Marketing Plan: Why is it of Utmost Importance and How to Create an Effective One?
While a business plan defines the direction for your company, a marketing plan will show your business the right way to get there. Having a marketing plan can help you define different aspects of your business so you can focus on your priorities when you market your products or services.
Marketers with a documented strategy and plan are 313% more likely to report success.
In this article, we are going to outline what a marketing plan is and how to create one that is both actionable and accessible–even if you’ve never written one before–so you can deliver on your business’s larger goals. Let's start with this question…
What is marketing plan?
It's important to have a solid understanding of what exactly a marketing plan is before you can start developing your own one. A marketing plan, typically included as an expanded piece of your overall business plan, is just what it sounds like: a map that outlines everything you need to know so that you can promote your business successfully.
Businesses with plans tend to succeed, exceed competitors and retain staff, more than those with no plan. A marketing plan is more like a compass that without it, there’s no direction for the company or its employees, decisions can be uninformed, opportunities can be missed and threats can destroy all the business.
It’s vital to know that your marketing plan is expected to last one year. This is sufficient time to achieve those big, long-term goals, and also short enough to remain flexible when your circumstances and goals evolve over time. So what are the steps of creating a marketing plan?
1- Make a situation analysis
Before you can get started with your marketing plan, you need to know your current situation. A good plan starts with a situation analysis to see where your business is now. In this section, some businesses prefer to do a SWOT analysis—which outlines, in detail, your strengths and weaknesses as a company, opportunities for growth, and threats that could hinder that progress as well.
In addition, you should have a solid understanding of the current market. How do you compare to your competitors? Doing a competitor analysis should definitely help you with this step.
Think about how other products are better than yours in different ways. Plus, consider the gaps in a competitor's both product and approach. What are they missing? What can you offer that'll give you a competitive advantage? Think about what sets you apart.
Answering these questions and much more like it should help you figure out what your customer wants, the thing which brings us to step number two.
2- Get to know your target audience
Now that you have a better understanding of the market and your company's situation, you should make sure you know who your target audience is.
It's essential to know not just how you can get the most leads to your business, but how you can get the right leads who turn to be loyal customers.
List anything and everything you know about your ideal customer. This includes basic demographic information, such as gender and age. But you should also dig deeper into their behaviors and decisions.
Why do they buy from you? What challenge or pain point are you solving for them? How do they spend free time? What outlets do they turn to get information? Gather whatever you can find, and include it in this section. Knowing your customer inside and out will be helpful when identifying marketing tactics and strategies.
Answering these questions will take lots of research, but it is essential information to get.
3- Research your competitors
Conducting competitor research will help you identify who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and how you could carve yourself a place alongside them in your niche–and ideally, surpass them.
Start by describing the product or service you offer to consumers in detail. Then, spell out how your product or service measures up to existing competition. What positions you as the one source clients or customers should turn to? What makes you different? As you might imagine, you’ll be able to leverage this differentiator to effectively market your business.
It’s an important step to not only gather all of the information you need but also to demonstrate to any potential investors that you’re aware of your competition and prepared to tackle that challenge head on.
Always remember that being armed with all sorts of knowledge about your competitors will be helpful in finding ways to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
4- Set SMART goals and objectives
Setting your business goals is one of the most important parts of the entire marketing plan, so be sure to take your time and to be as clear as possible.
After you've figured out your current situation and know your audience, you can begin defining your SMART goals.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This means that all your goals should be specific and include a time frame for which you want to complete it.
The important part is to zone in on the milestones you want to reach throughout that year, whether it seems possible or not.
Before you start any tactic, you should write out your goals. Then, you can begin to analyze which tactics will help you achieve that goal. This brings us to creating the right action plan.
5- Create action plan
At this point, you've written down your goals based on your target audience and current situation.
Now, you have to figure out what tactics will help you achieve your goals. Plus, what are the right channels and action items to focus on.
Take each goal separately, and list the related action items directly underneath it. This allows you to see exactly what needs to get done in order to push yourself toward that accomplishment.
It’s also a great way to get a handle on whether or not this goal seems realistic or if it needs a little adjusting. You want your goals to be motivating and far-reaching, but not so difficult that they’re just discouraging.
6- Set a budget
Before you can begin implementing any of your ideas that you've come up within the steps above, you have to know your budget.
Stay focused on marketing related activities. How much do you plan to spend on marketing and promotion throughout the next year, and how much will the action items you listed above cost you? Most importantly, where will this money come from?
While you're writing out your tactics, be sure to note an estimated budget. You can include the time it'll take to complete each tactic in addition to the assets you might need to purchase, such as ad space.