How To Create An Effective Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is another vital document that all business owners should have and works hand in hand with your business plan. Where your business plan gives you a roadmap to direct your business a marketing plan allows your business to understand how it will get there by providing necessary steps to help you establish strong customer relationships. A marketing plan will also need thoughtful planning and research to produce a useful, beneficial document. Marketing plans are vital to marketing success. They help to focus the mind of companies and marketing departments on the process of marketing i.e. what is going to be achieved and how we intend to do it.
What you need to think about when creating your marketing plan:
It is important to clearly identify the market for your products and services, as well as explain your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your plan should include:
Market analysis – what is your market? What is your position within that market? Is it a niche market?
Sector growth – is your market growing, declining or has it reached a plateau? Is it becoming more specialised?
Customer base – what are your customer demographics (e.g. age, sex, income, location) and psychographics (predisposition, influences, lifestyle)? What customers offer the best prospects for you? What evidence do you have that they need or desire your product or service?
SWOT analysis – identify your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
Which segment? How will we target the segment? How should we position within the segment?
Why this segment and not a different one?
Define the segment in terms of demographics and lifestyle. Show how you intend to ‘position’ your product or service within that segment.
Once you have identified your position in the market, you next need to formulate your marketing mix. This is the combination of:
Product – this refers to the products, services, add-ons, installation, upgrades, after-sales support, etc that you offer the customer. Is the product Sold individually, as part of a bundle, in bulk, etc?
Price – putting your product or service on the market at the right price is crucial. How tight are your margins? Will you cost plus, skim, match the competition or penetrate the market?
Place – do you sell your products from a fixed physical location or do you sell over the phone or internet? How far does your business stretch geographically? Will you market direct, use agents or distributors, etc?
Promotion – Which media will you use? e.g sponsorship, radio advertising, sales force, point-of-sale, etc? Think of the mix elements as the ingredients of a ‘cake mix’. You have eggs, milk, butter, and flour. However, if you alter the amount of each ingredient, you will influence the type of cake that you finish with.
Brand positioning describes how a brand is different from its competitors and where, or how, it sits in a market. What is your brand-positioning statement for your target customers? It should be a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet your customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are single-minded and focus on target customer needs. Ultimately, your brand and what it symbolizes for customers should be your strongest competitive advantage.
Your marketing plan should also include a thorough assessment of the competition:
Who are they?
Where are they based?
What are their product lines (services offered)?
What are their prices?
How many employees do they have?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
What is their market share?
What ads or promotions are they running?
You should have SMART objectives/goals.
Specific – Be precise about what you are going to achieve (set real numbers with deadlines)
Measurable – Quantify your objectives (Ensure you can track your goals)
Achievable – Are you attempting too much? (It can be challenging but make sure it is possible)
Realistic – Do you have the resources to make it happen (Be honest with yourself, are you capable)
Timed – State when you will achieve the objective (Set a deadline)
If you don’t make your objective SMART, it will be too vague and will not be realized. Remember that the rest of the plan hinges on the objective. If it is not correct, the plan may fail.
Clearly state whether you will use direct marketing, public relations, advertising or sales promotions to carry out your marketing campaign. Be warned – advertising and public relations campaigns can be expensive, so it is important that you spend wisely and evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Your marketing plan should state the annual marketing budget, as well as an itemised list of expected expenditures. A projection of expected returns on marketing expenditure should also be included.
Once strategies have been identified for each channel, you need to figure out your strategy. How much are you willing to spend in each channel? What outcomes do you expect to see? What tasks do you need to accomplish for each step in your process? Creating a well-defined list of budgets, goals and action items, with appropriate personnel assigned to each, can help make your marketing plan a reality.
Your marketing plan should not be set in stone; certain factors may make it necessary for you to adapt or modify your plan, for example, changes in:
While these steps are a good starting point, companies also need to incorporate multiple channels into their marketing plans. Some of the most popular channels for today’s businesses include:
Social media marketing
Social media has become an essential part of businesses’ marketing plans. Businesses that have yet to realize the opportunities that Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other networks provide them are missing out. First you need to work on the content you will be delivering, find where your customers are and then consistently post relevant useful, branded information to your customers.
Though email marketing may not be as new of a concept as social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for many small business owners. Companies can implement email-marketing techniques in a number of ways, including newsletters, promotional campaigns and transactional emails. Companies such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy for companies to manage their email campaigns.
The popularity of smartphones and tablets has helped to change the way companies target their customers. As a result, companies are looking to implement strategies that reach customers on their devices.
Mobile marketing should not be considered a mere extension of email or online marketing, however. Since many consumers have a mobile device with them at all times, texts and push notifications will almost certainly be seen by the recipient.
In order for your marketing plan to be effective you need to, discover what you would like your marketing efforts to achieve. Are you hoping to see increased sales or traffic, or new client contacts? Set six-month milestones for each channel, and compare the results against prior efforts and your expectations. How will you measure your success? What do you do when a marketing platform is under-performing? If your efforts have fallen flat short, go back to the basics. Asking your customers to complete an email survey about their social media habits in exchange for a coupon or discount may give you useful insight into relationships between customer demographics and your marketing efforts.
Finally, write a brief summary at the beginning of the plan. This will help others to get acquainted with the plan without having to spend time reading it all. Place all supporting information into an appendix at the back of the plan.