Putting together a marketing plan is a challenge most small business leaders wrestle with. But the key to creating a winning marketing plan is to start by asking great questions. Why? Because the quality of the answers you get is directly related to the quality of the questions you ask.

For example, if you ask, “How can we increase sales this year?” that’s not a bad question, but a better question would be a more focused one like, “How can we increase repeat sales from our current customers?” However, an even better question would be, “How can we double our repeat sales from our current customers and wow them so much that they want to remark to their friends and neighbors about us?” Like I said, the better the question, the better the answer.

In light of that, here are a couple of thoughts about the following list of 196 questions.

1. Do not ask or try to answer all of the following questions. They’re simply meant to be a starting place to help you choose which questions you want to ask and answer. My encouragement would be that you read through the questions and circle the numbers of the questions you want to come back to and answer (or copy this list into a word processor and delete the questions you don’t want to answer).
2. It’s better to pick fewer questions and answer them than to ask lots of questions and not answer them.
3. Don’t avoid tough questions. For example, the questions about differentiation and branding are difficult to answer. However, just because you can’t quickly answer a question like, “Why should anyone choose to do business with your company over every other company in your market space?” does not mean you shouldn’t ask it. Great questions usually require more work and time to answer than simple questions.
4. Feel free to change the questions. Because these are generic questions that almost any company can use, they’re intentionally not very specific (i.e. they’re not written to a specific company). However, since you know your situation, you should feel free to moderate the following questions to fit your situation. Plus, you can make them more specific. For example, if you’ve been growing at a rate of 12% per annum, and you want to double your rate to 24%—and you would like to see 2/3rds of that increase come from current customers, you could easily turn a more generic question into a more specific one, “How can we generate an additional 16% of revenue growth from our current customers?

With that said, and without further ado, I give you a list of 196 possible questions you can use to help you create a winning marketing plan for your small business.

Overall Objectives

1. What are our quarterly, one-year and three-year goals? What results do we expect?
2. What are our sales and revenue goals?
3. What key metrics will we use to determine success?
4. What market share do we want?

Positioning/Branding

5. What is our brand?
6. What differentiates us?
7. What is our competitive advantage? How are we unique?
8. Why should anyone choose to do business with us over everyone else in our market space?
9. What are our areas of expertise?
10. What is our unique value (or selling) proposition?
11. What value do we provide to our clients/customers?
12. What specific benefits do our customers receive?
13. What problems do we solve for our potential customers?
14. What needs/wants do we meet for them?
15. What hurts do we help heal?
16. How can we dominate our market?
17. What makes us stand out from the crowd?
18. What do we stand for?
19. To what question are we the answer?
20. What would cause someone to say, “Get me ________!” Or, “We need ___________!”
21. What’s our core message? What’s our unique POV (point of view)?
22. What makes us controversial?
23. Is there too much competition to be competitive in this market space?
24. What kind of image do we want to portray?
25. What could make us hot or viral?
26. What’s our risk reversal strategy?

Target Market Analysis

27. What is our target market? What is in our niche? Who needs what we offer?

• Our Primary Target Market is
• Our Secondary Target Market is
• Our Tertiary Target Market is

28. What percent of our target market is aware of us?
29. Who are our ideals customers?
30. Who are our top 30 (or 50 or 100) prospective clients/customers?
31. What do we know about them?
32. What are their primary motivations?
33. Who is the primary buyer/influencer in the purchasing process?
34. What demographic and psychographic data do we have on them?
35. What are the people in our target market writing about on message boards and forums?
36. What magazines and books are they reading?
37. What topics are being addressed in what they’re reading?
38. What topics are being discussed at their conferences?
39. Where do they network?
40. What are their top conferences?
41. Where are their businesses located?
42. What are their hot buttons?
43. What are their primary needs and wants?
44. What are their primary problems and challenges? What frustrates them?
45. What would fill their needs/wants/problems/challenges?
46. Why do we think that our offerings are the best offerings for them to solve their need/want/problem/challenge?
47. What’s missing from our competitor’s offers? Or what can’t they find in other places or with other businesses?
48. What value do we provide for them? What results do we produce?
49. Where is our market underserved?
50. Do the people in our target market have a strong need/desire for what we offer?
51. What are the people in our target market willing to pay for the value we bring?
52. What are the reasons people in our market buy?
53. Are there any adjacent markets we ought to target?
54. What associations fit in our target market?
55. What trends are on the horizons we can take advantage of? What new opportunities might we be able to exploit?
56. Reverse engineer: Based on what we just learned, how should we change what we do or how we market?

Competitor Analysis

57. Who else in our market are we competing against?
58. Who else in the country is doing what we’re doing?
59. How are our competitors different than us?
60. Which of our competitors are the buyers in our market aware of?
61. How do those in our market, market themselves?
62. What products and services do they offer?
63. How do our products and services rate in relationship to theirs?

Products and Services

64. What services do we (or will we) provide?
65. What products do we (or will we) offer?
66. What products will help us create a herd/following?
67. How can we create deluxe options?
68. What is our irresistible offer?
69. Why should our customers act now? What’s our call to action?
70. What kind of guarantee will we offer?

Possible Marketing Tools: Review each of the following tactics and ask, “Should we use this tactic this year? How?”

71. Name
72. Slogan/Brand
73. Business Cards
74. Website/Internet –
75. Blog
76. Networking
77. One Sheets –
78. Voice mail –
79. Newsletters
80. Ezine
81. Letterhead
82. Free downloads –
83. Direct mail post cards
84. Thank you cards –
85. Consistent look/color/feel –
86. Phone calls
87. Video
88. Reprints of articles
89. Testimonials
90. Attire
91. Multi-media
92. Set design
93. Handouts
94. Merchandise displays
95. Product catalogs
96. Reputation
97. Auto-responders
98. Coupons and discounts
99. E-mail
100. Ad specialties
101. Speaking
102. One-on-One personal contacts
103. Signs
104. Sweepstakes
105. TV
106. Infomercials
107. Talk shows
108. Banners
109. Tradeshows
110. Classified Ads
111. Billboards
112. Take one boxes
113. Sales letters (long)
114. Door hangers
115. Catalogs
116. Word of Mouth
117. One page sites (to get leads)
118. Sponsorships
119. Joint Ventures
120. Pricing
121. Celebrity Spokesperson
122. Mini-courses
123. Home study courses
124. Free seminars
125. Articles
126. Books
127. Teleseminars
128. Webinars
129. Live events
130. Seasonal promotions
131. Referral promotions

Attention Strategy Questions (Getting to First Base)

132. What is our lead generating system?
133. How can we better leverage our networks?
134. What ten (or more) tactics can we use simultaneously to attract new customers?
135. How can we build our potential customers’ interest in our product/service or business?
136. Who are the key people we need to stay in contact with?
137. How will we stay in contact with our network?
138. Who might be sneezers for us?
139. What organizations should we be involved with?
140. How will we respond to new contacts?
141. How will we make sure that our target market knows about us?
142. How can we become the #1 choice in our market space?
143. What keeps potential customers from using or contacting us? What objections do we need to overcome?
144. How can we let potential clients “test drive” our products/services? What can we give away to build trust?
145. How can we become newsworthy? What are our hooks?
146. What’s our referral strategy?
147. How can we motivate potential clients to contact us?
148. What message is our website communicating? Is it attractive?
149. What businesses or individuals could open us to potential customers?
150. How well designed are our marketing materials? Do they speak from the potential customers’ point of view or ours?
151. What PR efforts would attract the attention of our potential customers?
152. What is our typical client acquisition cost?

Establishing Credibility Strategy Questions (Getting to Second Base)

153. How can we begin to establish trust to convince prospects to buy?
154. What qualifies us to do what we do?
155. Where do we need to submit articles?
156. From whom should we get testimonies (i.e. proof)?
157. Do we have testimonies to back up every claim we make?
158. What proof do we have pictorially (especially before and after)?
159. What proof do we have in writing?
160. What proof do we have digitally (video or mp3)?
161. Do we have any celebrities in our network?
162. Who can we align with? Who can we partner with?
163. What is our PR/Media strategy?
164. What should be the image/personality of our company?
165. Are all of our marketing tools and messages in alignment? If not, which are out of alignment?
166. How can we leverage our current customers to attract new customers?

Sales Strategy Questions (Getting to Third Base)

167. What are the biggest barriers for our potential clients to overcome?
168. How will we figure out who our economic buyers are?
169. Is our marketing focused on features or benefits?
170. How does someone in our target market decide with whom they’ll buy?
171. Why do they buy?
172. How can we make it easier to buy?
173. How can we better qualify prospects?
174. How elastic is price for our potential customers?
175. Is our price the best price for our customers and for our profitability?
176. How will we overcome their objections?
177. How can we increase their sense of urgency?
178. What’s our retention strategy?
179. What’s our upsell strategy?
180. What’s our cross sell strategy?
181. What could create a short-term sales surge?
182. What conversion rate are we shooting for?
183. How can we maximize total customer value?

Customer Service Strategy

184. What would be remarkable service for our clients? What would delight them?
185. What will our service standards be?
186. What systems do we need to create?
187. How can we turn our customers into raving fans?
188. How will we keep them happy?
189. What gifts/benefits can we offer for referrals?
190. How can we raise customer loyalty?

Planning

191. What tactics are we going to use this month? This quarter? This year?
192. When we will we use them (i.e. calendarize them)?
193. Who will be responsible?
194. How much money will your plan require?
195. What’s available to execute your plan?
196. What’s our plan for this year? (Create a detailed plan for each tactic and strategy)

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