Photo credit: rebootproduction.com
It's important for your start-up business to have a marketing plan because you need to market your product or service consistently right from the very start.
All branding and marketing should be carefully considered and decided on before you launch your product to market. Some considerations you need to think about when writing your business plan include:
Branding guidelines: amongst other things, these guidelines will include the font (or fonts) and the colour palette you will use in marketing communications. Different fonts evoke different feelings or thoughts - so it's important to choose wisely. I would suggest you spend time researching fonts and playing around with them (even in Word) until you feel comfortable you have found the font that suits your brand. Or work with a Graphic Designer to find the right font for your brand image. Like fonts, different colours evoke different feelings and ideas. We have written a few blogs on the power and importance of colour, so I would suggest you spend time researching the colours that suit and 'speak' your brand as well.
Business name: Depending on the image you want to portray, you need to think of an appropriate business name. If it's a service business, it could have your service in the title - so that when people search for you or see your logo online or in advertising, they know what you do straight away. For example, we got straight to the point and called ourselves our exact service.
If it's a luxury retail brand, think of names that evoke luxury or quality (or that have the ability to become luxurious sounding names because of your brand).
Logo: You need to create a logo that will evoke a particular feeling, and/or explain what you do (or both). For example, a university would probably want its logo to have a coat of arms, with classic, dark, serious colours, and probably something written in Latin in the logo. These elements will evoke the feeling of an established and serious university.
The logo is a very important part of your business so you need to do extensive research and talk to a Graphic Designer about the image you want your logo to evoke in people's minds when they see it. Like packaging, it can make or break a business. People are visual and will immediately think your business is shoddy if you have a bad or unprofessional looking logo.
Domain name & business email address: You should purchase a domain name for your website. You should get the same name as your business. At the time of thinking of your business name, you should try out a few internet searches and check if the name is available before deciding on and registering you business name.
You really need to get a business email address too. It's unprofessional to use a gmail or hotmail account for your business. Having a professional business email address creates trust and people will think you're an established business.
Your business card: You need to decide on the fonts, colours and designs you are going to use for your brand, and decide on your logo, before printing your business cards. That is why it's important to get your marketing plan right (and the branding decisions made) before launching your business and spending money on marketing materials or advertising.
Your business card is a marketing tool that can tell a lot about the person and the business in a second.
Make sure you use good quality photos, the correct font for your brand, your branding colours, and ensure the quality of the card matches the quality of your business. You don't want to be giving over a flimsy, cheap card if you are advertising yourself as a professional lawyer or accountant, but you also don't want to go over the top and look like you're frivolous with your clients money by giving out over the top luxurious business cards.
Website: You need to have a website, even if its a one page website, with opening hours information, your logo and a picture or two of what you or your business does. People are visual. You need to show them what you do - don't just tell them in words.
You don't need to spend hundreds or even thousands on a website. Weebly, Wix, and countless other template websites could do the job for free or for a small yearly fee.
Social Media: Nowadays you need to have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and join up to any other social media site that will be of use to your business. But I would say Facebook and Twitter are the main two that you need to join.
Check the rules, check what others in your industry are doing, and see if you can do it better. Make sure you take an hour out a week to update your Facebook page or Twitter account. You don't need to do something everyday - but make sure you do something on a weekly basis! That will give your prospective clients the indication that your business is active.
Before you go posting anything on social media pages, make sure how you write, relates to your brand. If you are a fun, young, hip brand - people expect you to have energy, say fun things and be boisterous. Keep to your brand character at all times. In your business plan, you need to decide what your brand image is, and what character your brand will have, so you keep to that character in all social media communications.
Packaging: If you have a product that needs to be packaged, you need to think about the packaging shape, colour and artwork design. Packaging is important as it is the difference between whether a customer will pick up your product when it is sitting on the retail shelf next to your competitors, or not. Your packaging is a mini billboard - and needs to tie in with your branding.
You should contact a Packaging Designer, or at the very least Google packaging designs and find the type of packaging style you want, then talk to a Graphic Designer about the printing / design you want on your packaging. Remember the packaging design / materials / graphics need to tie in with the brand image you want to portray to your customers (which you would have written up in your marketing plan). Ensure you're using your brand's fonts, colours and 'look' on your packaging. Just because you love a beautiful package that you've spotted in your Google search, doesn't mean your customers will.
4Ps - Price, product, place and promotion: Price - you need to figure out the price point you should sell your product compared to your competitors, and to figure out your profit margin. You need to think about the product itself. Is the product superior / different in any way to your competitors? if so, you need to make that very clear in your marketing efforts. Place - you need to think about where you're going to sell your products, (or if you are offering a service - where that will be located), and promotions - what marketing / advertising vehicles are you going to use to get your messages across to your target market.
However there is so much more to these 4Ps than I have written here - this is major! Entire books have been written on each of the 'Ps', which brings me to my next point...
Research: I can't emphasize enough how important research is. Along with traditional research, using common sense, asking people in your target market what they like or don't like and why, researching what your competitors are doing, seeing what your competitor's customers complain about, downloading reports or research about your industry that is usually readily on the web, are all ways you can research.
This is definitely NOT an exhaustive overview - this is just a few of the basics! Marketing is complex and important, but a lot of it is common sense too!
Everything you do is marketing. From the way you answer your phone, the way you dress and present yourself to your clients, the packaging of your product, where your product is sold or where your service is located. Make sure you get it right because every element matters. That's why it's important to write up a marketing plan before your launch, so that you have time to write and re-write your ideas, to hone your colour palette and your brand's character, and make a final decision on all marketing and branding elements before you invest in business cards, packaging or any other advertising materials.
Best of luck with your new business venture!
Clara Cassidy, Founder and Marketing Manager of Custom Printed Bags & Boxes, is a marketing professional with years of experience in branding, promotions and events.