Anything with the word “plan” in it sounds intimidating. Unfortunately, without marketing, few people will find your business and without a marketing plan, it’s impossible to know what to do with your marketing. The good news is there’s nothing too complicated about creating a marketing plan. In fact, all it takes is seven simple steps.
Step 1: Analyze Your Current Situation
Analyze where you stand at the moment with a situation analysis. A SWOT analysis is ideal for this, as it examines your strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats: all aspects you need to consider with your marketing.
Another thing to do is a competitor analysis. Search for areas where your competitors are falling short — you’ll be able to use these to highlight how your brand has a better solution or to find gaps in the market to take advantage of. Plus, examining your competitors’ marketing will show you what is likely to work well with your own customers.
Step 2: Define Your Goals
A crucial part of your marketing plan is your goals for the future. Aim to set goals to achieve at least one year from now, possibly as much as three years into the future, and make sure you stick to the SMART criteria. In addition, specify what KPIs you’ll need to measure to track progress toward meeting your goals.
Step 3: Identify Your Target Audience
Your marketing strategy will only be successful if you’re targeting users who are your ideal customers. If you’re generating traffic or leads who will never convert, your marketing strategy is useless. In fact, it’s worse than useless — wasting your resources on unqualified users is actually detrimental to your business.
Research who makes up your target audience by using web and social media analytics, interviewing customers, and finding out more about the customers of your competitors. Use the information to paint a picture of your typical customers in the form of buyer personas.
Bear in mind that you may have several different segments to your audience. For this reason, you need to create a few buyer personas. Make each feel as real as possible by giving the persona a name, adding a photo, and including a detailed bio that is representative of all the users the buyer persona encompasses. Buyer personas should also include demographics, describe how users behave online, and discuss the problems users are facing that your products solve. However, limit yourself just to information that will have a bearing on your marketing and that you can find out about users.
It’s easy to get carried away with buyer personas and create too many. Instead of rushing into making final versions, take a step back and brainstorm your ideas. You may find that you can merge some buyer personas that are similar or eliminate those that represent only a tiny portion of your audience.
Step 4: Decide What Tactics You’ll Use
Once you have all your background research complete, you can start thinking about your actual marketing strategy. A good place to start is by considering what specific marketing activities you want to employ and what channels you’ll use. Some of these may be obvious; for instance, certain marketing activities may relate directly to your goals or you may have revealed good opportunities in your competitor analysis. However, you should also think beyond this and consider what other channels or tactics could help you reach your objectives.
A useful approach is to write out each of your goals in turn and list what you need to achieve them. This will show you both what marketing tactics are necessary and whether your goals are realistic or if they need adjusting.
Step 5: Set a Budget
Your marketing budget needs to be large enough to ensure it’s possible to meet your goals. You’ll also need to decide how to distribute your budget, since some marketing activities are more costly than others.
If you have a new business, it may be necessary to generate as much revenue as possible at the beginning, which means giving some short-term strategies preference. However, it’s important to acknowledge that many long-term strategies eventually have a higher ROI, meaning you shouldn’t dismiss them permanently.
A reasonable amount to set aside for your marketing budget is between 6 and 12 percent of your gross revenue. If that’s insufficient for all the tactics you want to implement, you may need to go back to the previous step and rethink what you strategy should involve at this stage (remember, it’s always possible to add more activities later). You may also need to reconsider some of your goals — either increasing the timeline to reach them or making them less ambitious.
Step 6: Create Guidelines for Tracking Results
We already mentioned that you need to identify the KPIs you’ll use to track progress toward your goals. In addition, you should define where you’ll gather this data and how often you’ll produce reports of your findings. For each goal, aim to have around two KPIs. Monitor them on a regular basis to be able to make changes in time if you realize it’s unlikely you’ll meet your goals with your current tactics.
Step 7: Write Up Everything into Your Marketing Plan
After you’ve compiled all the above information, you’ll need to organize it into your marketing plan document. Typically, this will have the following sections.
The beginning of your marketing plan should contain a simple summary of your business. The page needs to state your name, location, and mission statement. Follow this with the summary of your SWOT analysis, including findings from your situation analysis and what action you have decided to take.
The goals of your marketing strategy go under the business initiatives section. Specifically stick to objectives for your marketing strategy, rather than naming your business goals as a whole. Also provide information on how you will measure goals in this section.
The next section of your marketing plan should summarize your competitor research. It needs to explain what your competitors are doing that is attracting your target audience and where there are opportunities for your brand to position itself as the better option. Also mention your competitors’ current market share and how their products and pricing differ from your own.
Target Audience Analysis
Include buyer personas in their own section. Divide the information for each buyer persona into various categories to make them easily comparable. Bullet lists are ideal, since blocks of text make it more difficult to pick out relevant information at a glance. You may like to include some of the following:
- Job title
There are several ways to present your strategy in your marketing plan. For instance, as an alternative to a written plan, you could use a flowchart to visualize the process or you could make an infographic, dividing your strategy into different sections. Just make sure the order of steps you’ll need to take is obvious and that the steps lead to measurable results. Include key statistics in your roadmap, perhaps highlighting them in some way to make them stand out.
Make sure you cover the four Ps of marketing in your strategy roadmap — product, price, place, and promotion — and you show how smaller actions will help you to achieve high-level marketing goals. It’s also a good idea to incorporate visuals to quickly communicate your ideas and to demonstrate the importance of particular activities, channels, and other key information.
After you’ve outlined your strategy, describe the channels you’ll be using to put the various marketing tactics into action. Be specific — rather than naming social media as whole, identify which platforms you’ll be using for each area of your strategy. In fact, if social media will be a major part of your strategy, it’s worth detailing the tactics you’ll use on each individual platform.
Budget and Projections
It makes sense to end your marketing plan with details about your budget, as by including it at the end, you can refer back to each aspect of your strategy and the different marketing channels you’ll be using. Itemize your budget into costs like:
- Tools and software
- Influencer marketing
- Event attendance or hosting
Follow your budget with financial projections for your marketing strategy. Split this into different marketing channels and then calculate ROI according to how much you intend to invest in each. After the first year of running your strategy, your projections should be much more accurate.
Once you have a marketing plan, it’s time to implement it. This may end up being much more work than you initially anticipate. A virtual assistant can help by taking over all the tasks you lack the time to do yourself. Plus, when you choose MYVA360, you’ll also receive access to our extended team, which includes digital marketers. Schedule a consultation to receive a 10-percent discount on all our services.