Small Business Marketing Strategy - Parts 12 through 18
A small business marketing strategy is the whole idea behind putting together a business plan. It can't just be a bunch of good ideas; it has to be a strategic business plan. Any small business ideas that are worth pursuing are worth planning for in both a strategic and tactical manner.
All the tactics in the world won't be nearly as effective as a marketplace strategy built on good research and wise decision-making. So, we need to do that first. Now that you have the background piece put together, you'll be able to create the marketplace strategy much more easily.
You won't be "shooting in the dark."
Instructions and suggestions for completing Parts 12 through 18 of the business plan template are addressed on this page.
Example discussion for XYZ Lawn Care and Landscape Maintenance Service is shown in blue text.
The Strategic Plan
If there is a place where the rubber meets the road, it's here in the creation of a small business marketing strategy, and general approach to implementation of your strategic business plan. Your job is to obtain and retain market share, and grow the profits of the business through efficiency.
Part 13 - List major objectives that will define success for your small business ideas.
Objectives are larger and longer term goals to accomplish. They are seen as key accomplishments, stated in general terms. Think of objectives as "sound bites" of the overall strategy. Imagine you are 20,000 feet above the marketplace, so you can only see in general terms, not details.
It helps if you can imagine your success in the marketplace has already been achieved. If you can do that, you can now identify what you look back and "see" as your success, and state that in terms of general objectives, as if someone else were going to follow in your footsteps.
Your key objectives should speak to "plugging into" the marketplace, making sales, growing the business, multiple revenue streams, and generating higher profit margin from each sales (through efficiency, up-sales and upgrades).
Here at XYZ Lawn Care and Landscape Maintenance Service, our objectives are:
- Win work where we'll have customer references to show off our quality, integrity and price.
- Focus on large accounts that will improve our overall efficiency.
- Establish relationships that will naturally propagate new business opportunities.
- Use focused conventional advertising and word-of-mouth referrals.
- Invest sufficiently to start, and invest more as the business grows.
- Offer customer focused service.
- Be the best in the marketplace.
- Build barriers to competitors that try to enter the marketplace.
- Create barriers to competitors that attempt to capture our market share.
- Find opportunities to replace our competitors with value-added service.
- Maintain an enterprise size that is easy to manage with respect to quality service, yet large enough to provide a healthy income.
- Find a niche in the marketplace and get in it for the long haul.
The list of objectives above isn't in any particular sequence or priority, but we'll get to that later. That's not so important right now. The important thing is we have started to define key elements and end points for our small business marketing strategy.
Part 14 - Lay out your small business marketing strategy to succeed against your competitors.
Think of this as a war. It's a good mentality to have. You need to knock out your competition to the point where you get a rightful foothold in the marketplace and keep it. You have to decide how best to compete for market share. Your small business marketing strategy must take into consideration your potential customers, your competitors, the nature of the marketplace, timing and sequencing of events, and a number of other factors.
It may seem like a lot of work amidst mountains of detail, but once you have a bit of it on paper, you'll see that it isn't all that challenging, at least not for a small enterprise. Besides, much of a small business marketing strategy will be second nature - a natural activity that will probably be easy to implement without thinking about it. The difficult part is trying to get what you naturally "think and feel" on paper so someone else can understand it.
Let's put together some ideas for XYZ Lawn Care and Landscape Maintenance Service to show how we might use information from previous planning efforts to formulate a successful small business marketing strategy.
Here at XYZ Lawn Care and Landscape Maintenance Service, we're going to beat out competitors by doing the following:
- Win jobs that have no established service provider, thus eliminating competition.
- Take away work from customers that aren't satisfied with their current lawn service.
- Use real estate agents, and property managers to identify larger customers that are dissatisfied or looking for alternatives to their service provider.
- Expand snow removal customers into lawn care service.
- Expand lawn care and landscape maintenance customers into snow removal services.
- Establish and enforce quality standards that are unmatched by our competition.
- Focus on planned communities, apartment complexes and large estates to maximize income, minimize staff downtime (for setup, take down, and travel), and claim larger chunks of the marketplace.
- Cooperate with handyman businesses, plumbers and electricians to identify potential customers from their list of larger customers that can't "do it themselves".
- Join community business organizations and use their networking potential to identify new customers.
- Maximize personal contacts of employees and principals to identify potential customers in the marketplace.
Part 15 - Associate actions with each major element of the small business marketing strategy.
With the overall strategy in mind, put together a set of actions to achieve your objectives in accordance with the strategic elements outlined above. Actions are tactics. They are what you're going to do to achieve the overall objectives.
Use as much detail as necessary, but you don't need to write a book about this. Just get sufficient information on paper so you remember what you need to do and why.
Here at XYZ Lawn Care and Landscape Maintenance Service, as part of building our small business marketing strategy, we're going to:
- Create a list of customers to contact - use phone directory, chamber of commerce directory, and search the internet. Contact the city and county planning department to determine plans for future development of apartment complexes, retirement communities, and assisted living projects.
- Develop a brochure of service offerings that can be easily mailed.
- Create business cards, and obtain stationary to use during office visits and follow-up letters.
- Create a separate brochure for office calls that provides customer testimonials, before and after pictures, and related content to use as examples of capabilities and quality of work.
- Join the chamber of commerce, local LEADS group, and organizations that center on community development. Use networking to identify opportunities to provide services and events that should be attended to meet people that have needs or know others that would have needs for lawn care and snow removal services.
- Meet with nurseries and equipment providers to make them aware of you as a customer, and to determine competitors, immediate needs in the marketplace, and current activities in the marketplace.
- Identify large facilities that have contract lawn service, and implement a campaign to inform owners and managers of the facilities of your service offering.
- Meet with real estate offices and property managers to make them aware of your services and determine if they have needs now or in the foreseeable future for lawn care or snow removal.
- Meet with other tradesmen to identify locations that commonly contract out service work, that may not be in your "net" already.
- Establish a formal mission statement and company policies to provide additional guidance for your organization and peace of mind of your customers.
- Create a playbook of tactics to enhance sales probability for new customers, and opportunities for additional sales for established customers.
- Identify sources of potential employees and create a filtering process to quickly identify "good fits" with the organization.
- Identify associates that you can team with for larger projects or jobs that have a tight time frame.
Part 16 - Identify your financial needs.
Somehow you'll need to fund the business. You might not need much money to start, or you might have a rather complex funding scheme. Regardless, you'll need to get it down on paper to "keep the ball in front of you" while you plan your small business marketing strategy.
Your financial needs should address:
- major purchases
- loan payments
- recurring costs such as utilities
- materials and supplies
You should also cite the source of funds for your financial needs, as well as anticipated cash flows. When looking at funding, consider self-funded through savings, a line of credit, a cash advance for very small ventures, a traditional business loan, venture capital from investors, and even group funding for a cooperative effort.
At XYZ Lawn Care and Landscape Maintenance Service, we'll need a range of equipment and resources to implement our small business marketing strategy. Here are the items that we foresee needing to fund as part of the business.
- riding lawn mower
- power mower
- snow blower
- hand tools
- liability insurance
- string trimmers
- storage rental
- hedge trimmers
- extension cords
- misc supplies
Part 17 - Sequence the actions to form a small business marketing strategy action guide.
Now that you know the actions to take to get your business setup and running, you'll need to set things in motion with an action plan that sequences activities so things flow smoothly.
This portion of the business plan template allows you to "get the horse out in front of the cart" instead of the other way around. If you're counting on a loan to start the business, you don't want to get deep into financial obligations for staff and materials only to find out that you can't get a loan.
Here at XYZ Lawn Care and Landscape Maintenance Service, we're going to implement our small business marketing strategy in a conservative manner. We'll begin this as a part-time endeavor to gain experience and establish a reputation for ourselves.
As business increases, we'll convert to a full-time enterprise that will require expanding staff, obtaining better and more powerful equipment, and seeking out more and larger jobs. The full-time implementation will allow us to lay the groundwork for a robust implementation of the small business marketing strategy through a phased approach that starts with part-time work.
Assuming that we have three stages associated with the small business marketing strategy, let's characterize the stages and actions associated with each. We'll look at the areas of funding, customers, advertising, approach to sales, relationship building, business planning, transitional considerations and income expectations.
Please note that income expectations is the last on the list of items above for this sample small business marketing strategy. This is simply because it's the product of the planning, and needs to be projected only after you've had a realistic look at the marketplace and a sobering look at what you intend to do in the face of your competition.
When you approach small business marketing strategy development, leave income expectations to last because they are really more of an outcome than a facilitator, and you don't want to dream up numbers that aren't supported by careful planning and market assessment.
In this case, income will be used as seed money to advance the business venture, but it's still wise to resist the temptation to "dream" when what you really need to do is plan.
Part-time implementation (Years 1 and 2) of this small business marketing strategy will encompass:
- Self-funded with personal savings. Use my own vehicles and equipment. Paying for itself after the first month of operation, and paying back personal investment within the first 3 months. Establish a line of credit before transitioning to full time.
- Primarily large residential customers to start, and a few small business accounts.
- Advertising primarily through newspapers, flyers and a magnetic sign on the sides of my vehicle.
- Sales approach will be based on quality, convenience and guarantee of service, not price. This will help recruit customers that recognize value, not simply cost, and it should make my services more recession-proof.
- Become known in the community by joining the chamber of commerce and a couple of community oriented organizations that involve business like apartments, assisted living facilities and office complexes.
- Meet with my banker and let them know of my interest in funding a larger operation, and seek out their advice as to what they would like to see in terms of a business plan, track record, customer base and so forth in order to obtain a business loan. Keep my bank informed of my success so that I can land a line of credit as a "known" entity with a track record and standing relationship.
- Seek out opportunities to expand the customer base, focusing on larger and broader demand for services, with an eye toward businesses and facilities that have extensive grounds upkeep needs and are likely to contract out such services for the life of the property. The small business marketing strategy here is to try to get an overload of business that makes it worthwhile (as well as necessary) to engage in the enterprise on a full-time basis. This is a safe approach to "getting in the water."
- At the peak of this stage of effort, it is estimated that gross income of $21,000 will be derived each year from about 25 customers that demand mostly lawn service, and some snow removal. Income of $16,000 is estimated to come from landscape installation projects, and about $8,000 from landscape maintenance. These figures are purposely estimated in a conservative manner to reduce the potential for "dreaming of riches."
Full-time implementation (years 3 and 4) of this small business marketing strategy will focus on:funding, customers, advertising, approach to sales, relationship building, business planning, transitional considerations and income expectations
- The business will be paying for itself and allowing steady advancement in terms of staff and equipment necessary to tackle larger jobs. As necessary, a line of credit will be used to acquire larger assets that can't reasonably be paid for lump sum.
- Large residential customers will be the responsibility of a secondary crew or farmed out to associates, and the focus of the business will be business and residential complexes. The financial end of this small business marketing strategy includes transitioning all accounts to a monthly fee basis for landscape work so that budgeting for the customer and income for the business is easier to anticipate and manage. Establish seasonal contracts for snow removal for the same purpose.
- Advertising primarily through newspapers, telephone directory, a website, and word of mouth.
- Sales approach will still be based on value, but the approach to finding new customers will center on community development activities so a total package of landscape maintenance and snow removal can be offered to large business owners and managers that are opening up new businesses and housing complexes.
- The enterprise will become better known in the community by our reputation for high value and quality service, and this will lead to turnover of contracts and sole source awards. Chamber of commerce contacts and networking will be key to identifying, in advance, the need for landscape services so relationships with potential customers can be formed early, and some contracts can be secured sole source in the absence of competition.
- Make use of the initial line of credit obtained before going full-time, and seek to extent that line of credit in anticipation of equipment needs for larger contracts. Meet with my banker to keep him informed of my progress, business planning efforts, track record of service, customer base and so forth, so I am not an unknown quantity asking for an increased line of credit.
- Seek out opportunities to expand the customer base with large corporate accounts, and zero in on displacing competitors in the marketplace where it's reasonable to expect that it can be done. Become familiar with purchasing officers and employees at the state, federal, county and local level to bid on upcoming contracts for landscape and snow removal services. Obtain a healthy number of long-term service contracts that require more staffing, more equipment and moving the business on to the next level where a sale of the business can become a reality.
- At the peak of this phase, conservatively speaking, the business should have more than 10 major accounts and 50 moderate size accounts, with gross revenues in the range of $120,000 each year for lawn care and landscape maintenance. Landscape installation services should bring in about $40,000 a year, and snow removal contracts will bring in another $25,000 a year.
Robust implementation (years 5 through 10) of the small business marketing strategy.
During this phase of the business, we will maintain sales and customer service techniques that have been successful, and refine others as appropriate to improve results. The business will also identify opportunities to invest in equipment that will provide higher productivity for employees. Lastly, business development focus will be almost exclusively government, commercial and residential complexes that have significant landscaping in common areas and a need for reliable snow removal.
These activities will help:
- Retain market share.
- Attract additional customers.
- Increase profits.
- Expand service capabilities.
- Establish the business as a full service organization that is "service provider of choice" for commercial, governmental and institutional applications.
- Achieve gross revenues of $400,000 to $500,000 a year.
- Position the business as a leader in the marketplace and poised for sale as a turnkey operation (my approach to exiting the business).
Part 18 - Create text descriptions to clarify portions of the plan.
For portions of the small business marketing strategy that aren't self-explanatory to an independent reviewer who is somewhat familiar with your marketplace, you'll need to make some clarifications.
Points that will need clarification in XYZ's small business marketing strategy are:
- A focus on quality and value, not cost. This will attract a class of clientele that will likely be less cost sensitive due to an orientation toward value. This customer base will likely be those that have "more money than time" and value their time away from work (any kind of work) as much as they value quality work done by others.
- Service guarantees are made as a means of inducing new customers to take a chance based on my willingness to take a chance on them. This approach is made to eliminate one of the biggest unknowns with a new service and/or new service provider. If there is a no risk guarantee, then this could remove one of the major obstacles to landing a new customer. The idea of shared risk can appealing to those that are a little cautious about trying something or someone new.
- Perform residential services during the weekdays, and business services during the weekends. This should minimize disturbing customers during their time at home on weekends, and minimize disturbing office personnel during their regular business hours.
This type of "stealth" service can be very much appreciated, especially by families that want to enjoy their homes on the weekend, and office managers that would like to minimize distractions during business meetings and conferences.
Now, let's look at what the small business marketing strategy looks like in final form, and see if we still think we have small business ideas that are worth pursuing.
Done with Small Business Marketing Strategy, take me back to Business Plan Template