Running a business that really works isn’t quite like building a “field of dreams.” Just because you build it, doesn’t mean your customers are going to come to you.
That’s why marketing exists.
Marketing is the solution that lets people know about the service or product you can offer. It’s your chance to show off what makes your company unique, and convince your customers that you’re worth their time (and money). For effective marketing, you need to keep engaging with your audience repeatedly, building your brand image and ensuring a steady reputation in your field.
The only way to make sure you’re having the right impact on your audience is to begin creating a marketing plan that helps you to determine and schedule your advertising efforts.
While a lot of companies understand the need for an overarching business plan, few realise that learning how to create a marketing plan is just as important. Marketing plans are your way to focus on finding and keeping your customers. Creating the right marketing plan will help you to spell out all the tactics and tools you need to achieve incredible sales goals.
So, what should your marketing plan include, how do you make sure that your strategy is poised for success, and which marketing solutions should you consider for brand recognition?
Let’s find out.
Creating a marketing plan: The anatomy of your strategy
Okay, so you’ve made a business plan, but now you need to figure out how you’re going to tell your company’s story. You need to decide how you’re going to convince your audience that you’re the answer to all their most pressing problems. That’s where creating a marketing plan begins.
Learning how to create a marketing plan will start with understanding the anatomy of any great advertising strategy. Here, we’ll look at the key elements that any plan should include:
How to create a marketing plan: Setting objectives
The first step to creating a marketing plan, is figuring out what you want to achieve. If you don’t know where you want your marketing strategies to take you, then how will you know if you’ve been successful?
Gather all your existing documentation, including your brand manifesto and business plan, and brainstorm simple, yet detailed goals that you want to achieve with your marketing. Try to create a vision statement based on both the long-term and short-term ambitions you want to accomplish. For instance, you might want to achieve better brand awareness, in the long run, starting with measurable improvements to customer engagement and recognition.
How to create a marketing plan: The situational analysis
Once you have your objectives in mind, you’ll be able to start a “situational analysis”. This is a lot like a positioning statement, designed to show how the unique elements of your company separate you from your competitors. When creating a marketing plan, you’ll need to use your situational analysis to analyse everything from your target audience to your competitors, and even your industry space.
Ensure that you have a clear understanding of your competitor’s USPs, and how you can make your own place within the industry. This might include a SWOT analysis that helps you to identify your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
A comprehensive situational analysis will help you to identify the strategic plans you need to drive your marketing opportunities in the coming years. This will include a thorough understanding of the five C’s: customer, channel, competition, company, and climate. Once you have a better sense of the threats and opportunities facing your business, you’ll be able to start building more specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T) goals.
How to create a marketing plan: Understand your audience
Your situational analysis should have included an insight into your target audience. However, you might need to expand your understanding of your user personas a little further before you progress with creating a marketing plan. Try to refine your knowledge of your customers to a point where you can answer several important questions, such as:
Why do my customers prefer buying from me?
Are my buyers traditional or modern?
Where can I find my buyers?
What do my customers do when they’re online or offline?
Define your consumers as narrowly as possible, as this will help you to choose the right marketing campaigns and platforms.
How to create a marketing plan: Define your marketing mix
This is the “fun” part of creating a marketing plan. Up to this point, you’ll have been defining what your marketing would need to accomplish, and who you need to speak to. Now, you’ll need to figure out which tactics you’re going to use to achieve your goals.
To identify the best possible marketing mix for your brand, you’ll need to consider what your competitors are currently doing in the marketplace, and which media your customers respond to best when it comes to getting information about products and services. Remember to consider how you’ll connect with your customers through every point in the buyer funnel. For instance, you might use social media marketing for “awareness”, before moving onto email marketing to nurture your leads.
Marketing models to consider include:
Social media marketing: Social media has become an increasingly important solution for companies who want to connect with their customers on a deeper level. If you want to build strong relationships, you’ll need social media.
Email marketing: Email marketing remains a strong way to nurture and gather leads for your company. Today, automated emails can help to boost your promotional campaigns, and gather trust among audiences.
Content marketing: With content marketing, you can establish your value to your customers before they ever buy a product. The right content shows you as an authority within your space.
How to create a marketing plan: Choose a budget
Unfortunately, great marketing requires investment. Learning how to create a marketing plan also means understanding that you’ll need to dedicate a certain amount of your cashflow each month to acquiring and keeping your customers. Although spending money on everything from updating and maintaining your website to content marketing might feel frustrating, it’s also essential to the success of any modern business.
Think about how you can create a realistic budget that not only addresses your unique marketing needs but also helps to keep your finances on track for the years ahead.
How to create a marketing plan: Set metrics to measure
Finally, when it comes to creating a marketing plan that really works, make sure that you have measurement strategies in place to help you see the value of each tactic in tangible terms. The metrics you choose to track will depend on the goals and objectives you outlined towards the beginning of your marketing plan. For instance, if your goal is to improve engagement among customers, then you might track things like social media likes and messages.
Units of measurement can range all the way from retail foot traffic in your brick-and-mortar stores, to increases in the number of sales you make within a given month or week. The more you measure, the more you’ll be able to judge which methods made a difference to your success.
How to create a marketing plan with influence
Creating a marketing plan for a new business, or a rebranded company is crucial for making sure that your brand survives in this complex and competitive marketplace. Learning how to create a marketing plan means more than setting a budget and a strategy. You’ll need to think about how you can identify and reach your customers in a way that really allows you to earn their loyalty.
A great marketing plan goes beyond the anatomy and things like situational analysis, to consider the best practices that can help you to build lasting connections with your customers. Here are a few tips for creating a marketing plan with influence:
1. Make it personal
When learning how to create a marketing plan, think about the ways that you might be able to implement personalisation into everything you do. Today’s customers are looking for a customised approach to branding that helps them to build real affinity with their favourite companies. Today, personal touches are no longer just an “option”, they’re an essential when it comes to keeping loyal followers engaged.
Remember, the more you focus on delivering the unique experiences that your customers want, the more likely you are to benefit from natural forms of advertising like word of mouth referrals.
2. Start small, and grow
When you’re just getting started with creating a marketing plan, it’s tempting to dip your toes into every pool and see which strategies deliver the best results. However, it’s tough for small or growing businesses to find the resources they need to track complicated marketing strategies without some professional help. If you’re planning on going it alone, you’ll need to make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin by starting with something simple and building up as you progress.
Starting small means that creating sustainable success for your company is probably going to take more time and effort. However, it can also ensure that you don’t waste all your budget trying multiple strategies at the same time, that might not work for your brand.
3. Build your reputation
Often, one of the initial goals for any marketing plan is to start building brand awareness. Once you know what makes your company stand out, you need to find a way to show your customers that you’re the solution to their problems. Think about how you can build your reputation and start gaining trust by creating “how-to” content and making the lives of your target audience just a little bit simpler.
One way to start improving your reputation a little faster might be to collaborate with some of the top influencers in your industry. Influencer marketing can be a powerful way for modern brands to “borrow” the existing trust established by someone else in their niche.
4. Make your brand powerful
A strong brand is crucial when it comes to creating a marketing plan that works. It’s no good having the best possible marketing mix for your customers, if your voice, image, and strategies aren’t aligned. Before you start publishing content and reaching out to your consumers through email and social media, make sure that you’ve got your visual and verbal brand guidelines in place.
Decide on the kind of voice you want to use on every platform, and make sure that everything from your logo, to your personality, remains consistent through every marketing touch point.
5. Consolidate your marketing platforms
Finally, there’s a good chance that you’re going to use more than one marketing platform in your mix. Ultimately, most successful companies will need to experiment with a range of solutions for better brand awareness and recognition that involve everything from in-person marketing, to social media, blog writing, and more. The important thing to remember is that you’ll need to make sure that every new strategy you implement needs to be connected to the others.
In other words, you’ll need to “integrate” your marketing solutions. When learning how to create a marketing plan, think about how you can link each of your tactics together to get the best results from each. Most of the time, if you can connect your brand communications and marketing strategies across a stream of platforms, you’ll not only create a more consistent experience for your audience, but you’ll also improve your access to customer data too.
For instance, your social media marketing campaigns might include links to your content marketing strategy, while your content marketing strategy asks your customers to sign up for your email, and your email offers offline post opportunities. You can even make the system go “full circle”, by adding scannable codes and links to your offline marketing or asking people to follow you online in your brick-and-mortar stores.
Tips for making your marketing plan work for you
By this point, you should have a pretty good idea of how to create a marketing plan, and what a standard strategy should look like. Now it’s time to think about how you can make your marketing plan more successful for your unique needs.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the perfect strategy. In fact, you might even need to invest in a little trial and error before you create the perfect marketing plan – particularly if you don’t have any help from the professionals. However, you can improve your chances of success by following these simple best-practice tips:
1. Review and assess your marketing media
When creating a marketing plan, make sure that you’ve taken steps to ensure that your digital and printed marketing materials are well-written and designed to attract the ideal customers to your products and services. You’ll need to make sure that you have style guidelines in place, which involve details about your user personas, and personality.
Remember to make sure that your website, social media channels, and any other online platforms you use are designed to educate and attract the right people. Think about whether your messaging and branding is consistent, and if you’re connecting with the right audience at the right time.
2. Find out what you don’t know
Knowledge is power. You’ll need plenty of information when you start discovering how to create a marketing plan, and you’ll need to continue learning from new data as you progress too. Firms that conduct regular research into their target audience and marketplace are far more likely to have better rates of profitability and growth. Studies show that the best high-growth companies conduct research at least four times a year.
There are plenty of ways that you can supplement your existing information with more data. For instance, think about conducting a professional competitor analysis to see what other people in your space are doing. On the other hand, you could try getting some experts on board for a website or brand audit. If you simply want to know more about what makes your customers tick, you could even consider using questionnaires or surveys on social media to get their answers to crucial questions.
3. Develop your content marketing strategy
Expertise, trust, and authority all win you new business. However, if no-one but you know how incredible your business is, then it’s hard to get customers to beat down the door. The trick is making sure that your customers can see your expertise as often as possible. Share your knowledge through content marketing, and you can instantly begin to develop your brand authority to earn the attention of your audience.
Content marketing is a diverse space, and it’s the best way to spread your reputation wherever you are. The great thing about content marketing is that it’s more varied than you might think too. When creating a marketing plan, you can think about countless inbound marketing methods, including:
Pictures and infographics.
Videos and podcasts.
Blogs, articles, and eBooks.
Guest posting and interviews.
Seminars and events.
When figuring out how to create a marketing plan, make sure that you know exactly which types of content you’re going to start using to develop awareness for your business. Remember, the best way to choose is to evaluate your market, and discover what your customers respond to best.
4. Review your approach to customer experience
Creating a marketing plan is about more than just deciding how many blogs you’re going to publish each week. It’s also about ensuring that your customers have a consistent, reliable, and exceptional experience every time they interact with your brand. The best form of marketing in the world comes from word of mouth reviews and testimonials. The only way that you’re going to convince your customers to start talking positively about your brand, is to give them something worth talking about.
Look at the strategies that you already have implemented for customer experience, and think about how you can improve them. For instance, could you segment your audience members and recommend specific new products when you email them with your portfolio updates? Could you use social media to respond to questions and concerns immediately, rather than asking your customers to email you and wait for a response?
5. Track your progress, and evolve
Finally, once you’re done creating a marketing plan, you’ll need to make sure that you’re prepared to measure your progress and evolve your tactics according to the emerging needs of your consumers. You should have already defined the metrics you need to measure for success, and from there, you’ll be able to come together for regular group meetings with your team where you can decide which strategies need fine-tuning, and which are performing well.
Remember, it’s important to learn from both your victories and mistakes when figuring out how to create a marketing plan so that you can evolve your tactics and maintain consistent market traction.
It’s time to implement a marketing plan
Taking the time to plan all your marketing strategies might not seem like much fun, but it’s an essential part of making sure that you’re prepared to properly engage and retain your customers. Creating a marketing plan will help you to establish your unique path towards success, and determine how you’re going to build long-lasting relationships between your brand, and your target audience.
A marketing plan can:
Help you to understand your target market better, for stronger, more effective brand/customer relationships.
Provide focus and direction for your strategy, so you know which platforms to try, and which to avoid when attempting to connect with your audience.
Ensure that your marketing generates results by helping you to analyse the existing marketplace and make decisions based on statistics and informed data. Creating a marketing plan means that you don’t have to waste your budgets on strategies that will only waste resources and time.
Of course, just like a business plan, it’s important to remember that your marketing plan isn’t a static document – it’s something that grows and changes with your business. Your marketing plan is a living and breathing document that should be adjusted as you develop and learn more about your business.
If you haven’t started your own marketing plan yet, now could be the time to start thinking about how you’re going to create something with enough value to situate your growing company ahead of your competitors, and ensure you have the power to attract and retain your market share.
If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy these too:
— How to master your word of mouth marketing strategy
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