Taking a strategic approach to marketing your business is no longer a luxury afforded to established businesses and big industry players

If you hope to consistently grow your business and compete in the new global marketplace, you must be able to successfully plan and execute a strategic marketing plan cost-effectively and with a focus on Return On Investment (ROI).

Unfortunately, many small business owners and solo-preneurs join the ranks of the self-employed without a strong understanding of the fundamentals of strategic marketing, instead taking a “see what comes” approach, which invariably leads to lower-than-expected results and is a big contributing factor in the stratospheric rate of new business failures.

To help you plan your strategic marketing approach, here are the 7 Steps To Creating A Concise Small Business Marketing Strategy:

Step 1: Create A Marketing Vision
Do you know what you’re trying to accomplish with your marketing efforts; what your specific goals are when it comes to growing and building your business?  Understanding where you are and knowing where you want to go is the essential first step to developing an action plan to get you there.

Step 2: Understand Your Market
Who is your perfect customer or client?  Do you know or are you simply willing to take any business that comes your way?  Being able to identify, understand and empathize with your potential customers will demonstrate to them that you can relate to them and are genuinely concerned about providing them a solution that works for them.

Being able to “speak the language” of your potential customer will allow you to gain their trust and build rapport much more quickly, ultimately leading to greater success.

Step 3: Know Your Competition
What do your competitors do well?  What do they do poorly?  How will you differentiate yourself from them in the minds of your prospective customers?

Doing the right kinds of competitive analysis, including becoming a customer of your competition so that you know first-hand what they offer and how well or poorly they deliver on the sale.

You can learn a lot about their customer service, shipping methods, product pricing & quality and much more by becoming their customer.  You can also find out if and how they continue to market to you after the initial sale has been completed.

Step 4: Craft A Compelling Message
Once you understand what your goals are, have a clear understanding of what the market wants, what is important to them and what holes you can fill in the market by doing a complete competitive analysis, you can then craft a compelling marketing message to clearly and concisely convey the benefits of your service offering.

Your message should always be benefit-driven and speak directly to the emotional wants and needs of your prospective customers.  Your goal is to answer the two most important questions before they are ever asked: ‘what’s so good about that?’; and ‘what’s in it for me?”

Finally, your message should illicit a response.  Gone are the days when getting “exposure” (also known as branding) is enough to ensure your success.  Today, you must be focused on marketing efforts that generate an immediate result so you can effectively gauge your return on investment.

Step 5: Selecting Message Delivery Systems
There are thousands (or rather, tens and even hundreds of thousands) of different ways you can market your message in the attempt to reach your market; however many of them will be ineffective at best.

Using your customer profile, you can begin to do research on how to reach your prospects in the places they are already spending time.  There’s no point in advertising in a magazine for dogs to promote your cat training system!

Do you want to advertise in the paper, online or through direct-mail? What about yellow pages, white papers or trade publications? How about more “guerrilla” style marketing such as staged events, public relations or street-teams?

There are too many options to list and it is your job to determine the right ones to reach your market in the most cost-effective way possible.

Step 6: Tracking Your Results

How will you know whether your marketing efforts are successful or whether you are simply throwing good money after bad by renewing a losing campaign? Tracking your efforts is a key component, made easier by taking a direct-response approach with your marketing campaigns.

Using unique tracking codes (and requesting this information at the point of sale) will help you know where your business is coming from so that you can track your conversions appropriately.

Having buyers clip a coupon, quote a VIP Access Code or type in a specific website address for each different campaign are all simple ways that you can begin to track the effectiveness of your marketing with the goal of doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Step 7: Creating Marketing Systems
Once you have a marketing plan in place that is working, how will you automate or systemize it so that you can become even more effective with your time, getting more and better results while putting in less human effort?

By developing  a funnel approach to your marketing you will be able to create a sense of continuity from one level of the funnel to the next.  Not only will your clients feel more comfortable along each step, you will also know how to respond or what action to take whenever you have an interaction with that client, based on where they are in the funnel process you’ve developed.