Imagine you are a military commander. Would you go into battle without a clear plan for victory? Of course not. You would be setting your troops up for slaughter. Operating your business without a marketing plan has the same effect. You’re probably wondering “what is a marketing plan and when can I start making one?”
Creating a marketing plan takes a lot of work. Before you can create a marketing plan, you need to understand why strategic marketing and planning are important.
What is Strategic Marketing and Planning?
Strategic marketing and planning come down to two things: efficiency and results. The main purpose of a marketing plan is to figure out how to use your available resources to execute specific marketing tactics as efficiently as possible. There are several different types of marketing strategies, which include, but are not limited to:
- Digital Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Search Engine Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Video Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Influencer Marketing
- Mobile Marketing
Your preferred marketing strategies will influence your marketing plan. Most successful marketing plans include a mix of all these strategies listed above. One benefit of investing in a digital marketing agency is they will be able to tell which marketing strategies would be most effective for your business by looking at your current customer data.
Some business owners don’t care about having a marketing plan. All these owners care about is making enough money to stay afloat and fund their modest lifestyle. While these businesses may taste success, they leave money on the table without strategic marketing and planning.
The marketing plan is the centerpiece of a strategic marketing campaign. It lists clear marketing objectives and outlines the steps taken to achieve these objectives. A successful marketing plan should be able to be repeated and scaled. If your marketing plan has these two elements, you’ll see a consistent increase in revenue. The question now becomes what are the major components of a marketing plan?
What are the Major Components of a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan defines your marketing objectives and then outlines the strategies you’ll use to achieve these goals. These steps below cover all of the major components of a marketing plan.
1 – Analyze Your Business
When you have a marketing plan, you know your results, or lack of results, are coming from a specific set of actions. Improving your results comes from improving your marketing plan. The first step in creating a marketing plan is to analyze the current state of your business.
If you haven’t conducted a financial analysis for your business recently, then now is a perfect time. You need to understand your sales numbers to have a benchmark for measuring the success of your marketing plan.
Conduct a SWOT analysis to get a detailed picture of the health of your business. Consider the following:
- What is your business doing well? What products or services are generating the most revenue?
- What are your weaknesses as a business owner? What products or services are underperforming?
- What opportunities are there to exploit the strengths of your business?
- What threats are keeping your business from maximizing revenue?
2 – Conduct Market Research
It’s easy to Google some demographics of your business’s area of operation and call it market research.
Good marketing strategists us market research to closely analyze current market trends in a given niche and devise strategies to capitalize on said trends. Here are some questions to get started:
- How does my market prefer to purchase? Are they online or in-store shoppers?
- Which products in my niche sold the best the past six months? Which products didn’t sell well?
- What trends favor my current mix of products or services? What trends go against my mix of products or services?
Once you have identified market trends, the next step is to define your buyer personas.
3 – Define Your Buyer Personas
If you’ve already been in business for a while, then all you have to do is analyze your sales data to get a picture of your best customers. If you’re starting a new business, this process involves some imagination. Create a specific buyer persona for each product or service you offer. This allows you to create highly targeted marketing content and be efficient with distribution resources. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- What problem is the customer solving by purchasing this product or service?
- What about the customer’s lifestyle has caused this problem?
- How does the customer make their purchasing decisions?
- What qualities does the customer value most from a business?
- How much money is the customer willing to spend on this product or service?
The needs of your ideal customers influence every single marketing decision you make. Doing keyword research to see what terms your target audience is searching for is a great way to figure out what questions your target audience are asking.
4 – Research Your Competition
If your target customer doesn’t choose you, who would they choose? This question is a good starting point for identifying your direct competition. Once you have identified your competition, you want to analyze their marketing strategies to see what is working and what isn’t.
Remember the SWOT analysis from step one? Use this tool to analyze each one of your competitors. Once you know your competition’s weak points, you can adjust your marketing plan accordingly to try and target these weaknesses. One way to do this is through an SEO keyword strategy. There are plenty of tools, both free and premium, you can use to see which keywords your competitors are targeting. Use this research when creating and executing your content strategy to steal digital leads from your competition.
5 – Determine Your Positioning
Think of your positioning your brand as how a journalist picks an angle for an article. How can you best present the information about your brand and its offerings in a way that resonates most with your target audience?
Positioning is everything for a brand, especially one that’s new to the market. What strategies will you use to gain both mindshare and market share in your niche? Some typical types of marketing objectives include:
- Introducing new products or services
- Enhancing the visibility of current products or services
- Exploring new markets
- Optimizing social media presence
- Expanding SEO and digital marketing efforts
Most marketing strategists set their marketing objectives using the SMART goal-setting philosophy:
6 – Decide on a Marketing Budget
By this step, you have most of your marketing plan mapped out. You know what you’d like to accomplish, and now you need to crunch the numbers and see if you have the money to execute your marketing plan.
One of the main money decisions you have to make is whether to handle the execution of your marketing plan in-house or to outsource it to a digital marketing agency. A good digital marketing agency will be able to analyze your marketing plan and tweak it so has the best chance of succeeding in today’s digitally-focused market. Hiring the experts also makes a huge difference when it comes to the next step.
7 – Develop Your Mix of Marketing Materials
Once you decide on your marketing budget, you need to create the marketing materials that will help you reach your marketing objectives. In today’s age of content saturation, you need high-quality marketing content to get noticed.
One of the benefits of outsourcing your marketing efforts is its the easiest way to get a team of content creation experts on your side. A good internet marketing company helps you create the following types of content and more:
- Landing pages
- Blog posts
- Email marketing campaigns
- Marketing videos
- Social media posts
8 – Choose Your Content Distribution Channels
Have you ever heard the saying fish where the fish are? There is no point fishing in a pond with no fish – all you’ll end up doing is wasting your resources. Likewise, distributing your content through channels that don’t reach enough of your target audience is a waste of your marketing budget.
Part of building a buyer persona, which you did in step 3, is figuring out where your target audience spends most of its time online. Think of each social media platform as a distribution channel for your marketing content. Choose only the platforms your target audience uses most.
9 – Pick Your Metrics
How can you measure the progress of your marketing efforts? If you can’t easily think of at least one metric to track an objective, then you need to make that objective more specific. Here is an example of some common sales and marketing KPIs:
- Sales volume over a given period
- Average transaction value
- Cost per customer acquisition
- Email opt-in rate
- Click-through rate
- Bounce rate
This is by no means a master list. Each business requires a unique set of metrics based on the objectives of their marketing plans.
10 – Measure, Test, and Tweak on a Monthly Basis
The completion of your marketing plan is just the beginning. Choosing the right metrics in step 8 is important because you need to use these metrics to measure the successfulness of your marketing campaign on at least a monthly basis.
No marketing plan is perfect from the beginning. What separates great marketing strategists from the average ones is their ability to measure, test, and tweak their marketing plans constantly.
What is a Marketing Plan? – Recap
To recap, a marketing plan is a roadmap that shows who your target customer is, what problems they need solving, and how your company solves these problems. The better you are at creating a detailed marketing plan that is repeatable and scalable, the more results you’ll get. Just remember to follow these ten steps if you choose to create and execute your marketing plan in-house:
- Analyze Your Business
- Conduct Market Research
- Define Your Buyer Personas
- Research Your Competition
- Determine Your Positioning
- Decide on a Marketing Budget
- Develop Your Mix of Marketing Materials
- Choose Your Content Distribution Channels
- Pick Your Metrics
- Measure, Test, and Tweak on a Monthly Basis
This article has been a brief peek into what we do for our clients. We use several of the best digital marketing tools available to flesh out each major component of your marketing plan, and then deploy our top content creators to give you marketing materials that stand out next to your competition. We would love to schedule a free consultation to discuss how we can boost your marketing ROI through a sound digital marketing strategy.