customers happy.

  1. Set concrete goals.

Your goals can be simple of fantastical—just get a handle on what they are. Do you want to have a million customers by the end of the year and dominate your corner of the market, or do you need a client list of 10-20 customers? Make a list of the top three goals you want to achieve. You must know what your goals are to figure out how to achieve them.

  1. Choose your marketing channels.

Your marketing channels depend on three things: the first (and most important) depends on who your customer is—review the personas you created for your audience members. The second is the goals you set. And the third is your budget.

A large budget gives you a lot of options when it comes to marketing. It allows you to use direct mail, a channel that consistently offers the highest response and return on investment. It lets you take advantage of different social media marketing tools that cost money—running ads on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. If your budget is large enough, you can also hire a marketing consultant or a company to do everything for you from helping you develop this strategy to data analytics.

If that’s not the case, then focus on creating a website and choosing a few social media channels to get out there in the world. Creating your own website is relatively easy and free, and using the basics with social media channels doesn’t cost a dime. While it’s great if you can pinpoint social media channels most used by your audience, you can find most folks on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Those are safe bets starting out. Choose two or three, don’t go overboard. It’s not necessary to be on every social media channel there is.

  1. Keep an eye on your results.

The baseline for this is, are you moving toward your goal? Gaining website visitors? Converting customers? Making sales? Most marketing methods allow you to track customer interaction and response—see what’s working for you, or not working.

  1. Wash, rinse, repeat!

Coming up with a solid marketing plan will help your business keep growing and help you move toward your goals. All it takes is some good, old-fashioned hard work on your part (thinking, brainstorming, using some creative muscle) to hammer out the plan, and then continued evaluation of how things are going. If you need help getting started with a marketing plan, contact us today.