Building a marketing plan really isn’t as hard as some may think; it just takes some time and planning. Start with a manageable chunk of time, say 12 months. You do need to revisit it periodically, and this way you won’t be overwhelmed. Document as you go, and give yourself ample time to complete the analysis that goes into building the marketing plan.
Now, how do you start to build your marketing plan? No matter what size company you are, if you follow these five (5) basic steps, you will be headed in the right direction.
Step 1: Business Analysis, Self-Discovery
Define your company, your products/services, and make sure you understand which are more profitable than others.
How you bring value and benefits to your customers as compared to your competitors.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? Be honest here, no company is the best at everything, and no company is everything to all of their clients. Really focus on who you are and what you deliver.
Where are your opportunities? What are you not capitalizing on that you could; are your most profitable services the ones you sell the most; do you do more in your strongest areas, or are you delivering mostly in your weaker areas?
Step 2: Identify your Target Audience
- Create a customer profile including:
- Demographics – age, gender, earnings, family make-up, etc.
- If your customer is a business:
- Type and size of business
- Job Title (if looking for a specific type-IT, CEO, CMO, etc.)
Step 3: Create your Marketing Goals
What is it you are looking to achieve (in this one year plan)? You can have multiple goals as well…and be specific. A good goal includes a critical key performance indicator (kpi), a numeric metric that can be tracked, and a time frame for achieving that goal.
- $1M in sales by year’s end
- 20% increase in product sales over the next 2 months
- 25K units sold this month
- #1 in customer satisfaction during the next reporting cycle
Goals are infinite and extremely personal…from a business point of view, so the sky is the limit. But don’t set yourself up for failure by establishing too many. Brainstorm any and all goals. Take notes and then take time to parse them down to the most important and attainable.
Side note – don’t’ toss the goals you didn’t use. If you thought they were worthy at this time, but didn’t make the list, they may show up as more important in the future.
Step 4: Develop Strategies and Tactics
This is the meat and potatoes of your marketing plan. Here is where you get down to the specifics of HOW you will reach your goals. A well-built marketing plan will address your target market in all steps of their sales cycle. Keep in mind, the first three steps are required for you to understand who you are, where your best ‘gains’ will be, who you need to target for those gains, and what the goals are. Now you need to refocus on the tactics that will reach that target market with your message. Tactics vary but can include both traditional and digital.
Digital may and should include:
Traditional may include
- Graphics for brochures, post cards, flyers,
- Loyalty Program
- Customer appreciation events
- Employee events (when customers see that you value and celebrate your employees they can become emotionally drawn to your company)
Your tactics will depending largely on who you decided your target audience is. Time and research will help uncover the best tactics for your target.
Step 5: Set your Budget
While budget may be your biggest obstacle, remember that your efforts in reaching your target customers is THE most important aspect in growing and achieving your goals. If you don’t put yourself in front of your customer, how will they know you exist? Be sure to look into all methods of setting the most appropriate marketing budget you can. And then set out to make the most of it.
Throughout the entire process be sure to get feedback from all departments and as many people as necessary. It’s important to have input from multiple sources for a complete and detailed plan to actually work. In the end your marketing plan will provide you with multiple benefits:
Unification – Consider releasing an abridged version of the plan to all staff. While they may not understand some of the more technical aspects, a well thought out and written plan is something they can get behind. It also indicates that the powers-at-be have the company’s (interpreted as employees) best interest in mind as it demonstrates forward, organized thinking.
Roadmap to Success – While inevitably plans change (for everything) it’s important to have a jumping off point. Something to look back on, reflect on…and change when needed. It keeps you on track and provides insight to the original thought process to guide valuable change.
Operational Instructions – A marketing plan is basically as step-by-step guide on how to get things done (meet your goals). If they are clearly defined you will have no trouble achieving desired results.
Looks at the Big Picture – When it all comes down to it, the big picture is the defining element. Executive staff needs to take time to reflect on the past, evaluate the present and visualize the future in order to figure out where you are going next.