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Mikalee Byerman (Photo: Sally Casas, provided by NCET)
You’ve learned a metric ton about starting your business in our recent installments: We’ve covered business planning, company description, market analysis, competitive analysis, management/organization description and breakdown of products/services.
Now we’re at the ominous-sounding “marketing plan” step, which I promise should not inspire thumb-sucking and cold sweats. In fact, if you do a basic search on your favorite engine, you’ll discover countless tips about developing a marketing plan — including the fact that a good one includes anywhere from four to 267 “fundamental elements.”
More: How to start a business in Nevada, part 1: Writing a business plan
More: How to start a business in Nevada, part 2: Creating a company description
More: How to start a business in Nevada, part 3: Market analysis
More: How to start a business in Nevada, part 4: Conduct a competitive analysis
More: How to start a business in Nevada, part 5: Management and organization
More: How to start a business in Nevada, part 6: Breakdown of products and services
But as someone who writes marketing plans day in and out, I am here to offer the core aspects that every company needs to consider; and they conveniently form the mnemonic RAGUSBE, which means absolutely nothing. But I like mnemonics, so I’m keeping it.
Research and competitive analysis: This step is often ignored, and to a company’s peril. What is it they say about people who ignore history being doomed to repeat it? Research sets the stage and helps you understand what works and hasn’t in the past, identify trends and glean insights from the competition. You’ve already done your competitive analysis, so include those takeaways in your plan. And here’s an insider tip: Look up your industry + “case study” + words like “marketing” or “advertising” to see real (usually awesome) results from previous campaigns.
Audience: This is the “who” of your plan. Keep in mind that a defined target audience helps you understand who you are talking to, which will ultimately help you determine how you will best communicate. If you believe your product or service is best utilized by “everyone” or “all of humanity,” you’ve got some refining to do. And if you’re reluctant to refine, just consider whether you have a budget to reach “the entire world.” Probably not so much.
Goals and objectives: Here is the “what” of your plan – as in, what are your trying to accomplish? Goals are the outcomes (“grow social media presence,” for example), while objectives are precise/measurable actions to help you achieve goals (for this example, perhaps “secure 1 billion Instagram followers” — though perhaps you’re aiming higher?).
Unique selling proposition: Also called a unique perceived benefit or unique value proposition, this is the “how is this product/offering any different from the rest?” step. In order to succeed, your business needs to offer a competitive advantage, helping you rise above others in your field. Identify it, and be ready to shout it from the rooftops.
Strategy: This is the “how” and “where” of your plan. How will you grow your business, specifically? What tactics will you use? What outlets will help you tell your story?
Budget: You’ll need to spend some time thinking about all of the above in the context of cash available to tell your story. In other words, what is the best use of your financial resources in order to reach your target with the best ROI (return on investment)?
Evaluation: You can improve your return by building mechanisms into your plan to measure your efforts. If you notice that a certain strategy or tactic isn’t paying off, you can pivot to other ideas. Examples include monitoring sales at specific checkpoints, surveying customers, running key analytics at established intervals, etc.
See? No cold sweat or thumb-sucking necessary. Pour yourself a drink, think about your business and then say RAGUS BE awesome! (You know, like spaghetti? Oh, never mind.)
Mikalee Byerman is VP of strategy for the Estipona Group, a freelance writer and NCET’s VP of communication. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that helps people explore business and technology.
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