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The first step towards getting your business up and running is to do a little planning. A marketing plan encompasses a lot of other necessary categories besides just how and what you will advertise.



  • You buy the seeds.
  • You examine the soil and conditions.
  • You plant the seed.
  • You water the ground and keep an eye out for bugs and weeds.
  • You prune your plant and give it food.
  • You harvest the fruits of your seed.


  • You have an idea.
  • You research the market, target customers and competition.
  • You launch your business.
  • You join industry groups and get feedback to constantly learn and improve.
  • You review and revise your plan as you grow.
  • You enjoy profitability.

Your business, like a seed, will be successful and profitable when you constantly nurture and enjoy the growth.



Businesses generally thrive or fail within the first three years of operation. It’s very rewarding to be on the far end of four or five years saying, “Yes! We did it!”

The first step towards getting your business up and running is to do a little planning. A marketing plan encompasses a lot of other necessary categories besides just how and what you will advertise.

You will find several of those other categories in this abbreviated guide. We’ll give you many things to think about in the early stages, and items to review as you grow.

It’s important not to lose that entrepreneurial spark that got you going in the first place. Without that, none of the rest of this will really matter.

The 8 steps we cover here are:

1.  Understand Your Market

2. Understand Your Competition

3. Understand Your Customer

4. Pick a Niche

5. Develop Your Marketing Message

6. Determine Your Marketing Medium

7. Set SMART Marketing Goals

8. Set Your Marketing Budget

Understand Your Market

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you get an awesome idea? “Hey, let’s market this thing. This is so cool.” Many entrepreneurs forget to check out the market to see if people want it. Huge mistake! If you try to sell something that people don’t want, they won’t buy it. It’s that simple.

People don’t necessarily buy what they need, but they’ll most always buy what they want, even if they don’t have the money. To illustrate, have you ever known someone that went to the store to buy a pair of shoes that they needed and came back with a new CD and player? Or how about the hungry shopper who goes to the grocery store for milk, eggs, and fruit, and comes out with ice cream, hot fudge and whipping cream?

A profitable market can be compared to a Copper Country picnic complete with seagulls. All you need to do is throw out the scraps and it turns into a feeding frenzy. A profitable market has folks who happily buy your product or service.

To get an understanding of your market you should ask yourself questions such as:

  1. What is my target market?
  2. Are there segments in my market that are underserved?
  3. Are the segments of my market for my product or service big enough to make money?
  4. How much share of that market do I need to capture to just break even?
  5. What is my market potential?
  6. What is my market trend?
  7. What are my market’s problems?
  8. What are my market’s opportunities?

Understand Your Competition

Know who your competition is. Someone in a different business may offer some of the same services you intend to offer. They are competition. Someone who in your mind isn’t going anywhere with their business, yet offers the same things as you are about to offer, is your competition. Find out as much about your competition as possible. Shop the competition. Have your friends shop the competition. Make phone calls to your competition.

  1. Who is the competition in my market?
  2. Who are my biggest competitors?
  3. What do my competitors offer that I don’t?
  4. What is my competition’s biggest failure?
  5. What sets me apart from my competition?

Understand Your Customer

You’ll need to know who your customers are, what they want, and what motivates them to buy before you can prepare an effective marketing plan. Knowing your customer completely is the first step to easy sales.

To really get to know your customers you’ll need to ask yourself questions such as:

  1. What are my best sources of customers?
  2. What problem does my product or service solve for my customer?
  3. What does my customer really want? How do I know?
  4. Does my customer buy similar things from my competition?
  5. Who is the primary buyer and the buying influencer in the purchasing process?
  6. What kind of habits does my customer have? Where do they get their information?
  7. What does my target customer dislike about my competition?
  8. How much will the average customer purchase?

Pick a Niche

If you say that your target customer is “everybody” then nobody will be your customer. The marketplace is loaded with competition. Carve out a specific niche and dominate that niche.

Typical ads read: for all your (fill in the blank) needs. Don’t be one of them. You need to be specific. Tell me exactly why you are the business I should call when I have a problem. Develop a Unique Purchase Appeal. This differentiates you from Joe down the street who sells the same thing at the same price or lower. Dare to be different.

You could be a “C.P.A. for Houghton’s used car dealers” or “the only restaurant in the Copper Country that gives away a free dinner every Tuesday.” You get the picture. Make sure to choose a niche that interests you and that is easy to get your message to. It would be very destructive to pick a niche that you can’t communicate with or that will cost you all your potential profits to contact.

  1. Carve out a specific niche.
  2. Make sure you are extremely interested in it.
  3. Dominate it!

Develop Your Marketing Message

Your marketing message not only tells your prospect what you do, but persuades them to become your customer. You should develop two types of marketing messages. Your first marketing message should be short and to the point. This concept is also known as the “elevator pitch,” or what you would say to a stranger about your business during the time it takes to ride in an elevator, roughly equal to the attention span of most prospective customers. It’s your response to someone who asks you, “So, what do you do?”

To make it easy for customers to describe what you do, they must easily understand the “idea” of your company. This is your “ideavirus.” Like a biological virus, an ideavirus can spread very quickly from person to person. To create effective customer evangelists, your customers must know your elevator pitch as well as, if not better than, you.

The second type is your complete marketing message that will be included in all your marketing materials and promotions.

To make your marketing message compelling and persuasive it should include:

  1. An explanation of the benefits people will receive from using your solution.
  2. Examples and testimonials from customers you have helped with similar problems.
  3. Your unconditional guarantee.
  4. A consistent theme using your Unique Purchase Appeal (UPA).

Determine Your Marketing Medium

Your marketing medium is the communication vehicle you use to deliver your marketing message. When you choose your marketing medium(s) you’ll understand why it’s critical to have a niche with which you can easily communicate.
It’s important to choose those marketing mediums that give you the highest return on your marketing dollar. This means that you want to choose the medium that delivers your marketing message to the most niche prospects at the lowest possible cost.

The following is a smattering of tools you have at your disposal to get your message out:

  • Newsletters
  • Postcards
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Business cards
  • Card decks
  • Signs
  • Banners
  • Newspaper ads
  • Television ads
  • Infomercials
  • Radio ads
  • Classified ads
  • Magazine ads
  • Catalogs
  • Door hangers
  • Sign picketing
  • Take-one box
  • Window display
  • Special events
  • Seminars
  • Trade shows
  • Teleclasses
  • Media releases
  • Articles
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Public speaking
  • Networking
  • Charity events
  • Gift Certificates
  • Door-to-door
  • Telemarketing
  • Contests
  • Sweepstakes
  • Agents
  • Yellow pages
  • Email
  • Website
  • Sales letters
  • Fax broadcasts

The trick is to match your message to your market using the right medium. It would do you no good to advertise your retirement community using a loud radio spot on a rock and roll radio station. This is a complete mismatch of the market, message, and medium. Success will come when there is a good match of the three.

  1. What is our advertising cost per sale?
  2. How will I test and track my marketing efforts?
  3. Which of my suppliers would be motivated to help me grow my business because it would directly benefit them? Will they co-op with cost?

Set SMART Marketing Goals

Goals are critical to your success. A “wish” is a goal that hasn’t been written down. If you haven’t written your goals, you’re still just wishing for success. Write your goals on 3x5 index cards and put them in your briefcase, planner or purse. The truly successful people promise that if you continuously imagine yourself accomplishing these goals, and read them daily, you will succeed. Such is the power of positive thinking.

When creating your goals use the SMART formula. Ensure that your goals are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time specific

Your goals should include financial and non-financial elements. Once you’ve set your goals, share them with two people whose opinions and business practices you respect. These folks then can hold you accountable for your actions and keep you on track. It is also important to share your business goals with all employees or team members so you are all working toward the same objectives.

Another great time saving tip used by successful companies is writing down the 6 most important things you need to accomplish the following day before leaving work. Ask for our FREE notepads.

Set Your Marketing Budget

It’s good to start developing your marketing budget with a rough calculation and then flesh it out when you have more details. Check out industry standards. Join organizations who have published studies to help you.

If you currently run a business you can track your marketing- related expenditures. After a year, you will be able to calculate your “cost to acquire one customer” or “cost to sell one product” by dividing your annual sales and marketing costs by the number of units sold or customers acquired.

The next step is to take your cost to sell one unit or acquire one customer and simply multiply it by your unit sales or customer acquisition goal. The result of this simple computation will give you a rough estimate of what you need to invest to meet your sales goals for the next year.

  1. How much can I afford to spend to acquire one customer?
  2. What is the lifetime profit value of a single customer?
  3. What would happen if you spent nothing at all on marketing?
  4. If you come up with many great tactics to attract customers, but can’t afford them all, prioritize.

Let’s Grow

It’s time to Just Do It. Try not to make the development of your plan a laborious, drawn-out task. Remember the 80-20 rule. 80% of your results will come from 20% of your effort. Of course you’ll need to investigate and analyze your marketing medium(s) of choice, their appropriateness for your message, and their estimated costs.

In addition, there are things you can do to build on the previous categories. Some questions to consider include:

  1. Will you offer related products and services once you dominate your niche?
  2. Will you actively solicit referral business?
  3. Will you do anything at the point of sale to increase the amount of the order?
  4. How will you re-sell your customer after initial sale?
  5. Do you collect names and addresses of contacts for follow-up later?
  6. What is your vision for your business in 5 years? 10 years? Be specific.

Set aside uninterrupted time to begin development or review of your marketing plan. It could very well be the most important document to which you and your team members will refer to.

To get your own copy of this Way-to-Grow Program booklet, stop in at Designotype Printers.