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4 Easy Steps to a Great Marketing Plan




For those of you smug enough to have done your 2016 marketing plan pre Christmas - high five, you can stop reading now.

Still with me?  You're not alone. In my experience, most marketing strategy is reviewed in January, while resolutions are fresh in the mind and energy levels high.  That means that it's also the perfect opportunity to develop your marketing plan.

Here are the four simple steps to departmental greatness.

Step 1 - Ask


What does your business want to achieve this year and how can marketing contribute to meeting those goals?  Your marketing plan should support the company strategy.

Define specifics, (marketing will do XYZ) and then tactics, which are the tools to make XYZ happen (social media, direct mail, campaigns etc). Asking what your business needs from marketing, makes it far easier to choose tactics and show your contribution month on month.  The result might be something like - increase sales by X% in Y timeframe across Z geography.  With this goal in place you can weigh up the options to decide which marketing activities will have most impact.  These objectives are the bare bones of your marketing plan.

Step 2 - Agree


Make sure everyone in the organisation knows what to expect from marketing by agreeing specifics in advance.  The devil really is in the detail, so make sure you include timelines, budget/resource constraints and a definition of what success looks like (perception setting).

To go back to the example, increasing sales by X% in Y timeframe across Z geography, could mean you need to attract more new customers or make existing customers more profitable.  The timeframe set might coincide with a product launch or quarter earnings release and the geography target should build on work done in previous years, or gain first mover advantage. 

Step 3 - Build


Produce a detailed marketing plan.  A month by month overview of marketing activities will highlight any gaps or clashes with projects from other departments.

Remember to show who each activity is aimed at (existing customer, new lead, internal audience etc) and what you expect the target group to do as a result of each marketing activity.  Setting the scene will help your business feel informed and open communication channels. Without this, sales teams (and others) often develop their own materials, leading to all kinds of mixed messages (aka random acts of marketing). 

Think of your marketing plan as a story.  What do your potential customers need to know about your company, to help them choose your product over all available alternatives? What are the frequently asked questions you need to address?  How will they perceive your brand? Focus on delivering consistent, relevant and personal information to the waiting world.  Build trust first and then sell.

Step 4 - Engage

  • Plan marketing to flow like a conversation between your company and your audience.  
  • Build brand recognition, off and online, by using the same fonts, tone, colours and imagery.  
  • Create messaging and employ tools which meet the needs of your audience. 
  • Consult with sales and customer services before crafting content to ensure best fit. 
  • Spend time creating content that resonates with the groups you're trying to reach.  
  • Show how your product/service solves a problem or provides a benefit.  
  • Think about why customers might use/buy your brand rather than alternatives.  
  • Make it clear what makes your product unique. 
  • Listen for feedback from your customers, fellow employees, bloggers, social media etc.

For new businesses much of the above will involve educated guesswork using one of the many free tools available to better understand your target market.  Established businesses can use the raft of analytics available to fill in any customer information blanks.

A marketing plan is a living document, so expect it to change as you learn more about your market and its needs.  Having something to chart your progress and measure your results against, will give you and your business confidence and purpose.  It also let's you know when to crack open the champagne, so make sure you've got one, or ask me to help you develop one.

Questions?




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