How to write a marketing plan
Writing a marketing plan can be challenging for any Marketing Manager, Head of Marketing, Marketing Director or small business owner, regardless of how much experience you have in implementing marketing strategies.
This quick guide to writing a marketing plan will give you the top-level information you need to get a marketing plan written and have you well on your way to a more structured, organised marketing function.
1. Define your business objectives
What is your “why”? What is the purpose of your business and what do you want your business to achieve? These are most important questions that you need to know the answers to before you write your marketing strategy. If you don’t know what the ultimate end goal is your the business, how can you be sure that your marketing strategy will achieve what it’s supposed to?
For example, if you own a small accountancy firm and want to invest in marketing to acquire new clients, think about why you want to acquire clients.
Is it because you want to increase your turnover to £2m turnover before selling it to a bigger firm? Do you want to gradually increase your gross profit to earn a bit more over the next few years before you retire? Or are you a young Partner/startup and want to establish how to grow your business rapidly over the next 20 years?
The marketing strategy that you end up with needs to be aligned with your business goals, so understanding these at the start is extremely important.
2. Establish your marketing objectives
Once you know what exactly you’re working towards in terms of business success, you can then establish your marketing objective(s). Your marketing objective(s) should tell you what the desired result of your marketing activity is and should also give some context in regards to what counts toward your objective.
An example of a marketing objective would be “Achieve significant revenue growth from new business, whilst organically improving brand awareness.”
3. Define your goals & KPIs
Once you have a marketing objective, you can break it down further into goals which will help you establish exactly how you can achieve your marketing objective. In most cases, SMART goals should be used. SMART goals are:
You should try and aim to have between 3-5 SMART goals included in your marketing strategy. Any less and you may struggle to fully achieve the end goal; any more and you could end up getting side-tracked or complicating things.
Here are some examples of SMART goals:
“Obtain 50 new private tax clients within the next 2 years” or “Sell 250 Rubik Cubes to primary schools within the next 6 months” or “Win 5 awards for customer service in 2019”.
4. Set Your Budget
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked about marketing is “What should my marketing budget be?” and the short answer is that it depends on your objectives and how much – based on historic data and research – it’s likely to cost you to achieve them.
5. Carry out market research & analysis
Once you have set your SMART goals, you should then be in a position to carry out research to find out what your options are in terms of tactics, whether you see any potential barriers or threats that might affect your ability to achieve your goals and what your competitors have done/are doing to achieve similar goals.
This information can be invaluable when it comes to planning specific marketing campaigns, but in the short term it will also help you to contextualise your approach to achieving your goals. Usually you would carry out the following:
1. SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)
2. PESTLE analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal & Environmental factors)
3. Market position research (Surveys, interviews, focus groups, secondary research etc.)
4. Competitor research (Who are they? What are they good/bad at? What tactics do they use? What differentiates you?)
The result of carrying out this research and analysis should be that you have a clear idea as to what your approach and tactics should be in order to make achieving your marketing objective more plausible.
6. Define Your Target Market
Now you know what you need to achieve and why, you need to work out how. The first step to doing this is to define your target market. This should ideally be done in 2 stages:
Stage 1: Building your search criteria
To get to a point at which you’re able to identify new prospects, you need to have a go-to criteria to help you decide if falls within your target market. So, make sure you know the following:
1. What parameters determine whether an organisation or individual is not likely to purchase your products/services?
2. What parameters determine whether an organisation or individual is likely to purchase your products/services?
Stage 2: Building Personas
To enable you to tailor your marketing message to your audience, you need to understand the different types of prospects you’re likely to reach with your marketing campaigns. This means segmenting your target market into contacts based on their ability to influence:
- Final decision-making
- Contract approval
- Budget sign-off
For example, your messaging for Marketing Managers will need to be more focused on the your product/service can solve a specific problem or challenge relating to a KPI that the Marketing Manager is accountable for. Your content for the CEO of the same company would be more focused on how your product/service can positively affect the marketing team’s performance, efficiency and cost.
Once you’ve established your buyer personas, you can then start to think about how your messaging can be tweaked to evoke a positive response from each persona that will ultimately lead to them completing your call to action.
7. Establish Your Marketing Tactics & Channels
Now you have a deeper understanding of your target market, you can:
– Identify the platforms that they are likely to be already using regularly to consume various forms of media
Push Channels – Which online and offline channels can be used to broadcast your marketing message to your target market?
Pull Channels – Which channels can you use to capture your target market when they are actively seeking your products/services?
– Learn how they search to find information relating to your products/services
Keyword Research – How are people using search engines to research suppliers/service providers? Do they search directly for a specific brand/competitor? Which questions are they asking in their searches? What information are they seeking to help inform their decision?
Competitor Research – What are your competitors doing to ensure they’re found by the right people, at the right time, for the right keywords? What are your competitors not doing that you could?
– Start designing your strategy around their decision making process
Push Tactics – How are your target personas’ decision making processes influenced by external factors? What are these factors? Can you become an ‘influencer’ by designing onni-channel campaigns around your target audience’s interests and needs?
Pull Tactics – Where do you need to be seen by your target personas in order to still be in the running when they’re making a major buying decision? What are the most important things you need to prove to your prospects? How can you make it easy for your target market to choose you over your competitors?
The answers to all of these questions will inform your marketing strategy, channels and tactics.
8. Design A ‘Test, Measure, Optimise, Repeat’ Process
The hard work is not over yet. In fact, it’s only just started! You will not get it right first time and you need to continuously:
- Test your approach (including all strategies, channels and tactics)
- Measure the results to see how effective they have been and analyse the lessons learnt
- Optimise future campaigns and ongoing activity based on your findings
- Repeat the process to ensure your approach improves and evolves in the right direction