Have you ever left on a trip without a game-plan? If you have, you’ve probably lived to regret it. Whether it’s not mapping out travel times and locations, times of closings to having no idea where to stay…it can be a mess!
Like unplanned personal travel, without a defined marketing plan, most businesses will struggle to achieve their goals because they aren’t clear on what they want to do or how they are going to achieve it. Throwing money into your marketing budget without a clear plans is just throwing your money away!
To put it simply, a marketing plan is your business’s roadmap to success!
Marketing should not be left to chance. Creating an integrated marketing plan is necessary in order to attract and convert buyers in a digital age.
If you’re sold on the importance of a solid marketing plan but don’t know how to put one together, this is the article for you! Below we will discuss the essential things you need to include and we might even throw in a snazzy marketing plan template or two…just for you!
So, let’s not dilly-dally! Let’s get planning!
Marketing Plan 101: An Organizational Guide
Okay, here’s where you get your hands dirty. It’s time to spell out how you are going to make things happen for your business. The steps you take today to create a marketing plan will lay the foundation for the future ahead, helping you to get results that you want to see!
The simplest way for you to check if you are on track is to ask yourself, “How will this help my business?” If there isn’t a strong connection between your marketing objectives/plans and your business’s goals, it is not worth your time!
If you’re new to the marketing plan process, here is a look at everything you need in a marketing plan template for your business:
How to Organize Your Marketing Plan
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here is a short checklist of metrics and structure you should include in your marketing plan template:
List Your Goals: Mapping the Travel Location
While this is not typically the first step in your marketing plan, listing goals first on your final marketing plan sets the stage for all of the content within the plan. Identifying your goals also allows you to focus on solutions first which is a straight-forward and helpful way to communicate the value of your plan to others.
Research: Mapping the Travel Guide
Research will be the lifeblood of your marketing plan “roadmap.” If you do not research, how will you be able to know where you have been, where you are and where you are going?
You might start by putting together:
- A comprehensive analysis of your business and competitors
- A SWOT Analysis ( Your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)
- Buyer Personas
- Customer Lifecycles
Explain Your Strategy: Mapping the Roads and Travel
Once you have the research all mapped out and you understand your landscapes and customers, it’s time to put that information to work! A strategy is the next phase and we will talk about these in detail in the next section.
Some strategies you need include:
- Marketing Objectives and Goals
- Executive Summary
- Unique Selling Propositions
- Brand Marketing
- Amazingly Specific Content
- Distribution Plans
- Promotional Plans
- Marketing Materials and Campaigns
- Digital Marketing Plans
- Retention Plans
Define KPIs and Measurement Methods: Measuring the Costs of Travel
Okay, so you have all the people, plans and places for your road trip to success. Now what? It is time to measure the travel costs!
Measurement should be done before, during and after your marketing plans are in place! Not only should you map out the metrics to gauge success but you need to have metrics for a baseline. What have you done in the past and what were the results? Which strategies worked and why?
By having effective KPI and measurement plans, you ensure your marketing is going to show results you can gauge for success or not which will require some shifting!
The Marketing Plan Map (In Detail)
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for your marketing plan, it’s time to dive into the details. Like every good plan, we’ll start by doing some research.
Research and Analysis
To help ground your marketing plan and see how you can stand out from your competitors, you need to do some research. You’ll want to look at a variety of things, but you should especially focus on the competition and doing a SWOT analysis on your business.
Research competitors, then analyze the following:
- Product attributes
- Marketing and promotion strategies
- Distribution channel and method
- Products or services offered
By doing this, you can “spy” on your competition, take notes on what they are doing with their marketing efforts and then engineer your efforts to be better! By getting an insight into your competitors, you can carve out a place for yourself in an industry because you took the time to be unique and look at things differently than what is being done.
No, we are not swatting flies away…we are “swotting” away flaws in your business! This acronym stands for: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
By looking into each of these sections for your business, you can create a plan on how you can differentiate your products or services and claim your unique position in the marketplace.
First, you need to set the stage for what you want to accomplish so you can decide on the marketing plan to supplement those goals. Do not rush or focus on execution before you define what success looks like for your business.
Marketing objectives are a brand’s defined goals. They outline the intentions of the marketing team, specific numbers and provide clear actions to execute.
For example, here are a few possible goals you might have:
- Introduce # new products
- Target a new customer persona
- Extend/regain market
- Build brand awareness
- Develop brand loyalty
- Grow market shares
- Build industry authority
- Boost sales
- Enter into # long-term contracts
- Improve delivery and customer service
- Increase brand exposure and engagement on X.
However, these objectives are fairly broad. As a marketer, it is your job to figure out how to use marketing tactics to achieve them! For example, a detailed marketing objective for growing market share could be:
“In order to meet our business objective of X% market share in the automobile manufacturing market, we will increase our online marketing budget by X%, increase our spend on awareness with PPC by X% over the X years, and achieve a cost per customer acquisition of $X by the end of 2020.”
Statements like this will give you a clear, defined list of goals you want to accomplish over a set amount of time!
Although this is a more formal part of your marketing plan template, this will be the “organizer” of the plan that summarizes each section you will plan to include in your marketing plan.
Make sure each section has a clear heading that is easy to understand as well as a tight and precise description of what that section includes. At a glance, a reader should understand exactly what the section is about!
This summary will be helpful in giving everyone a quick overview of your marketing “roadmap.” I would suggest doing this part last because you will probably switch around, change and take out/include things along the way!
Customer Information: Audience, Persona and Lifecycle
The next thing you need to consider as you create your marketing plan is your customers. Who are you targeting? What are their passions, problems and pain points? What are different types of customer worth to your business in the long run?
Your marketing efforts will not matter if you are not getting your content in front of the right people. It is very important that you do your homework and identify the target audience and buyer persona you are wanting to reach.
Your target audience profile should include demographic information such as age, gender, location, purchasing power etc.
You also want to cover psychographic information and understand how to appeal to the audience’s heart and mind! Connect an ideal customer’s values, desires and problems with their interests! Look for their lifestyle in the things they read, where they go, and what they consume—whether it’s TV, websites or social media. It is also important to place proper price points they will resonate with!
By creating a detailed buyer persona, you will get a good feel for your target market’s decision-making process and you will be better able to build effective brand awareness and traffic-generating campaigns.
Mapping out your audience and persona is one part of what you should know about your ideal customers. To take it to the next level, you also need to understand where your customers are in their lifecycle.
There are a few ways to organize the lifecycle stages, eg, awareness, comparison and ultimately decision-making. Break your customer lifecycle into the steps they will have when interacting with your business. Once you decide on those steps create content stages around those steps and then create content specific to each stage.
So, if a customer is just finding your business on your Instagram account, you will want to create content that helps with brand recognition and awareness in that appropriate stage.
By taking the time to thoughtfully think of time and interaction in your marketing plan, you will inform and engage the customer so much more!
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
So, you have your target and ideal audience defined, but how are you going to convince them that you are the “bomb dot com”? Defining your unique selling proposition tells your prospects why you’re different, sets your brand apart from other businesses and allows you to target people who actually think your business is relevant to them.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to identify your USP:
- Define your target audience and buyer personas
- Figure out how you alleviate of pain points they feel
- Identify benefits and solutions
- Define ways you are different
- Highlight your brand appeal
After you think about these above steps you can work them into a mission statement. For example, FedEx has a strong USP focused on customers’ shipping woes. Their marketing efforts create a strong feeling of reliability because they emphasize how they can help customers who desire quick delivery. Like them, you too can have a strong reminder of the “WHY” and “WHAT” you are doing for customers.
Create a Progressive Marketing Budget
Marketing is an essential investment for any business, so it is important you have clearly defined budget allotments for your marketing efforts. After you get the overarching number, you need to distribute it accordingly to the marketing tactics you have determined to yield results.
Not all marketing tactics will cost you an arm and a leg. With careful planning, consider doing the following:
- Focus on what worked in the past
- Use tactics that allow full control/customization
- Prove ROI before you scale
- Market cross-channel to double dip
By following proved success and being smart with your marketing budget you can make money stretch further. Do not splurge because you want to get things up and running. Plan first—you will be grateful you did!
Your distribution plan details how customers will buy from you—whether it’s in a brick and mortar location, online or by phone. It is also great to think about if you will sell through other distributors or retailers. Thinking about distribution allows you to creatively think through some of the different ways you will be able to reach your customers.
On top of distribution, you also need to think of how you will reach customers in the digital world! There are numerous promotional tactics, such as TV ads, trade shows, press releases, online advertisin, and event marketing. In this section of your marketing plan template, you will want to decide which of these efforts will effectively allow you to reach your customers.
On top of placement promotions, you also should include ways to reel in your customer through benefits. These can be free trials, money-back guarantees or discounted offers. If you want more traction and to help your business stay in the minds of your customers, it’s important to plan out your promotions.
Now that you have done your research on how your customers want to engage and learn about your business, it’s time to select the suitable marketing tactics and materials that will work!
Make sure you are communicating in the way your customers want and need, not following marketing fads! It can be easy with new technology to be distracted by the “shiny new objects”, but always remind yourself of the customer’s voice. Communicate and do what they want, not what you want!
For example, if you know your ideal customer would prefer to read rather than watch a video it might be good to think about creating strong eBook content or email campaigns. Consider all the options and dig deeply. The best tactic could be to generate leads in the awareness stage with a free eBook or graphic and then funnel subscribers through a lead nurturing email campaign to build trust and then offer a closing sale or sign up for a service.
You have likely heard the phrase “content is king” and for the most part, that’s pretty spot on. Content is the meat that will attract your buyers. It is what Google uses to search for keywords and drive customers to your site and what buyers use to educate themselves about their problem as they move through the buyer’s journey.
It’s not about quantity, it is all about quality and consistency. Here are some recommended content types for each stage of the buyer’s journey:
- White papers
- Product comparisons
- Case studies
- Free downloads
- Product-focused content
Content not only attracts customers but it can also help your SEO. By creating consistent and quality content, your business blog and website will gain more traffic. Google rewards quality leads, so why not attract some marketing help and new customers?!
Most people look to the internet for everything these days, so having the right online marketing strategy in place will be crucial. The key things you should focus on heavily are as follows:
- Keyword Strategy
- Paid Online Advertising Strategy
- Social Media Strategy
There are tons of creative tactics you can use in each of these departments to further your marketing goals and objectives. A marketing plan should always include heavy online/digital marketing plans because this is the place people spend more of their time now. To read more about more online marketing strategies, go to our articles here and here.
Like any business deal, you need to map out any collaborations you would like to have and what those will entail. Make a list of businesses you want to reach out to. Create clear contracts, expectations and marketing plans that will mesh well with your business and help you reach new customers.
If you are at a loss for who this could be for your business, think about what customers buy before, during and/or after they buy from your company. Make connections and look for ways your businesses can work with each other for mutual benefits.
I think sometimes we all get so wrapped up in getting new customers that we to plan out how to market to the customers we already have! Make sure you also put efforts into customer retention strategies as this will also help your numbers! By simply creating a loyalty program or a newsletter content piece, you can increase revenues and profits by getting customers to purchase from you again.
Marketing Plan Complete
Although the above sections are things you should include in your marketing plans, every marketing plan will be fluid and different. Your marketing plan should be a unique and customer living document that you can revisit, tweak and check if you are on track with your business goals. It is all about the details and staying up to date with your progress.
It can truly be a labor of love, but once your marketing plan is complete it will be all worth it! You are well on your way to the road to success. If you are feeling overwhelmed, to have time, we have developed a marketing plan template and presentation that can be completed and customized easily…just for you!
To access our marketing plan template, click here. To use the template download the PDF adobe editor here and once downloaded, edit the written fields.
There is also a coinciding presentation slideshow here. The presentation is an Apple Keynote presentation that can be easily converted after being downloaded if saved as a Powerpoint etc.
By the way, if you’d like any help putting together your marketing plan or want to know more about your marketing options, let me know here or in the comments. I’d love to help!
What did I miss? What do you love about marketing plans and how often do you check, update and review it?
Cydney is a polka dot wearing business owner, photographer, cupcake enthusiast and writer, who through her work, shares her personal passions about visual marketing, branding and business strategy.