Few things are more important than growth when operating a small business. That’s why it’s critical to plan – especially when it comes to marketing, according to Jeremy Sisk, president of Xperience4Higher, a full-service marketing and consulting firm in Durham that focuses on small businesses. However, Sisk said, the world’s greatest marketing plan won’t do the job alone. You have to execute it, too. Here are Sisk’s four steps to ensure success when executing a marketing plan.
1. Execute your marketing plan on a small scale: Before you move into what can be an expensive endeavor, consider testing your plan first. Take 10 percent of your overall advertising budget and do a test. Pick a mix of the plan’s tactics that cost the least and have the most impact so that you get enough market reach to understand whether or not you’re on the right track. You’ll learn things such as how well your message was received and which specials drove the most revenue. Also, you’ll get an idea of what type of growth you can expect.
2. Listen to your customers: Spend some of your testing budget on in-person marketing activities. Take the offer, new service/product or message to a local festival or event. Talk with people honestly and openly about what you’re offering. Focus on their needs first. Listen intently and take good notes. Take the time to listen to feedback. Ask new customers what made them shop with you.
3. Measure your success and adjust your strategy: Make adjustments to your overall marketing plan to set the stage for a larger push. Focus on what worked and try to expand upon it. If a certain message and offer were popular when they stood alone, combine the two.
4. Prepare for growth: If you’re going to be successful long-term, you have to ensure short-term growth doesn’t come at the expense of loyal customers. Staff accordingly and don’t sacrifice customer experience. Have enough of what you’re offering so shoppers aren’t disappointed. If you’re a service-based business, plan and schedule accordingly so everyone gets their turn. Lastly, focus on every customer and treat them with care. A simple thank you or an incentive program work well.