In my work as a small business consultant, I have established a recurring problem among many entrepreneurs. Most of them are doers and not planners. They set out to start a certain business and they will get down to business. While this is the gist that makes up an entrepreneur, the lack of a plan leads them to a disastrous failure in three to five years.

Most of them spend a large chunk of their capital making wrong marketing activities the right way or using a wrong method to do the right marketing activities. Marketing plan is essential and you can do it within a day following these simple steps.

Step 1: Understand Your Market and Competition

The first major step you should make is to understand your competition and the market. Most small businesses lash on to a great product without understanding what the market wants. At this step, it is paramount that you distinguish between wants and needs. People buy what they want, not what they need. Avoid making the mistake of failing to study the market and the competition.

To help you establish what you target market wants, consider the following factors:

Underserved market segment
The size of the market segment
Market share required to break even
Competition in the particular niche
Establish weaknesses in your competition
Consider the demand
Step 2: Understand Your Customer

Who are your customers? What do they want? Who motivates them to buy? These are some of the questions you should seek to answer if you want to really be successful in your endeavors. To intimately know your customers, consider the following questions:

How do potential customers normally buy similar products? Is it on store, on web, or door-to-door?
Who is the major buyer and the major motivator/influencer in the buying process? Consider such people as wife, husband, children, purchasing agent, project leaders, secretary and many other that you can think of.
What is the customer behavior? How do they get their information?
What motivates customers to buy? (avoid paid, increase security, look good, get rich, be popular, be healthy etc).
Step 3: Pick a Niche

After learning the target market, competition and your customers, you should choose a niche that you will be able to satisfy, communicate to, and dominate. It is advisable that you start with one niche, dominate it, and then move to another niche.

Step 4: Develop a Marketing Hook/Message

When developing your marketing hook, make sure you tell your prospects not only what you do, but also persuade them to buy. You should have two types of marketing messages; the first message should be short and to the point. It is your answer to those who ask you what you do.

The second message should be elaborate, giving your prospects all that they need to know about the product features and the benefits of using your solution.

The message should have the following:

An explanation of the target market’s problem
Evidence that the problem is so important and needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency.
Explanation why your solution is the best.
Explanation of the benefits of using your solution.
Testimonials from previous clients
An explanation about prices, fees, and payment terms.
Include your unconditional guarantee.
Step 5: Determine Your Marketing Medium(s)

This will be determined by the niche you have chosen to target. It is important that you choose a niche that is easy to reach and communicate to. The marketing medium should give you a high return on your marketing dollar (ROMD).

Step 6: Set Sales and Marketing Goals

The difference between goals and wishes is that goals are written while wishes are not. You actively work towards achieving your goals but you just think about your wishes. It is therefore critical that you set SMART goals. Your goals should be

a). Sensible,

b). Measurable,

c). Achievable

d). Realistic and

e). Time bound.

Make sure you include financial and non-financial elements on your goals. Financial elements include gross profit, annual sales revenue, sales per person and many more. Non-financial element that you can consider include units sold, contracts signed, articles published, clients acquired etc.

After you have established all sales and marketing goals, put together processes to internalize them with all the team members. These processes may include displaying thermometer posters, reviewing them in sales and marketing meetings, etc.

Step 7: Develop a marketing Budget

You do not have to put too much thought into this one if you do not have a way of determining the exact cost. Take a quick-and-dirty number that is realistic to work with. You can check the costs of marketing from other marketing activities. For a more exact marketing cost figure, you can divide your annual sales by the number of units sold to get the cost of acquiring one customer or for making one sale.