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Marketing is all about ascertaining and providing customer value, so it should be no surprise that there needs to be a strong linkage between a small business marketing plan and customer value. Customer value is the amount of benefits that a customer realizes from a product or a service as compared to the costs associated with acquiring those benefits. Because a marketing plan provides a specific marketing direction for a small business, the plan necessarily captures how it plans to deliver value to customers. The specific consideration of product, price, place, and promotion should all be geared to appealing to the target market or markets. This “appeal” must be based on understanding the value that customers are seeking—as the business understands it. The product should also be positioned in a way that reflects value by setting it apart from the competition for easy recognition and comparison. In short, the marketing plan should be the embodiment of a business’s customer value propositionThe whole cluster of benefits a business is promising to deliver to a customer.—that is, the whole cluster of benefits a business is promising to deliver to a customer.Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller, Marketing Management (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009), 123.
It is not uncommon for a business to spend three times as much as expected and make three times less than expected.“Expense and Sales Forecasting,” Chic-CEO.com, accessed December 2, 2011, www.chic-ceo.com/expense-and-sales-forecasting. This combination is not good for any company’s cash flow. It is, therefore, critical that marketing plan expenses be as tight as possible without sacrificing quality (as defined by the business), with every effort being made to keep costs low. This implies the efficient use of employee time on marketing activities, competitive bidding for outside vendors, very careful attention paid to the costs of media and their effectiveness so that promotional campaigns that are not working are replaced with campaigns that look more promising and more cost-effective, and web presence measurement and evaluation to ascertain what efforts are not working so that the costs of those efforts can be replaced with something more cost-effective.
Digital technology and the e-environment are becoming more important to the small business every day. With specific respect to the marketing plan, technology can enter the process at multiple points. The following are a few examples:
The e-environment has also had an impact on developing the marketing plan. The following are some examples:
MaryAnn has always wanted her own real estate office. She earned her real estate license as soon as she was eligible and was able to land a position with the top realtor in the area. As she gained sales experience, she studied for her broker’s license and obtained it on the “fast track.” Her plan was to open her own office as soon as she felt confident that she had enough experience under her belt.
Her office, Power Real Estate, is now open, and MaryAnn has done well in building a business and establishing a good reputation for results. One of the things she noticed in her years of real estate experience was that many people were wary of letting real estate agents sell their homes because they did not believe the agents would aggressively try to sell them fast enough.David Frey, “6 Deadly Small Business Marketing Mistakes,” accessed June 21, 2012, http://www.onyxwebsolutions.com.au/resources/Six_Marketing_Mistakes.pdf. In response to this reluctance, MaryAnn developed and aggressively marketed a “Twenty-Point Power Marketing Plan” that would result in a client’s house being sold in thirty days or less.David Frey, “6 Deadly Small Business Marketing Mistakes,” accessed June 21, 2012, http://www.onyxwebsolutions.com.au/resources/Six_Marketing_Mistakes.pdf. She knew it was risky, but so far things have worked out well.
Then the housing collapse occurred. MaryAnn found herself swamped with homeowners anxious to sell before being hit with foreclosure. She quickly found out that she could no longer sell homes in thirty days or less because there was a housing glut. She now sees her reputation at risk because of the housing glut. Her marketing plan is down the drain. What should she do? She does not see closing her office as an option she wants to consider.