What’s Your Marketing Plan for 2012?

If it’s been a while since you worked on your marketing plan, what better time to update it than before the fresh start of a new year? Because technology, tools and pricing for marketing services change, it’s important to keep your marketing strategy updated continually.

Before you start sweating, your marketing plan doesn’t have to be a novel-sized document. It’s simply a couple of pages that explain your goals and how you want to market to reach them this year. You can find dozens of free templates for marketing plans online, and many are different from one another. Find the one you’re comfortable working with. Once you have a plan in place, it’s easy enough to update it each year.

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Creating a Business Plan

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Funny: so few small businesses actually have a business plan, yet every single one needs one. It doesn’t have to be a 50 page document. It can be a simple few pages that outline the business’ purpose and structure. But having one can actually help sustain your business through tough times. And if you’re a startup looking for funding, it’ll be one of the first things investors ask for. Here’s what you need to know.

Formal or Informal?

First, let’s look at your business. If you’re a small business that gets by on its own financing, and you don’t have third parties involved in funding your business, you can get by on a rough sketch of a business plan. If, however, you’re a nonprofit applying for grants or sponsorships, or are a startup wishing to secure funding through angel investors or venture capitalists, you’ll have to go the traditional route.

DIY or Hire Help?

If you fell into the first camp, you can pretty easily put together your own plan using one of many free online business plan templates. Once you’ve drafted it, have a coworker or family member review it for accuracy.

If you’re seeking funding, you can still create your own business plan, but I advise having a financial expert look over your financials and budgets, and someone who’s worked with both business plans and funding review the entire thing. It might cost a few hundred dollars, but it’s certainly worth it to avoid discrepancies that could cost you millions in funding.

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Why Marketing is So Important

A year ago, I wrote a lot about the importance of marketing, even in the difficult financial climate we were experiencing. Times may be a bit better now, but marketing belts are still being tightened. I have no problem with spending less on marketing (in fact, all of the techniques I talk about on this blog are for small budgets), but the key is that you have to market, at any budget.

Without marketing, you have no clients. How will people know about your products or services if you don’t communicate? Whether it’s Twitter, a press release, email or a blog, you need to expand your reach to new contacts and customers. It’s not necessary that you take out an ad in a glossy magazine to get results, or even a billboard. You can get better results if you look at how your customers communicate and reach them through those channels. Read More