- A marketing plan identifies your target audience, the most effective channels to engage with them, and analytical information that guides future strategy.
- Businesses need a comprehensive marketing plan to coordinate their marketing campaigns and properly measure their impact.
- Marketing is a cumulative effort and a unified plan maximizes the value of each campaign towards a cohesive strategy.
- This article is for small business owners looking to craft an effective marketing plan that generates higher engagement and fuels business growth.
There are few documents that rival the importance of a business plan, which describes your company’s journey to success. An essential part of this plan is your marketing strategy, one of the many smaller contours that come together to form the whole vision.
Because this strategy is just one piece of the bigger puzzle and requires a larger investment for less immediate results, you risk not giving marketing the attention it deserves. However, a well-thought-out marketing strategy can reveal opportunities through new audience segments, changes in pricing strategy, or differentiating your brand from the competition.
Don’t miss out on the benefits – here’s how to create an effective marketing plan.
How to develop a business marketing plan
A targeted marketing plan sets two goals: maintain the engagement and loyalty of your current customers and capture market share within a specific audience segment of your target audience.
Your marketing plan outlines the strategies you will use to achieve the specific goals and actions your marketing team will take, such as specific awareness campaigns, the channels they will occur on, the required marketing budget, and data-driven projections. .
Marketing is a scientific engagement that typically takes months of data to refine campaigns, and an interconnected marketing plan keeps a business committed to its long-term goals.
All marketing direction will go to the four Ps: product, price, location, promotion. The following tips are starting points that will root the habit of continually returning to the four P’s.
1. Create a summary.
Marketing campaigns should not be seen as individual functions. Marketing is the story of your brand as it is told to customers; like any story, its tone and characters must remain consistent. An executive summary details your marketing goals for the next year and helps tie in each one. These goals must work together to achieve internal and external harmony, telling a cohesive story that informs customers of your exact message while building on its previous chapters.
2. Identify your target market.
Before writing a marketing plan, you need to find and understand your niche. Ask yourself who the specific demographic you are targeting is. For example, if your business sells 30 minute meals, then those in traditional 9 to 5 jobs are likely in your market. Study this group of individuals to understand their difficulties and find out how your business can solve the problem.
3. Develop an overview of why a new customer would use your business.
Determine the essential need that your product or service will meet. Is it to help your customers get through the day more easily? Do their jobs more efficiently? Your offer should solve customer problems or meet customer needs better than the competition. Create buyer personas for your ideal clients to better understand their needs and guide communication with that audience.
4. Differentiate your brand with inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing uses internal tools such as content marketing, social media activity, or search engine optimization (SEO) to gain a customer’s attention primarily through online communication . Content marketing can include informative blog posts, interviews and podcasts with relevant industry figures, or additional guides on how best to use your product. For example, if you sell kitchen utensils, consider posting several fun recipes over the holidays that your tools can help you prepare.
Each of these strategies allows the others in a loop to get more customer attention. A strong content offering can improve your search engine rankings, which in turn draws more people to your website and social pages. You can then share this developed content with a wider audience, which will again improve your search engine rankings. All of this can be done without the expense of a famous endorser or a commercial advertising campaign.
5. Identify competitors who are also targeting your customers.
No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer’s dollar. Small businesses rarely take the time to thoroughly study their competition or identify competition that may be outside of their industry but is just as capable of attracting customers. Knowing who they are, their main competitive advantages, and how they might react to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.) helps you design strategies to tackle those losses.
6. State your brand’s position with your target customers.
Ultimately, your brand, and what it stands for for customers, is your strongest competitive advantage. You should be able to write a simple declarative sentence about how you are going to meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are purposeful and focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes best value.
7. Audit if all else fails.
Don’t panic if your initial marketing strategy isn’t getting the results you want. Auditing your business, which you can do with the help of a third-party contractor, can help you recover.
Understand what products or services you offer, then identify who you are helping and how you are helping them. Then check all of your marketing platforms to make sure they reflect this message. If you perceive your brand’s message differently from your audience, this disconnect needs to be corrected.
To remember: When developing your marketing plan, know why a customer would use your product, differentiate your brand from its competition, and audit your product offering and messaging to ensure consistency.
Types of channels included in your marketing plan
Once you know the elements of the plan, the next step is to develop a plan detailing how you will reach target customers. Besides traditional print and audiovisual media, here are three digital marketing channels that many business owners use.
Social media is a vital part of business marketing plans because each type of customer is on one type of platform, like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Small business owners may feel overwhelmed by the possibilities, but should focus on the sites that may be of greatest benefit to them.
Brett Farmiloe, Founder of the Internet Marketing Company Markers, advised companies new to social media to learn more about their customers and the platforms they use.
“Find out where your customers are spending their time and take a seat on those platforms,” Farmiloe told Business News Daily. “Develop a content strategy that can be executed internally, [and then] execute your strategy by posting branded content on your selected platforms. “
While email marketing isn’t as new as social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for small business owners. There are a number of ways that businesses can implement email marketing techniques, including newsletters, promotional campaigns, and transactional emails. For example, Mailchimp and Constant contact help businesses manage their emailing campaigns.
Farmiloe noted that companies can differentiate their email marketing efforts by segmenting their markets.
“Not all subscribers want to receive the same blast,” he said. “Smart email marketers take the time to segment subscribers up front and then continue to segment based on subscriber activity. Through segmentation, businesses reduce the number of unsubscribes, increase open rates and, most importantly, increase the number of actions taken from a send an email. “
The popularity of smartphones and tablets has changed the way businesses target consumers. Since people have these devices with them almost all the time, companies are looking to implement strategies that reach customers on their gadgets.
“Mobile marketing is disruptive,” Farmiloe said. “It is with this power that a marketer must let the consumer determine how and when to receive marketing material. That’s why almost all apps have the option to turn notifications on or off. The consumer must hold the power with mobile marketing. “
To remember: Use digital marketing channels such as social media, email and mobile to reach customers; However, research each channel in depth to develop a strategy to effectively capture their interest.
Creating well-defined budgets, goals and actions, with the right staff assigned to each, can make your marketing plan a reality. Think about how much you are willing to spend, what results you expect, and what tasks are needed to achieve those results.
Analytical tools that track customer behavior and engagement rates can serve as a useful guide for your marketing strategy. Unlike billboards or advertisements, the prevalence of digital channels allows you to assess every step of the customer journey and gain insight into trends and individual prospects’ intentions. Intent can quickly turn into prediction, allowing a marketing team to develop campaigns that consistently reach target audiences at the right time.
You can find more tips for measuring your marketing results in this BND article.
To remember: Invest in tools to measure the impact of your marketing campaigns.
Additional reporting by Jordan Beier, Katherine Arline and Marci Martin. Some interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.