A marketing plan?! What exactly is that?
A marketing plan is a comprehensive document that describes your marketing efforts ideally for a specific time frame. In its most basic form, it’s a road-map for introducing and delivering your products or services to a desired audience. It will guide you in selecting different platforms for promoting your business and tailoring those to achieve your end goals.
An effective marketing plan will support the overall goals and objectives of your business and provide the directions on how to get there.
Where to start:
It’s good to know where you’re at, to know where you need to go. Before you dive in, take a quick snapshot of where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Where do you see your company a few years down the road? Do you hope to grow and expand? Provide additional services or product and hire more people? Reach a different audience?
Know and believe in your business goals and objectives: What are you trying to accomplish? Have you identified any steps to reach those goals? Business goals are important and should not be overlooked. They help you grow and achieve objectives as a business and provide insight into your organization’s purpose and how you serve customers. If you need help setting these up, check out How to Set Good Goals.
Secondly, it’s important that you clearly identify your audience or ideal customer. Who do you wish to target? Who are they? If you can identify them and create a customer persona, you’re more likely to connect and reach them. If you’re not sure how to narrow down who your target audience is, our article: Demographics and Your Marketing Strategy should help guide you.
The Basic Framework of a Marketing Plan:
The start of your plan should have a quick overview of what you’ve done so far, what you plan to accomplish and how you’re going to get there. It’s also a good idea to include a bit about internal and external factors which could affect your strategy and approach. If you’ve ever completed a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, a quick synopsis of that information would be good to include. The SWOT processes is a strategic planning technique used to help your business identify internal and external factors. In addition, provide some information here about who you’re trying to reach – again, who is your target audience?
Outline Your Marketing Goals
Your marketing goals should tie to the business objectives that you’ve identified. These goals will focus on portions of your business which marketing can influence. What can you do to make people take a certain action?
List Your Strategies and Tactics
Your strategies and tactics will outline how you plan to achieve your goals. You could include such things as social media, e-newsletters, direct mailers, print ads, trade shows and content. There are endless possibilities.
Your tactics are specific, actionable steps that you need to take to execute the strategy. Will you launch a social media campaign and if so, who will be responsible for that? Is there someone within your organization who can manage this? Will you hire an outside agency? These strategies and tactics should follow a timeline: when you plan to initiate, execute and deliver. A plan is just a plan without action.
Include a Budget
What will you spend on the various tactics to reach your goal? Spend some time working through your goals, strategies and tactics and outline what it will take to execute and deliver. Do you have all the resources needed? Do you need to hire someone? How much will you spend on advertising, social media promotion and whatever else you identify?
Evaluate and Review
Lastly, it’s important to evaluate, measure, review and adjust. For each tactic, implement a tracking method to know what’s working and what’s not. If your hard work is not leading you in the desired direction, adjust and try a new approach.
Keep Your Plan up to Date
Your Marketing Plan should be a living document that you modify as you go. Don’t be afraid to change your strategies and approach if you find things just aren’t working right. There are often outside forces that are out of your control which could influence this process such as changes in demand, pricing issues, manpower, or a new platform that you wish to implement. Being flexible and responsive is a must.
Take the Leap and Get Started
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the process. Identify your overall goals, audience and how you plan to reach them. Develop a realistic timeline and take it one step at a time. Don’t be afraid to adjust your road-map when needed should you identify a new direction. Good luck!