Behind every successful company is a well-designed marketing plan.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a strategy a business develops and implements to sell products or services. The marketing plan defines the target audience and how to best reach that audience, sets goals, establishes the price for products and services, outlines tactics, and shows how the company will measure its marketing efforts.
Even though marketing plans don’t always produce immediate results, they are still a crucial component of a business plan and are worth considering.
A well-designed and effective marketing plan can reveal opportunities for a business. This can be through creating new audience segments, a change in pricing strategy, or differentiation from the competition.
The right marketing plan can help your business reach new heights.
A typical marketing plan includes:
- A summary of your advertising and marketing goals
- The current state of your business’s marketing
- A timeline for completing the tasks within your strategy
- KPIs (key performance indicators) you will track
- An overview of your target market and customers’ needs
- The methodology you’re using to evaluate the strategy’s performance
Why does your business need a marketing plan?
Often, a marketing plan is a missing link between business strategy and marketing execution.
If you feel that you are trying many different things on an ad hoc basis without knowing which ones are working, then it is clear that you need a plan.
Here are some of the benefits of creating a marketing plan for your small business:
- Understanding: A thorough analysis of current market conditions and where your company stands can help you identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses and potential new markets.
- Focus and Alignment: It is easy to lose your sense of direction without a plan. A marketing plan ensures your marketing goals are aligned with your business’s mission, vision, and goals. A marketing plan keeps you motivated, and on track so you don’t get sidetracked.
- Coordination: A working document of your marketing strategy facilitates cooperation between management, the marketing team, and the entire company.
- Informed decisions: Planning can prevent you from making rash decisions if difficult circumstances arise.
- Max Value: A cohesive marketing plan amplifies the value of every campaign.
How to create a marketing plan
Detailed marketing plans outline the strategies and specific actions your marketing team will take to reach your marketing goals.
If you created a business plan, you probably already have a section on marketing in that plan. But that section will be a high-level summary. You’ll need to expand it to create an effective marketing plan.
The following tips are starting points and best practices that will guide you in creating a comprehensive and effective marketing plan for your small business:
1. Start with an executive summary
The executive summary usually appears at the beginning of your marketing plan. It summarizes your business and the key takeaways from your marketing strategy. It should also outline your marketing objectives and demonstrate how campaigns are tied together.
An executive summary should also provide a quick overview of your company. Here, readers are introduced to the company’s objectives, marketing successes, and plans for the future.
A typical executive summary would include the following:
- Simplified marketing goals
- Milestones/achievements of the company
- Future projects or plans
- Relevant facts about your brand
Executive summaries are meant to pique interest in your marketing plan and make people excited to read it.
Lastly, your summary helps set the tone for your marketing plan. Think carefully and select the tone that best reflects your brand.
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2. State your mission, vision, and values
It’s a good idea to review your company’s values, vision, and mission before getting started on marketing. Your marketing plan becomes more meaningful when you put all the information in perspective.
In short, this section should answer why you do what you do.
This section aims to inform anyone who reads your marketing plan about your company’s overall goal. This will enable them to understand your marketing goals, activities, and future objectives.
3. Identify your target market
To write an effective marketing plan, you must first identify your niche and understand it. Make sure you know the specific demographic you are aiming to reach.
This will help you pinpoint and nail your marketing from the get-go if you know exactly who your best customers are. You will waste a lot less time and money and convert more leads by targeting your advertising campaigns and using the right messaging,
A buyer persona represents your ideal customer.
Including information about your buyer personas, such as their age, gender, and income, is helpful. Don’t forget to include behavioral and psychographic data, such as pain points and goals.
Ultimately, you’re trying to answer the following questions: What motivates your audience? What problems do they have that your product or service can solve?
If your company already has buyer personas, this step might mean you need to refine them.
Some businesses might have several types of target customers. As such, it is typical to create more than one buyer persona.
Ultimately, when you outline your buyer personas, you can segment your marketing campaigns properly and create marketing materials that are more likely to influence and resonate with them.
All this knowledge will help you create a compelling positioning statement, a unique selling proposition, and a strong brand.
You can outline the traits of your ideal customer by including the following:
The more you know about your customer, the more capable you are of giving them the best experience.
4. Research your competitors
Whatever your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target market.
It is rare for small business owners to study their competitors in depth or to identify companies outside their industry that have just as much ability to attract customers.
You can devise strategies by understanding your competitors’ competitive advantages and how they might respond to your offerings.
By identifying competitors, you can differentiate your business by providing consumers with what your competitors may lack.
As part of your market research, you can also conduct a SWOT analysis of your competitors. Learn what they are doing, what works for them, and how you can improve.
Consider looking into the following aspects when researching your competitors:
- Leaders and marketers at their company
- Financials and growth of the company
- Products or services they are best known for
- Social media marketing strategy
- Check their top-performing blog posts
5. Establish accurate benchmarks and metrics
You can’t plan for your business’s future if you don’t know where it stands today. Increasing R.O.I. (return on investment) is impossible unless you know your goal.
Having baselines will allow you to monitor your progress. This will also allow you to analyze what worked and what didn’t so that you can build a more robust strategy.
Determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) you will use to track and measure each marketing campaign element.
The indicators will assist you in communicating your progress to your business partners or investors. They will also aid you in determining whether or not your marketing efforts are yielding the desired results.
6. Determine your marketing goals
Marketing goals drive your marketing plan. They are the highest level of your strategic thinking. Ideally, you establish these goals after identifying problems and opportunities.
In general, these objectives will have a financial or communication focus and may include the following:
- Maximizing sales revenue or volume
- Lead generation
- Improving customer satisfaction
- Raising brand awareness
- Transforming customer perceptions
- Increasing customer retention
Clearly defining your goals will help you measure them effectively. That said, all of your marketing objectives should meet the following SMART criteria:
Be clear about what you want to accomplish. It is essential to clearly define the goal to ensure everyone is on the same page.
A quantifiable objective makes it easy for you to measure your progress. Decide what data will be used to measure the goal and how it will be collected.
It is essential to keep your goals realistic to remain motivated to achieve them. Setting lofty goals is fine, but you should break them down into smaller chunks to make them more manageable.
Goals must be aligned with the company’s mission—set goals for a purpose, not just to accomplish something. When determining whether a goal is relevant, it is crucial to decide on the critical benefit to the organization.
Each goal should have a deadline. There isn’t much point in setting a goal without a deadline. How can you assess whether something was a success or failure? This is why S.M.A.R.T. goals include a due date. Although this doesn’t mean all the work is done, you can evaluate the endeavor and set new goals.
7. Identify your marketing channels and choose your marketing tactics
With more marketing channels available, selecting the best one for your business can be challenging.
Study all of your marketing options, including traditional and digital methods. The more you know about these tactics, the easier it will be to choose the ones most suitable for your business and to build effective marketing funnels.
Among the most popular digital marketing channels are:
Nearly half of all online shoppers begin their research with a search engine. Including search engine optimization (SEO) in your marketing plan will enable you to reach people when they’re actively searching for your products and services.
90% of social media users have communicated with a brand due to their social media presence, and 53.6% of the population uses social media. Every type of consumer is on some social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, so social media is essential to a business’s marketing strategy.
It may seem overwhelming to consider all the possibilities, but take the time to concentrate on the sites that will generate the most significant benefit for your business.
Email marketing remains an effective and popular choice for small businesses. Companies can use email marketing techniques in many ways, including newsletters, promotional campaigns, and transactional emails.
Consumer behavior has changed due to the popularity of smartphones and tablets. Because people carry these devices with them almost wherever they go, companies are seeking to implement marketing strategies that will reach their customers through their mobile devices.
It’s essential to have a well-rounded marketing mix, give yourself plenty of time for these channels to pay off and reach critical mass, and leave room for trial and error.
Digital marketing is primarily powered by algorithms. Algorithms may help businesses provide personalized experiences to users, but any algorithm changes can quickly render marketing plans useless.
An eCommerce business must have a diverse media strategy to survive in this highly dynamic market. By driving traffic through SEO, email, and media coverage, we’re less vulnerable to a single tech platform unfavorably changing its algorithm.
8. Set your budget
A marketing budget describes how much money the business has allotted to the marketing team to pursue the initiatives and goals they have listed and identified.
When you draft the plan and evaluate your course of action, note the estimated cost, assets, and time required to achieve the stated goals; this will help when it comes time to set the actual budget.
Additionally, setting a marketing budget will ensure you don’t lose sight of the financial aspect of things during execution and implementation.
Even if your marketing team uses many free channels and platforms, it’s best to prepare for “hidden” costs.
Depending on how many individual expenses you have, it might make sense to itemize this budget based on the specific things you intend to pay for.
Here are some examples of marketing expenses:
- Outsourcing marketing costs to a marketing agency or other provider
- Application software for marketing
- Paid promotions
- Events (the ones that you will host and attend)
9. Establish guidelines for tracking and reporting
It would be best to conclude your marketing plan by explaining how you plan to track or measure your results. Standardizing tracking results across your team will save you time and frustration in the long run.
In this section, you can go as in-depth as you like. However, here is a minimum set of guidelines for tracking results you can start working with:
- What you are tracking
- How you are tracking
- How often you are tracking
Marketing plans require a lot of effort. To create an effective strategy, you’ll need to dig deep into your target market’s competitive research, audience data, and research channels.
It is also important to remember that marketing plans are not set in stone. As your business grows and evolves, so should your marketing plan.
But if you have the fundamentals down, you are more likely to achieve your business goals if you create an effective marketing plan.
We regularly update this marketing plan guide. We most recently updated this guide on October 12, 2022.
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