Planning 101: 8 Steps to Creating an Effective Marketing Plan
Results aren’t random. To make a cake you use a recipe, to find treasure you follow a map – and to access customers to build and grow your business, you need a marketing plan. Writing out a plan helps you turn your ideas into action, stay consistent with your marketing methods, keep focused on your company goals, and think about both the present and future of your business.
So, let’s brainstorm – we’ll even walk you through this Imagine you have the 30-60 seconds of an elevator ride to explain to a stranger what you do. What would you say? Write a few short sentences that describe the need you’re trying to meet, your solution, and what edge you have over competition in the market. This will form the basis of your marketing plan, so you’ll comeback to it time and again.
The business summary for a real estate company might be: “With over two decades experience in the Richmond area, our firm is uniquely focused on helping local, low-income families achieve their dream to get a mortgage and buy a home within their budget.”
Business Objectives – The How
Your business objectives have two elements: what you want to achieve - your mission; and your step-by-step action plan for how you’re going to do it. Some common objectives include staying ahead of the competition, providing excellent customer service, or finding the right clients.
The business objective of your accounting service may be to free up small businesses from managing their financial paperwork so they can focus on their core business, by offering a simple one-stop-shop service that handles all their accounting needs.
The Need – A Market Analysis
Take a good look at your industry, do some research, speak to people in the business, and breakdown what’s going on in your market. Who and where is your target demographic? What are their needs and challenges? Who is your competition and what are their solutions?
Your analysis of local office-cleaning services may conclude that there are many potential clients. While there are lots of other competing services, their prices tend to be very high, and according to reviews, the quality of their work is unreliable.
Your Solution – What You Do
Now that you understand the larger market, who you’re talking to, and where the gaps are, define your solution in detail, including different a breakdown of products or services, pricing and packages. Be sure you understand how it fits into the broad scheme of your business.
For example, you may decide to keep your prices lower than the competition as you grow your business, to attract new customers.
Your Competitive Advantage – Why You’re Special
Now that you understand your solution, consider what makes you unique. What sets you apart from your competition? What trends in the market give you an advantage? Also, consider your weak points and where you can improve.
Maybe you are a green company, and environmentalism is important to your city. Maybe you are a family business and treat customers like family, too. This quality is likely more than just pricing. Think of it as that extra something, the chemistry, that makes a relationship stand out.
The Target Market – Pinpoint Your Ideal Customer
Define your target market for the marketing plan - their age, gender, location, lifestyle, and the specific problem they want to solve. This directly shapes your marketing decisions. In order to spend your time and money wisely, you need to know exactly who you are trying to reach.
Your target market may be men over the age of 60, well educated, with disposable income, and a lot of leisure time. Try to have in mind someone specific that you actually know who is your target so you can get inside their thinking and understand what they want.
Marketing Strategy and Objectives – How to Reach Your Target Clients
Now that you know your ideal client, you need to have a unified, strategic idea of what you want to say to them – your ‘messaging.’ The key is to show them you understand their specific need and have the right solution. Bear in mind that you won’t necessarily be saying the same thing to everyone, or in the same place.
Perhaps you have a different solution for different clients, and you may well engage with some via social media, whereas others may be reached more effectively via a leafleting campaign. Make a plan for how you will reach them to say it.
Next, make sure that they can find you, and that when they do, you are telling them what they need to hear.
Maybe you should incorporate video content on social media, email marketing, or some form of online advertising. Maybe reviews of your business are critical to your success. Whatever your strategy, you want a focused, consistent, and organized message. And you need a budget-minded solution that will offer everything you require in one place.
Finances –The Nuts and Bolts
Hopefully you’ve kept finances in mind all along. But now in your marketing plan, write out your larger budget incorporating costs, service pricing, and marketing budget. Ask yourself what numbers will get you to your goals, and understand your sales cycle to know when you’ll be able to afford what.
When planning your marketing budget, remember it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of affordable solutions online. But marketing is also a game-changer so it’s worth building and investing around it reasonably.
Now you have the basics of your marketing plan! Remember, this is a living document. It will change with time and as your business evolves. So, keep coming back to it every few months. Use it as your ‘health check’, update as you go, and refer back to it as you progress towards your goals.
for your business
(not anybody else’s)
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