Tips for Starting Your Marketing Plan Now
Whether you’re a seasoned marketing professional or a small business owner trying to figure out how to market your products or services, at some point, you’re going to need to a marketing plan. Perhaps you’ve asked around, “How do I write a marketing plan?” Well, look no further, this post breaks down the elements and includes a free marketing plan template, which you can start using today.
But first, why is a marketing plan important?
An article by the Small Business Administration says, “A strong marketing plan will ensure you’re not only sticking to your schedule, but that you’re spending your marketing funds wisely and appropriately. A marketing plan includes everything from understanding your target market and your competitive position in that market, to how you intend to reach that market (your tactics) and differentiate yourself from your competition in order to make a sale.”
In other words, a marketing plan is the foundation for a strong, long-term marketing effort. Tweet this. It can help you to maintain brand consistency and give you the momentum to keep your company’s name out there even when it feels like business is coming in slowly. It can also ensure that you’re staying within budget and remind you of the projects you’ve previously established to move your business forward.
The different elements of the marketing plan will reveal to you who your business really is, why your business does what it does, what differentiates you from your competition and most important, who your audience is. The editorial calendar toward the end of this article, will help you to list action items that you can pursue throughout the year to keep your marketing efforts in motion. Be sure to jot down your estimated spending in the Budget section and after each campaign, measure the effectiveness of the project.
How often should I update my plan?
Some marketing professionals recommend updating a marketing plan at least once a year. However, you can revisit your plan every 6 months or every quarter to remind yourself of your goals, especially if you’re getting off track or going along a course that is not paying off.
Why this post?
To have someone write your marketing plan and consult you along the way can be costly. To get started inexpensively, but at the same time start adding value to your business right away, download this marketing plan template then follow the tips below and complete the template as you go.
If you’ve completed a business plan, this information may already be in it. A vision statement is kind of like our “change the world” statement. For example:
People who wear our shoes will be able to one day walk in comfort and with style, feeling at their best wherever they are.
What is your vision? How do you view your organization as one that can enhance the world in which we live simply by making your customers’ lives easier? Write it down now in your template.
A mission statement applies to non-profit and for-profit organizations. It summarizes why your organization exists–what you do and for whom. For example:
From a Nonprofit
To empower urban youth to thrive while strengthening their communities. – Teen HYPE, Detroit (nonprofit)
To provide the small business owner with low cost or no cost options, unique to their operation, of proven customer service strategies and techniques designed to add value to their enterprise. By implementing one or all of the recommended strategies, the small business owner is guaranteed to improve employee satisfaction, increase customer loyalty, and improve their bottom line.– The Service Advisors, Arcadia, California (for profit)
What is your mission? Or, asked another way, what is your company on a mission to do? Why does it exist? Write it down now in your template.
Goals for the Year
In this section, relate your goals to revenue generating or fundraising. Place any other objectives such as hiring a certain amount of employees, lead generation or volunteer recruitment in the Strategies section.
Your revenue goals will help you to sustain and build upon the health of your business.
To increase revenue by _______%.
- What is your revenue goal?
- How many clients do you need to reach that goal?
In this section, the point is to write down everything you know you’ll need to do from an operations standpoint to achieve your revenue generation goals. Your marketing tactics will come later. For now, focus on operations and resource needs.
- To generate (x amount) of leads per month.
- To follow up with qualified leads on a regular basis.
- To acquire (x amount) of clients within 2013.
- To retain 100% of current clients within 2013.
We each have an ideal client. In order for us to effectively market our products and services, we need to understand who this ideal client is. Also realize that we may have more than one ideal client or there are different layers to our core audience. For example, if you sell women’s clothing, you have different segments to whom you must appeal. For instance, your audience may include working mothers, retired seniors and 20-something professionals. They may all be women but women of varying mindsets, right?
Knowing our audience also helps us to define our voice so we can have effective conversations with our target consumers. It helps us to create our story. For more on this, read Elizabeth Brigham’s article, “Marketers Need To Be Story Architects” (TMMPDX, Dec. 19, 2012).
Who is your core audience or ideal client? Write it down in your template. Describe this person and write down magazines and social media outlets where they are most likely to go for information and engagement.
Unique Selling Points
What are your unique selling points? Are you the only non-GMO fast-casual restaurant in your neighborhood or the only retailer in your city who offers comfort earth shoes from Israel? Why is this important to know? What makes you different from your competition? Write that down.
Many people try to skirt this part of the marketing plan, not realizing how empowering this knowledge is. If we know who our competition is, we can further define what makes us unique and play to those strengths. Also, pricing our products and services will be easier because we will know our market position. For a Web designer, here’s an example of who the competition is and their unique selling points:
- Other local Web designers. Unique for experience serving a certain industry, such as hospitality.
- The business owner’s son or daughter. Unique for being related to the decision maker and probably inexpensive or free.
- A PR agency. Unique for having a team to help get desired results faster but also probably very pricey.
List your competitors in your marketing plan with their USPs.
As uncomfortable as it may be to do this exercise, it’s important to self-reflect and prepare for the best and the worst by doing a SWOT. In other words, analyzing our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. By doing this, we learn which of our strengths to play upon and the opportunities to leverage. We learn what our limitations are and how we can fix or work with them to our advantage. And, we learn which threats no longer need to have power over us.
In this section, think about how you plan to reach your primary audience. For example:
We will offer special promotions for Mother’s Day for first-time customers.
When we get tactical, it means we’re actually executing our strategy. Tactics can include news releases, e-newsletters, postcards, flyers, blog posts, landing pages on the Web, social media posts and sign twirling. Building off of the previous example:
We will offer 15% off of any flower arrangement for first-time customers who buy flowers for Mother’s Day. We will reach our new customers through e-newsletters, advertising in the local paper and flyer distribution.
Make your calendar exhaustive. Use this section to plan to succeed. Get creative. Develop an editorial / marketing calendar around seasonal promotions, customer birthdays and community events such as ball games. What else? Note the dates, the tactics and the message.
Write down estimates of how much it will be to execute the tactics outlined in your editorial calendar. As suggested in the template itself, flesh out your budget in an Excel spreadsheet. Be aware of what you need to spend to land a sale and retain customers. Turn to this section often to make sure you’re spending wisely and know what to eliminate when it’s not paying off. Entrepreneur.com offers an excellent marketing budget plan template here.
Before executing your marketing plan, track the numbers of customers you currently have as well as your current revenue. Monitor the progress of your marketing plan efforts each quarter. Monitor how effective each campaign you execute by looking at the results. How many prospects did you convert by sending that e-newsletter? Compare those results with how well you did using social media during the same campaign. Doing this will help you to determine how cost-effective your marketing efforts are and if you need to do more of them or replace those tactics with something more effective in the future.
How did this work for you?
Let us know if this template worked for you. Drop us a comment below or chat it up with us on Twitter @tmmpdx.