Building Your Marketing Plan

Optimize Marketing Mix

A marketing plan is part of your business plan and is the foundation for identifying your market, attracting prospects, converting them into customers, and retaining them as customers. Usually a market plan operates at two levels, strategic and tactical. Strategic to identify the overall market play and tactical to execute on the marketing plan. It does not need to be long or expensive to put together. The marketing plan will put all your research, ideas and SMART plans in one place. A marketing plan helps you get focused and organized so you can be more coordinated, productive and successful. All you really need to do is follow these marketing plan steps.

Marketing Plan Steps:

  • Marketing objectives of the business: What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Your plan objectives should be attainable and measurable – two goals associated with SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Define your brand mission. Outline your brand mission by answering questions like:
    • What is it that you would like your brand to accomplish?
    • Why do you want to help your customers?
    • Why are your products or services important?
    • Why should customers look to do business with you instead of your competitors?
  • Market research: Conduct a detailed research analysis about current market trends, customer needs, industry sales volumes, and expected direction. A market analysis describes the total marketing environment in which your company competes. This section answers questions that help you navigate your competitive market’s landscape.
    • How many businesses offer similar offerings?
    • How many businesses will your brand be in direct competition with?
    • How large is the market?
    • What are the trends in the market (growing, decreasing, etc.)?
    • How much are customers already paying for similar offerings?
    • How much are customers willing to pay for similar offerings?
    • What does the sales cycle in your market look like?
  • Competition: Conduct a competitor analysis. Now, look closely at those competitors to see how you can differentiate your brand and drive customers to choose you over others.
    • Who are your competitors?
    • What is their market share?
    • What are their strengths, weaknesses and unique selling propositions?
    • How can you differentiate your brand from competitors?
  • Business target market: Define your target audience. Define your target audience by creating buyer personas that describe your ideal customers and audiences. Outline their:
    • Demographics (age, gender, income, education, location, etc.)
    • Professional details (industry, job title, company, etc.)
    • Psychographics (personality traits, beliefs, attitudes, etc.)
    • Goals (what they what to achieve)
    • Challenges (pain points, what they’re afraid of or in need of, etc.)
    • Influences (favorite media outlets, thought leaders, etc.)
    • Their precise wants and outcome needs as related to the product/service Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
  • Define your offerings: Create a list of your products and services and outline:
    • The features of each offer of service/product
    • How each feature benefits customers (USP)
    • What makes each offering different from other similar offerings
    • The price for each offering
  • Marketing mix: This is a combination of factors that may influence customers to purchase products. It should be appropriate for the organization and will largely be centered on the 4Ps of marketing – i.e., product, price, promotion, and place.
    • Define your brand positioning. You have done a lot of research, and you’ve outlined what you know about your brand, market, and competitors. Use this information to decide how you will position your brand in the market.
      • Outline your unique selling propositions (USPs).
      • Define what market differentiators you will highlight.
      • Specify what market segment you will target.
      • Define your brand voice and tone.
    • Pricing and positioning must be aligned…think value.
    • Distribution plan…how will customers buy from you…which marketing channels will be used.
    • Promotion strategy…event marketing/online advertising/press releases…which are most effective for the USP?
      • Marketing materials…collateral used to promote…which are already completed & which need to be created.
      • Special offers…special deals to hook new customers or bring back customers.
      • Online marketing strategy…Key word content…SEO…Paid online…Social media…document how to use each of these to attract customers.
      • Joint ventures & partnerships with other organizations to reach new customers.
      • Referral strategy…formalize it. For instance, determine when you will ask customers for referrals, what if anything you will give them as a reward, etc.
      • Strategy for increasing transaction prices…think about ways to increase your transaction prices such as by creating product or service bundles/packages, and so on.
      • Retention strategy using such things as: a monthly newsletter or customer loyalty program; by getting customers to purchase from you more frequently over time.
  • Marketing strategies: The development of marketing strategies to be employed in the coming period. A list of any actions concerning marketing goals that are scheduled for the period and the indicated timelines. These strategies will include promotional strategies, advertising, and other marketing tools at the disposal of the organization. Look at your goals and figure out what type of marketing tactics will help you get closer to your target objectives. They might include (but aren’t limited to) the following.
    • Online advertising. Pay-per-click advertising, banner ads, text ads on partner sites.
    • Email marketing. Sending electronic newsletters, adding subscription tools to your site to grow your email list.
    • Print advertising. Newspaper or magazine ads, business cards, direct mail postcards, brochures or flyers.
    • Social networking. Maintaining your business profile and engaging with customers and prospects on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
    • Blogging. Writing your own blog, responding to or submitting articles or features to other people’s blogs, RSS feeds, etc.
    • Online directories. Your business listing on both global (i.e. Google, Yelp and YP.com) and local (i.e. Chamber of Commerce) listings sites.
    • Live networking. Handing out business cards, professional memberships, public speaking.
    • Search engine optimization (SEO). Tweaking website content to attract organic traffic.
    • Trade shows. Sending your team to attend or present at industry conferences and events.
    • Public relations. Getting mentions and features about your brand in the news.
  • Outline your goals: Define the short and long term SMART goals. Think about where you’re starting from, and where you want the business to be in three, five and 10 years. Analyze your tactics…figure out what tactics will help you achieve your goals. Plus, what are the right channels and action items to focus on. Some examples of marketing goals might be to:
    • Attract customers
    • Retain customers
    • Increase website traffic
    • Increase social media following
    • Increase online sales
    • Increase in-store sales
    • Generate more leads
    • Improve online conversions
  • Marketing budget: A detailed outline of the organization’s allocation of financial resources to marketing activities. The activities will need to be carried out within the marketing budget. Remember: financial projections (see SCORE spreadsheet) should include the promotional expenses you expect to incur and what your expected results will be in terms of new customers, sales and profits. Likewise include your expected results from your new retention strategy. There are a lot of factors that go into setting a marketing budget. But at this point, you should have some good information to help direct your budgeting. Ask yourself:
    • What is your current revenue?
    • What percent of your revenue have you allocated for marketing?
    • What set marketing costs do you have (for software, team members, etc.)?
    • How much money will you need to reach your goals?
    • What are your competitors are spending on their marketing?
  • Monitoring and performance mechanism: A plan should be in place to identify if the marketing tools in place are bearing fruit or need to be revised based on the past, current, and expected future state of the organization, industry, and the overall business environment. This section identifies key performance indicators (KPIs) to be tracked and used to evaluate your campaigns. Better-known measurement options like surveys can be useful, but you’ll also want to understand things like the cost of customer acquisition (for every new customer you get, how many marketing dollars do you have to spend?) or market share (out of the universe of your potential customers, what percentage do you have, and is that growing?). Having the right set of metrics will allow you to make more informed decisions about your budget as well as make adjustments to strategies as you go. 

Now, you know how to make a marketing plan but your work doesn’t stop here. Use these marketing planning steps and start writing your plan. Then, review your finished marketing plan with fresh eyes and continue to iterate and improve it. Be sure to write SMART goals…specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Be sure to remember that financial projections are never 100% right but they should correlate to the assumption the plan makes.

For more thoughts on marketing plans, view the free video entitled Marketing For Business Owners session 1.

Copyright ©John Trenary 2021

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