How to Create Your First Go-to-Market Plan

  •    A freelance reporter and writer based in Philadelphia, Pa., Dinah previously worked as a staff reporter for The Associated Press and Dow Jones Newswires.

You've developed an appealing new product or a first-rate service and are getting close to officially opening your doors — virtual or physical — for business. To get the most lift from your launch, consider mapping out and implementing a smart marketing plan.

While the thought may seem daunting, a few key moves can help you craft a strategy that will power your business from the outset.

Define Your Audience

Before you figure out how best to reach your target customers, you need to define exactly who they are. Who is most likely to want or need your product and take the step of purchasing it?

If you're planning to sell a device that helps pour a beer with the ideal amount of foam on top, you'll probably want to reach out to craft beer enthusiasts and to craft breweries. If you're producing children's clothing, it might make good sense to target parents, boutiques or both.

Inc. recommends focusing not on everyone who might want your product, but on the particular people most likely to become customers.

That means considering details such as your target customer's age, gender, hometown, education, income, lifestyle and personality, to name several, the article noted.

The Small Business Administration suggests finding your business's niche and specializing rather than offering too many products or services, and exploring the problem you're solving for clients. That unique solution, the SBA says, should become part of your "brand promise."

Develop Your Key Message

In its own brand promise, the SBA vows: "We will advocate for you, work with you, and empower you to confidently start, grow, expand, or recover your business."

What's your brand promise? What can customers consistently expect from your business — bearing in mind, as Harvard Business Review notes, that social media holds the power to significantly damage or enhance a company's reputation for failing to meet, or for exceeding, that pledge?

Answering that should help you develop your venture's main message.

Consider what your ideal customer would want from your business and what would likely spur them to make a purchase. How would you sum up the qualities that would compel them to work with or buy from you?

As one business coach states on her Weebly website: "I help leaders + business owners turn tough processes into simple solutions + ordinary brands into unique styles — one bold solution at a time."

Choose Your Channels and Moves

Once you have a good idea of your audience and messaging, it's time to dig in and figure out how and where to reach them.

If you're using social media, you'll need to choose which channel, or channels, will work best, be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or some other platform.

You may decide to post video on those platforms, run a contest or giveaway or offer discounts to first-time customers or those who sign up for your newsletter.

You might also use social media to lead consumers to your website, where you can provide even more compelling written content and visuals.

Your budget will help guide implementation of your plan as you set out to connect with your desired customers.

Consider, also, what you hope to achieve with your first marketing campaign. Is it winning a certain number of site visitors or email addresses, generating buzz, hitting a particular sales target?

Whatever the nature of your new entrepreneurial venture, it pays to take a bit of time to design a simple, effective marketing plan to boost your chances for a successful launch.

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