Marketing is a long term strategy that can help you to grow your business. Businesses that succeed in marketing are those that take the time to plan, and if you don’t yet have your own marketing plan in place, then you’re setting yourself up for a difficult journey.A marketing plan doesn’t need to be overly complex and it doesn’t take weeks of time and the hiring of expensive consultants to get your own plan mapped out. For small and medium sized businesses, a plan can be completed by following some simple steps, each of which will be covered in this guide.
Before You Begin: Time for Situation Analysis
To develop the right marketing strategy, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your business. A situation analysis will be a short document, defining your company, and the services and products that are offered. By identifying the core offerings and the strengths and weaknesses of these offerings, you can begin to develop a deeper understanding of your value proposition, providing you with key points that can be used to communicate with your audience. A situation analysis will also involve some elements of competition analysis. Who are the competitors in your niche? How do their products compare to yours? When you find advantages that you can provide over the competition, these can be incorporated into your marketing message.
Define Your Target Market
Understanding your business, your competition, and your products and/or services is one thing. On top of these aspects, you’ll need to be able to define your target audience. This can begin with a simple statement or profile, which would include key details like target age range, gender, income range, location, or other key indicators like lifestyle and interests. Recording your target market in the marketing plan will help to provide focus, and it will ensure that relevance is maintained in all of your future marketing efforts.
Record Your Goals
Once you understand your company, your offering, and your target audience, it’s time to record the desired outcomes of your marketing strategy.Is your company hoping to increase sales in the short term, or do you want to increase customer interactions without focusing on the bottom line? Do you want to reach a new demographic, or do you want to grow your market share with the demographics that you’ve traditionally been targeting?It’s important to spend time thinking about your goals, because most businesses want more than to just increase their sales. Growth in revenue is hugely important, but there are other less measurable benefits that can come from marketing, such as increased consumer mindshare and brand exposure.
Define the Marketing Strategies and Channels That Will Be Used
The core of your marketing effort will be the channels that you use. Your marketing plan will allow you to define these channels, which will help to allocate resources once you actually start to implement your marketing plan. Modern businesses focus predominantly on online channels, because these channels are cost effective and can allow for massive market penetration. Offline channels are still available, but traditional channels like television, billboard advertising, and print media advertising, can sometimes be prohibitively expensive for small businesses or start-up entrepreneurs. Modern internet marketing channels can include running a website and engaging in search engine optimization, marketing through social networks, PPC and PPI display advertising, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, and affiliate marketing.
Outline Your Marketing Plan
Some businesses begin a marketing plan by defining a rigid budget. Initially, this seems like the most logical step, but it’s actually one that will be limiting and will eventually work against the marketing goals. By setting your budget first, you would create roadblocks at all of the subsequent steps in your marketing plan. If your budget is too small, you may limit the use of your favored marketing channels. If the budget is too large, then it could lead to an expensive marketing plan that exceeds the needs of your business. Before you define your budget, perform all of the initial steps, right up to the strategies and tactics that you will implement. In this way, you can then find the perfect compromise between a budget and your marketing goals.
Define Performance Metrics and How They Will Be Tracked
Your marketing efforts should be closely tracked. Tracking and reporting will allow you to manage costs, discover the most responsive channels, and generally ensure that your marketing strategy is providing value. Define how and where you will measure your marketing strategy success, and list the key metrics. Social media marketing can often be tracked directly with analytics available on the networks themselves, whereas the performance of websites and landing pages can be tracked through software like Google Analytics. Display advertising through PPC and PPI networks will be tracked through separate and often proprietary tools, so it’s important that these are all defined in your initial strategy (or updated once you get deeper into the marketing process).
Write an Executive Summary
The executive summary will be the first information found in your marketing strategy document, but you’ll need to define your strategy in its entirety before this can be written. Your executive summary will provide a brief overview of your situation analysis, goals and objectives, the strategies that you will use, when your plan will be implemented, and the channels and evaluation methods that will be used. Taking the time to create a well-balanced marketing plan will give you the highest chance of success. If you’re ready to create your marketing plan, or if you simply want to be prepared for your next big marketing push, you can download our free marketing plan template, which will provide you with a professionally formatted outline to include all of these simple steps.