Unfortunately, marketing tends to be the forgotten stepchild of the business plan. It is probably because many potential business owners take it for granted and think that a few tweets or posts will bring droves of buying customers to their website. If it were that simple, most businesses would not go belly up within five years. Your marketing strategy is one of the most critical elements in your business plan, because that is where the money comes from.

Is a Full Plan Necessary?

You may think that a full business plan is a waste of time; a 2006 study indicated that writing a business plan increased the likelihood of getting into a new business. In fact, the act of putting your ideas on paper helps you to look at all angles of your business, especially financials, and you may even generate new ideas. Your marketing plan is the lifeblood of your business plan. If customers do not know you are there, if they don’t see your product, or if you’re not grabbing enough attention, your business will die. Writing a full thought out business plan and considering your marketing strategy is the key to starting a new business.

Conveying Your Marketing Message

In order for you to have a message, you’ll need to do market research. That means understanding your ideal customer, his wants and needs, her challenges; you basically need to get into the life and mind of your customer. Consider the needs or problems of your potential customers. For example, a bed with built-in drawers would be good for a college student or someone living in a tiny apartment without much space. Once you understand her behavior, then you can answer some of the most important questions: How does my product or service solve her problem? Why should she spend her money with your company and not your competitor? Once you identify a real problem or need of your customer, and show that your product or service can solve or address that problem, you have found the basis for what your business plan can be based on. It can be very helpful to get out there and actually talk to people about your ideas and get real feedback and insight. This will help you shape your message.

The Right Outlets

Social media has become the advertising choice for many eCommerce business owners because it is so ubiquitous and has become an integral part of the online experience. It is also less expensive than television or newspaper advertising. Facebook and Twitter are staples for many businesses, but depending on your market research, it may not be the best way to reach your target audience. For example, if your business is looking to target customers who are 55 and older, television advertising may be more effective than social media. If you want to stick with digital advertising, there are plenty of solutions to choose from besides Facebook and Twitter. According to eCommercetimes, TV advertisers and other media outlets are turning to real-time bidding that may help advertisers get the most out of their advertising dollars. Finding the best outlet is about having an assumption, testing it, learning from the results, and repeating as necessary. Understand your business market, get to know your target customers, and focus your marketing strategy on the outlet that will reach them the most effectively.

Knowing Your Budget

Once you’ve done your research, you can work on your budget. For some, budget just means money, but as a business owner, budget means time and money. If you are taking on the role of marketer then your time is very valuable. That means you’re not only in charge of creating and posting advertisements, but keeping content fresh on your site, maintaining a blog, as well as regularly interacting and engaging with fans and followers on social media networks. It is a lot of work and a lot of time. You may decide that outsourcing your marketing to an expert may be a better option to deal with all of these challenges and running your business effectively.

To really get the full benefit of what you are putting on paper, you are probably going to need expert help. A lot of entrepreneurs do not have marketing experience. They may be experts at selling a specific product or providing a great service, but not at understanding market segments or figuring out how to really attract them. Do research and consider your budget when seeking marketing help. A lot of small business websites and blogs offer advice and suggestions. Regardless of how you find one, a solid marketing strategy is essential to business success. Without the right attention, your financial projections won’t be worth more than the paper they’re printed on and you’ll be headed for failure well within the five-year time frame.