I have a confession to make. I love planners. Whether it’s a weekly schedule grid packed full of tasks, or a beautifully presented itinerary designed to give me a thrill up my sleeve, I get a thrill out of planning. So much so that I actually wrote a book about it. The following post will tell you all about my favourite tool: the marketing plan.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a comprehensive guide to the marketing activities you intend to pursue. It sets out the goals and objectives of your marketing activities and the corresponding measures you will use to assess whether you’ve met these objectives. The plan should be a living document and should be updated as necessary.
A good marketing plan will form the backbone of your marketing efforts. From this plan you can develop a series of actionable items that will move you closer to your goals. Additionally, you can use the plan to review and evaluate your progress towards these goals and to adjust your methods if necessary. As you’ll soon find out, all too often we get so absorbed in the minutiae of day-to-day business that we forget to review and evaluate our progress. By taking some time out of your schedule to sit down and map out your efforts in advance, you’ll be able to keep a much clearer eye on the big picture and make more informed decisions about the direction of your business.
Why should you write a marketing plan?
The very first step in the marketing plan writing process should be to ask yourself “Why?” Why should you write a marketing plan? Who is your audience? What do you want to achieve? Where do you want to take your business? Why should anyone read your plan?
Once you’ve got these questions answered, you’re ready to move on to the next step: the writing process. I’ll discuss this step in more detail below.
Step one: Planning
The first step in the planning process is to lay out the scope of the plan. What are you going to include and what are you going to leave out? Begin by listing the broad areas you’ll cover: marketing channels, type of product/service, pricing, and so on. Next, move into the more specific parts and work your way backwards. For example, you’ll cover retail operations, distribution, and so on. Then you’ll work your way down to marketing strategies, tactics, and plans for each of these areas. Don’t worry about making this part perfect, you’re just setting the stage.
Once you’ve done this, you can start to fill in the details. What are the key marketing metrics you’ll use to gauge your progress? What are your competitors doing? Who are your target audiences? Begin to think of all the different ways you can measure the success of your marketing plan. You might want to consider tracking affiliate sales, retail operations, website analytics, and so on. Once you’ve got these key metrics in place, you can start to plot out the best course of action to meet your objectives.
Step two: Strategy
The second step in the strategy stage is to put your plan in context. You’ve no doubt heard the term “strategy vs tactics” used in relation to business. The premise is straightforward: you’ll use your overall plan to drive the execution of specific tactics. For example, you may decide to set a benchmark for retail operations and decide to focus on expanding your e-commerce site rather than developing a mobile app. The strategy stage should also include review and evaluation of your plan: have you maximized the potential of this plan? Did you leave anything out? Is there anything you could add?
To illustrate this point, let’s say you’ve set a benchmark for retail operations and decide to focus on e-commerce rather than retail store operations. In this case, you may decide to pursue a blend of both: you’ll utilize your e-commerce site to sell to customers in other countries as well, even though your primary audience is domestic. You may decide to pursue a combination of organic growth and paid advertising to drive sales.
As part of this plan, you may decide to create online and offline marketing materials, such as email campaigns, display ads, and so on. In addition to this, you’ll want to develop a social media strategy, determine the optimal mix of content, and create and implement marketing campaigns.
Step three: Execution
The third and final step in the plan is to put your strategy into action. The execution stage is where you actually do the marketing. For example, you might decide to send out a series of newsletters to a list of subscribers. Or you might decide to run a series of ads on social media channels.
In addition to this, you may want to consider other marketing activities such as SEO, content marketing, and so on. This stage should also include review and evaluation of your plan: are you on the right course? Has the feedback been positive? Are you experiencing the results you hoped for?
To wrap things up, I’d like to again stress that the purpose of the plan is to provide you with a visual representation of your marketing activities. You’re not trying to build an online reputation engine or to design an ad that will get you millions of views. These things can help, but they are not the end goal. The plan should be a living document that you’ll use to continually assess your marketing efforts.