No matter what stage your business is currently at, from start-up to established international brand, you’ll need to ensure you have a definitive and effective marketing plan to drive it forward and help you achieve your business objectives.
Given the current, unpredictable nature of businesses across the board, this is more imperative than ever, so I’ve put together a foolproof guide to creating a successful marketing plan with 7 key stages:
Establish your targets and objectives
First of all, before you can even begin to look at specific marketing tactics, you need to understand your business objectives and set targets that can be driven by marketing to help you achieve these objectives. You’ve got to know how to walk before you can begin to think about running.
Example goals often include ‘increasing’ certain metrics such as reach, sales or market share. However, you need to be able to define that in more detail, quantify what success would look like for you. E.g. Increase revenue by 20% within the next 12 months.
This is an overarching objective, you can now break down into smaller steps which will help you achieve it, such as increasing organic sales by 10% in the first three month or increase client referrals by 50%.
With quantifiable goals and objectives, you can track your journey throughout.
Who are your target audience?
It’s all well and good having a marketing strategy in place but, if you’re not talking to the right people, it won’t be effective.
You need to identify who your customers are – start with the basic demographics such as their age, gender, geographic location, disposable income, employment status etc. Once you have pulled the profile together you can dig a little deeper by considering their values, interests, aspirations and challenges.
Knowing your customers’ personal and behavioral traits will help you understand their decision-making and purchasing process so you can tailor what your messages say and where they are placed.
Research is key
Now you understand what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re looking to appeal to, it’s critical to understand the current market landscape, especially considering the current climate, where more and more business is taking place online or remotely. For the first half of 2021 (at least), you’re unlikely to be able to get face to face with your customers.
So, you need to ask yourself? How are you going to reach your customers? Is there a demand for your product/service in the current climate? What are your competitors doing?
You might think that researching your competition is sneaky and underhand, but I promise you, they’ll be doing the same and it will provide answers to the previous two questions.
Don’t worry, competitor research is not about stealing ideas, it will help you understand where your business fits in the marketplace, establishing:
- Pricing – where does your price point fit in the market, don’t undervalue yourself but don’t price yourself out of the market
- Quality of Product / Service – in line with pricing, does the quality of your product/service match up with your price point?
- Marketing channels and messages – do some work better than others?
- Sales / distribution channels
SWOT Analysis might be a method you learnt back in school but it’s a timeless method that is still used regularly in businesses around the world – review your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Define your USP
So, you know your competitors and what they’re offering. The next step is defining your unique selling proposition (USP).
Your USP will set you aside from your competition, it will demonstrate why your product is the one your target audiences need and why they should choose it over the others. Why is it that little bit more expensive perhaps?
You need to be able to articulate, in your key messages, the most distinct and relevant benefits you offer and define that ‘big promise’.
What do you want to say & how you say it – Messaging and Methodology
The next step is the actionable element of your marketing plan. Firstly, you need to ascertain and outline your key messages that you want to share with your potential customers and once these are established, how and where are you going to get your messages out? This is where the first four steps of the marketing plan are crucial, as they will inform the fifth, so consider:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What are your competitors doing? What works, what doesn’t?
- What is your USP and your key messages?
You will also need to consider budget and resources, but I will cover this in more detail shortly.
Once you’ve done this you should be able to outline a detail tactical action plan – this might include PR, social media, SEO, PPC, email marketing, direct marketing, that’s for you to decide.
Don’t forget though, nothing is set in stone, your marketing plan should be continually reviewed and revised on a regular basis.
Reporting and Measurement
It’s almost impossible to see whether your plan has been effective or not without measuring the results against your original targets and objectives – this is why it’s important to have quantifiable goals in place.
As part of your marketing plan, define a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in line with these objectives, this way you can track the campaign and understand its effectiveness and return on investment.
In the current climate you may be reluctant to spend money on marketing but it is an essential investment for any business, so it is important to allocate a dedicated budget for promoting your business – if you can’t expand your customer base by spreading the word, how can you grow?
Once you’ve set your budget, you may need to double check your marketing tactics to ensure they can be implemented effectively within the budget. But, on the plus side, not all marketing tactics will cost you a fortune, as long as you carefully plan your activity and consider your options.
The pandemic will not beat a good business
Whilst times are tough for almost every industry at the moment and this doesn’t look set to change in 2021, a well-planned marketing plan, with a strong understanding of the current marketplace, your target audiences, their needs and behaviors, will stand you in good stead for this year and years to come.