By: Vincent Sevilla
Do you have a marketing plan?
While marketing plans are part and parcel of the corporate world, many small businesses do not consider a marketing strategy when creating their business plans. Come to think of it, many neglect to think of marketing and how it can improve conversion rates or social media strategy.
Unfortunately, this can prove to be an organization’s downfall, as marketing is among the most important aspects of a business. As STP Tax Agents says, marketing is “the key process of researching, promoting, and selling products or services to your target market.” Without a solid marketing plan, businesses falter and may not have enough traction to survive. In fact, they may find themselves struggling to remain afloat until the business finally folds over.
Despite this risk, some small businesses are hesitating on allocating resources to formulate a marketing plan. However, the benefits of having one far outweigh the amount of resources you would’ve utilized to create it.
A marketing plan helps strengthen your branding, makes you understand what truly makes you unique, and gives you control of your business. All members of your team—from the VP of Marketing to the copywriters and designers—would be on the same page of your goals and missions. The tone of all your collaterals would be consistent, and all your designs would complement each other—from your website, social media assets, to your other digital and printed assets. Your customers would recognize your brand from the get-go—all thanks to a well-executed marketing plan.
As you can see, it’s a win-win situation for you if you have a marketing plan. Are you ready to overhaul your business plan to incorporate a great marketing strategy?
How to Create a Marketing Plan
1. Know Where You Stand
Before you can run, you must first learn how to walk. Such is the case with creating a marketing plan—you need to know where you stand right now to create a roadmap that would bring you to where you want to go.
In this section, you would want to be able to define your company, your products or services, and demonstrate your unique value proposition or selling point.
You want to know what sets you apart from competitors, or if your competitors have any advantages over you. As much as possible, you would want to tilt the playing field in your favor, so it really helps to know who your competitors are and know where they are better than you.
While you’re at it, pay attention to their prices. You might find that you can still raise your prices while remaining within the range of your competitors.
2. Be Smart About Your Goals
Once you know what you’re up against, then you have to be smart to thwart the competition. You’ll need to establish SMART goals—that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
This form of goal-setting is especially important since this gives you a time-bound goal. You would know how well you are doing based on these very precise metrics. When you are halfway to your goal and you see that you are not making as much progress than you think, then you would have the opportunity to reassess your goals and see if they are attainable to begin with.
When it comes to a marketing plan, the most important assets your business has is your time and money. Make sure that your goals consider these two factors, so you are not at the risk of burning out or bankrupting your stakeholders with nothing to show for it.
2. Know Your Limits
Once you know what makes your business unique, what your goals are, and who your competitors are, then it’s time to draw the line. Know up to how much you are willing to invest—both in terms of time and money. You should set a budget and a deadline, and you can cross-reference your progress against a timeline you have created. This way, you would know if you are overspending or overcompensating—and you would be able to rectify the mistake before you allot even more resources.
4. Understand Your Target Audience
The success of your marketing plan would depend on how effectively you reach your audience. To do so, you must clearly identify and understand who you are trying to attract into your business.
Firstly, know who they are. Understand how old they are, where they work, what they like. Know them intimately, in the sense that you are able to imagine how they live their days and what challenges they face. The more you know your audience, the more effective you would be in communicating with them. After all, if you know who you are talking to—their preferences, the way they speak, the best time to talk to them, among other factors—the more efficient your marketing approach would be.
5. Write Down Your Marketing Goals and Commit to Them
Once you’re through with the basics, then you are ready to internalize your goals and write them down. Again, it is important that you have specific goals in mind. For example, do you want to increase the number of your organic leads to 60%? Do you want to get more engagement in your social media assets? If so, by how much do you want to increase your engagement rates? Do you want to increase your sales by at least 40% in the next six months?
Aside from setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, make sure that your marketing targets are the perfect mix of optimistic and realistic. For example, you don’t want to target a 100% lead conversion rate in six months when your current rate is at 0.2%. Likewise, you don’t want to say you just want to bring in 6,000 new businesses in three months if you are already averaging 5,000 new businesses every month.
Your goals should push you to do better, while at the same time ensuring that your business survives. Driving your staff to work to the bone just to meet unreasonable goals would be detrimental to your business.
6. Be a Tactician
Now that you know what you want to happen, who you want to talk to, and how much you are willing to spend, then it’s time to formulate your marketing strategy. A rule of thumb is that a good marketing program would encourage conversion from all stages of the sales cycle. That means it doesn’t matter if your customer has just entered the door or is about to turn her back and leave your store—if you have a good marketing plan, you have the potential to convert everyone regardless of where they are in the sales cycle.
Think of it this way. If you have an enticing storefront, customers are likely to come in. If they don’t see anything they want immediately, they are going to leave your store. You can capture their attention again by putting something near the door that you’re sure they would want. This way, they are more likely to stay and check out that item than to leave your store for good.
The same concept applies to digital marketing. You have to make sure that your social media assets speak accurately to your customers, and that your customers are in that platform to begin with. Your content must be timely and relevant; you must always pique their attention so they would keep coming back to your platforms. The list of strategies can go on and on—which is why you need to research about it to see what applies to your brand.
7. Find the Weakest Link
Since your marketing plan is slowly coming together, it’s time for you to take a step back and be analytical. See which parts of your marketing plan are the weakest, and strengthen that. Identify the gaps and fill them in. Remember, leave nothing to chance. Your marketing plan should be clear and detailed so that you would be able to respond accordingly to every situation that arises.
This means you have to pay attention to the golden trio—your Reach, Engagement, and Conversion. Solve these issues before you roll out your new marketing strategy so you would be in a strong position once you start your campaign.
8. Pick the Low Hanging Fruit
Once you have identified the biggest threat to your success, then it’s time for you to make a thorough assessment of how to solve it. There are specific techniques to approaching each problem—for instance, you can advertise through AdWords if you want to bring in more reach, or incentivize a user-generated content campaign if you want to increase your engagement.
9. Have an Action Plan
With your team ready to jump in to solve the issues, you can then create a concrete action plan that remedy them. Prioritize your tasks so you get the most pressing issues resolved first. Think of it as a funnel: resolve the biggest issue that has the biggest impact on your campaign. Once that is solved, then go to the next pressing issue, and so on.
Of course, this action plan is not limited to just putting out fires. You also have to put the foundation of your marketing plan in place. Execute each facet of your plan when the time is right so that you don’t trigger your timeline without having the resources to work on them.
10. Track and Adjust
Finally, it’s time for you to witness how effective your marketing plan has been. Keep an eye on your timeline and measure your progress. Adapt to the trends and adjust, so that you would be in the most advantageous position to achieve your goals.
Once you have hashed out the basics—who you are, what you do, what makes you different, who your audiences are, how you can add value to their lives, and what your biggest challenges are and how to solve them—you will be in a good position to reap the benefits of your thorough marketing plan. It may take a bit of work, but it will all be worth your while if you take the time to do it right and commit to it.
Author Bio: Vincent Sevilla is a professional web designer and inbound strategist for GRIT. His goal? To innovate ideas, create good music, and travel to all the best places in the Philippines. You can follow him on Twitter @easyvince