How to Write a Marketing Plan
This post will explain how to write a marketing plan. Most people understand the value of building a business plan, yet many business owners, marketers, and other key stakeholders don’t realize that creating a marketing plan is just as important for the success of marketing your business or organization. Whether you need a marketing plan for your small business, or if you have a large business, the principles are mostly the same.
Unlike a traditional business plan, a marketing plan will specifically focus on your strategy to win and retain customers, including projected numbers, supporting facts, and marketing objectives. A good marketing plan will examine and define all the tools and tactics you’ll be using to achieve your sales goals. If you don’t get the results you’re looking for or need to make changes later down the road, it will be much easier to review this marketing plan to see what can be updated.
A marketing plan is essentially your plan of action. Marketing plans will clearly define what you sell, who will want to buy it, along with the tactics you’ll be using to generate leads, resulting in sales. Among the most important things a business owner should do for their business is take the time to develop a unique marketing plan that will set them apart from the competition. Regardless of whether you’re a large or small business, a solid marketing plan will help you clearly outline the path for your business sales goals.
- Step 1: Review the current state of your business by doing SWOT Analysis
- Step 2: Describe your ideal target customer audience using buyer personas, behavior traits, and demographic information
- Step 3: Decide what your goals and objectives are for your marketing campaign
- Step 4: Determine your customer revenue values and target Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Step 5: Develop the marketing channels and tactics that you will focus on
- Step 6: Determine your monthly marketing budget
- Step 7: Setup measurement, refine, rinse and repeat
Step 1: Review the current state of your business by doing SWOT Analysis
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Some will call it a situational analysis, and many business owners choose to use tools like SWOT analysis or others in order to complete this step. Take the time to review both the internal and external business factors, and properly size up the current state of your business.
- What is the monthly revenue of your business?
- How many existing customers do you have?
- What are your product costs?
- How many customers do you have, and what is your overhead?
Step 2: Describe your ideal target customer audience using buyer personas, behavior traits, and demographic information
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Buyer personas are a fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customers that can help when developing your messaging to reach the ideal customer you’re aiming to attract. Establishing a deep and clear understanding of your buyer personas is essential for related content creation, new product development, sales strategies, and just about anything that will relate to your customer acquisition and retention rates overall.
Create a list of potential customers, and then identify the various segments of those markets based on different demographic details or preferences. If you have a more established business and you already have quite a few existing customers, then all you’ll need to do is start identifying and describing your existing clients. Some of the most important questions you’ll need to ask yourself when developing this list are:
- What type of job do they have?
- How much money do they make?
- Do they have any common interests?
- What school did they go to?
- What type of personality type do they have? (check out the Meyers Briggs tests)
- Where do they live?
These target customer personas may include specific roles within a company, such as the chief executive officer (CEO), a chief financial officer (CFO), marketing director, or small business owner. For creating segments in B2C consumer markets, you’ll want to consider which age groups would be most interested in your products and services. For example, if your target market is attorneys, then there will be niche groups you’ll be able to better target such as trial or defense attorneys, or even by the size of the firm. You’ll probably want to create several different buyer personas based on different age groups or other wider demographic and interest categories.
This way, you can develop unique content that will speak directly to each audience in the intended way, without having to water down all of your content to speak to the broadest possible audience.
By creating niches within your larger content strategy, you’ll see a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction because those customers are likely to ignore other irrelevant messages and focuses on the ones that speak to them the most. Example of Buyer Personas in Marketing – How to create a marketing plan
Step 3: Decide what your goals and objectives are for your marketing campaign
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It might be helpful to start working backward on what your goal is, and that should help you develop the path of how you can reach those goals. Your mission statement should clearly and succinctly describe the nature of your business, the range of services offered, and the markets that you’ll be serving. Examples:
- Increase revenue from $25,000 per month to $50,000 per month in 6 months.
- Sell X number of products in the next 6 months.
- Increase average product count per client from 2 to 4 in 6 months.
- Increase brand recognition and recall.
- 100 phone calls each month.
- 100 online form submissions each month.
- $50,000 in monthly e-commerce sales revenue.
Step 4: Determine your customer revenue values and target Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
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How much does your product or service cost to sell?
- When you know how much your product or services costs are, you’ll be able to understand how much you can spend to acquire a customer to break even?
- What is your profit per sale or per customer?
- If you have multiple products or services, then establish what the averages are and also get a granular per product you’re selling.
What is the lifetime value of each new customer?
- With many products and services, the value of a new customer or client shouldn’t be measured by just the one-time purchase value, it should be valued by an annual value of a customer and also a lifetime value. Write down how much the average individual sale is, then how much that customer will spend over the course of a year and also the lifetime if they keep buying from you.
- As an example, if a customer is buying a product from you for $100 per month, then the annual value would be $1,200. If the average customer is going to stay with you for three years, then the lifetime value of a new customer is $3,600.
- How much would you be willing to spend to get a new customer or client?
- The amount a business can spend on acquiring a new customer can depend on the stage of the business, what the revenue numbers are, and how much the business wants to invest in the future.
- As a scenario, using the monthly customer value of $100 and the lifetime value of a customer of $3,600, then if a business has 50% margins, then the one month value of a customer would be $50 and the lifetime value is $1,800.
- What is your threshold on how much you’d spend to make the lifetime value of $1,800?
To explore this topic further, check out Neil Patel’s in-depth article on Customer Acquisition Costs.
Step 5: Develop the marketing channels and tactics that you will focus on
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There are almost endless ways to get your marketing message in front of your prospects with the internet. Of course, you could still go the traditional advertising route and place your ads in newspapers and on billboards, but you should also consider trying more modern tactics like SEO and content marketing for your company’s website. Whichever route you decide to head down, you’ll need to figure out which channels you’ll be using to turn your audiences into prospects, and then into paying customers. Although it may be tempting to try everything at once to get a feel for it, all you will be doing with a scattered approach is wasting precious resources on different channels that aren’t guaranteed to work. If you want to get the desired return on investment from your marketing strategy, then it’s important to make calculated, informed decisions about which channels will provide the best ways to reach your target customers.
Often times, you can perform competitive research to evaluate different marketing opportunities, since your competitors have already spent time and money on figuring this out. Be careful not to mirror their strategy, because you’ll need a different approach if you want to get ahead.
One of the best approaches to deciding which channels to incorporate in your marketing strategy is to break down all of the potential channels into three main sections: owned, earned, and paid media. This approach will allow you to focus on different market segments, but develop a well-rounded strategy to draw your audience in and convert them into happy customers.
Step 6: Determine your monthly marketing budget
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Crunching the numbers is vitally important to establish a baseline which can help you measure progress going forward. In your complete business plan, you’ve already detailed the entire financial side of your business, but with your marketing plan, you will want to stay focused specifically on marketing-related activities. You should answer basic questions like how much you plan to spend on marketing and promotion throughout the next year, along with how the action items you listed as part of your plan will cost you.
Most importantly, you’ll want to answer the question of where this money will be coming from. Even though budgets aren’t very fun, it’s important to be honest with yourself, because you’d rather discover you need to alter your plan at the start than after spending too much on something that will eat away your precious marketing budget and ROI.
Step 7: Setup measurement, refine, rinse and repeat
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One of the greatest aspects of using online marketing compared with traditional marketing is the ability to quantify and measure all of the actions users perform and how they interact with your website and advertisements, without having to guess how effective your strategy is. By establishing the budget and plan prior to executing your marketing strategy, you’ll be able to set what is known as “key performance indicators,” which allow you to track progress in specific areas that let you know how well your plan is working toward your business goals. When you discover certain online channels out-perform other channels, you’ll naturally put more efforts into those channels to drive your organization’s continued growth. When you want to improve your overall marketing performance, you can create an advertisement to drive traffic and spend time increasing your conversion rates on the different lead pages your advertisements send them to. If you would benefit most from brand recognition to set yourself apart from competitors, then it may be more helpful to create engaging and attractive materials to interact with and grow your audience on different social media platforms. If your business is trying to increase market share versus specific competitors, then you’ll want to do what you can to rival their authority and gain the trust of customers in your target market.
Marketing Planning Ideas For Small Businesses Conduct some preliminary market research in another local area By researching and evaluating the methods that other similar companies are using in different local markets, you’re likely to come across some interesting and clever ideas you can experiment with in your own target market. This approach should at least offer a change in perspective and one that’s probably necessary to help push your business to the next level. This is one of those cases where you simply don’t have to reinvent the wheel to find success!
Conduct a focus group within your target market Sometimes, it’s worth it just to pay members of your target audience to tell you exactly what they think of your marketing ideas. By paying people for their time and effort, you’ll be able to invite them to come into your workspace and provide honest feedback that will help you get a clearer picture of what your market wants out of your product and/or service offerings. Why guess in the dark, when you could reach out and get a firm answer for your marketing strategy questions? In the long run, the upfront costs of conducting a focus group are likely to outweigh the wasted expenses on ineffective marketing campaigns later down the road.
Create and deliver a unique selling proposition (USP) If your brand is seen as just another competitor in a large marketplace, then you’ll be working uphill just to convince people to consider buying from your organization over the competition. So, even though it is highly recommended that you first learn from your competitors, if you approach your market by copying their strategy and you aim to attract members from the same audience, people will most likely be able to spot this and it could hurt your brand’s reputation.
This highlights the importance of developing a thorough marketing plan to establish what your business goals are, so you can hone in on the most important aspects your business wants to highlight. Whether it’s your organization’s ability to provide stellar customer service, a “secret sauce” that all your customers rave about, or simply defining the quality of your brand, then it’s important to effectively communicate that message clearly to your audience. If your message isn’t clear or different than what others are offering, it’s likely that a large part of your efforts will be wasted when deploying company resources.
Learn customer search intent and trigger phrases by using Amazon, Google, and Yelp reviews Basically, this strategy works by looking for popular books or other similar products related to what you’re selling on Amazon, Google, Yelp, or some other similar review site online.
Then, you’ll want to examine both the 5-star and 1-star reviews in order to identify some “trigger phrases” that customers are using when talking about related products and/or services. A trigger phrase is basically a set of words that clearly describes a pain point or positive aspect the reviewer shared about a product or service. You can then use these phrases to create attention-grabbing content your audience will resonate with and drive increased sales opportunities.
You should then compile and save a document (also known as a “swipe file”) with all of these customer terms and trigger phrases that you come across so that you can refer to them later when you need to create some new content. You’ll be able to find all types of similar information within forums, online communities, review sites and/or apps, etc.
Expand your product and service offerings After you browse around and explore what your competitors are up to, consider offering a similar product or service that isn’t currently available to your target market. Of course, you’ll want to change it up and make it unique to your brand, and aligned with your specific business goals, but this can be a great way to keep innovation alive in your business and stay competitive. Alternatively, you may want to spend more time developing a unique product that you discover has not already been made available by your competitors or other market participants.
The more you research, and the more that you learn from customer interactions about similar products and services, the more you’re likely to generate some novel ideas about how to tackle the same business problems. Just make sure you understand the laws and regulations concerning copyrights and trademarks, or remember to consult a legal specialist who has experience handling these types of requests, because a successful company is quite likely to try and protect their unique value proposition as well as they can to ensure their own success for as long as they can.
Monitor your brand’s mentions using Google Alerts As you move on to other marketing tasks and the focus shifts to developing and maintaining your online presence, it’s vital that you stay aware and listen to what people are saying about your brand so that you’re able to respond quickly if there is a problem, or to take on new opportunities with lightning speed. You’ll also find the importance of knowing if other sites are linking to you, quoting your articles, promoting for you, or especially if they’re complaining about you. Google Alerts, a free service, allows you to track your brand and your competitors by using keywords and phrases to monitor any mentions based on specific parameters. This tool can enable you to respond immediately after new information related to your organization becomes available through discussions online.