A marketing plan is one of the most important things you need if you’re serious about marketing and growing your business.
However, it can be difficult to know where to start, especially for business owners who don’t have a background in marketing. We’ve put together this guide on the practicalities of writing a marketing plan to help get you started.
Before you start
There are three things you need to decide before you start writing your marketing plan:
- A completion date. Set yourself a deadline for when you want to have your plan completed. It’s one of those things that’s easy to push back when more pressing things come up, but it is important to get it done and setting a deadline will help you focus.
- Establish your team’s roles and responsibilities, and make sure you know who is doing what and when. This will help you delegate tasks, but also make sure you’re planning within your means. Planning more than you have the capacity to actually do just sets you up for failure.
- Your budget. Make sure you assess what your marketing budget is, so you’re not planning too much and over-stretching your finances.
Once you’ve worked these out, it’s time to start putting your plan together.
Step one: Setting your objectives
The main purpose of your marketing is to grow your business and get more customers. Before you start writing your plan, you need to establish what you want your business to grow into. Make sure your objectives are SMART:
Specific: Make sure your targets are clear, concise, and easily understandable. What area do they relate to?
Measurable: The desired outcome needs to be measurable – otherwise how will you know if it’s been met?
Attainable: Your targets need to be realistic and achievable. Setting targets that are wildly unrealistic are detrimental to all involved.
Relevant: It should go without saying, but make sure your targets are relevant to your business and your long-term goals.
Timely: Put a time frame on all of your targets to make sure you keep focus. Create a set of targets for 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, etc.
To help you establish the targets for your business, conduct a SWOT analysis identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business. This will help you inform your targets – you can see where you already excel, where you need to improve, and what you can be taking advantage of to grow your business.
Step two: Doing your research
The first thing you need to research is your target audience. You might think you already know what it is, but you need to dig deeper. Targeting by age and gender isn’t enough; you need to understand your audiences pain points, their goals in life, and how you can help them achieve these.
You can do this by looking at your current client base and gathering data, or conducting market research and speaking to people who fit your demographic.
Using this information you can create personas of your target customers, which will make it easier to direct your marketing efforts only towards your ideal buyer personas.
The other thing you need to research is your competition. You need to look into what marketing they’re doing and how they’re doing it – and figure out how you can do it better. You can also see if there are any gaps there that you can take advantage of – for example, if your competitor doesn’t rank well on the search engines, you can make sure that you do.
Step three: Understand critical activity to your business
Understanding what action points are critical to the success of the business will help you focus your activity. This will focus that mean you’re working on action points or targeting channels that will have the biggest impact on the business and its success. In some instances, this might not even be marketing-related but might be organisational, structural or process-related.
Step four: Define your channels
This is where you decide which types of marketing you’re going to do. This is different for every business, but as a rule of thumb you should be doing the following:
- Search marketing (PPC and SEO)
- Social media
- PR and media
- Direct marketing (like email)
There may be other channels that work for your business, such as event marketing, but these are the basics that we recommend for any business. Learn more about marketing channels.
Step five: Outline your tactics
Now you need to set out how you’re going to use your channels. It might be helpful to write separate, mini-strategies for each area. For example, you’ll need an SEO strategy, a content marketing strategy, and a social media strategy. This is also where you allocate your budget, and make sure all of the relevant people in your business know what they are responsible for and what their KPIs are.
You can still follow this format for these strategies – just tailor them towards the channel that you’re working on. Make sure you still conduct your research, audit your current activity, and look at what your competitors are doing within each area.
Researching your competition will help you come up with ideas here. For example, you can look into what keywords they rank for on search engines, and what kind of content they post on social media, to help inform your own strategies.
Step six: Create a roadmap
Put your plan down into a roadmap, listing all of your channels and activity as well as when you’re going to be implementing the activity. This allows you to see what you need to be doing on a weekly or monthly basis and will help to keep you on track. Print this out and put it on the wall to make sure that it is visible.
Step seven: Review and measure
It’s absolutely vital that you put procedures in your strategy for reviewing and measuring your results. If you don’t do this, how will you know what’s working and what’s not? This gives you the opportunity to refine your strategy – do more of what works well, and improve what doesn’t.
You can use analytics tools that are built into search engines and social media, look at open rates for your emails, measure click-throughs, and bounce rates, use your website data – there are all sorts of ways to measure your results. You might even like to use more traditional methods, like asking customers where they heard about you.
Step eight: Keep it up to date
Keeping your marketing plan up to date is critical. An out of date plan is useless to the success of the business. Work to a rolling three months so that you’re regularly spending a little time keeping the plan up to date, rather than spending one big chunk of time once a year.
Hopefully, this blog goes some way to helping you put your strategy together. We’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: write it all down. Make sure you have a physical, documented strategy, both printed and electronic. Keeping it all in your head leaves you vulnerable to distraction, you might forget things, or you might start adjusting targets in your head. Writing it down keeps you focused, and holds you accountable. Are you going to achieve what you set out to?
A documented strategy can also easily be easily circulated to your team, so they know exactly where the business is heading and know what they need to achieve and by when. This will all keep your business moving in the right direction.
It can be difficult to know where to start when writing your marketing strategy. Our free marketing strategy template on creating a plan that gets results can help. Download now.