Have you ever strolled into a room in your house with the same confidence and gusto you’ve entered with a thousand times before, only to be hit with the chilling anxiety of having absolutely no idea what in God’s name has brought you there?? You find yourself aimlessly suspended in a state of paralysis as you rummage through the cubbyholes of your mind, trying in vain to locate the purpose of your arrival. You can probably guess where we’re going with this.
Yes, you should make a marketing plan!
Entering a new business year without a marketing strategy invites fugue states similar to the one above. Sure, you can muddle through the year on autopilot, reacting to your environment rather than influencing it, but eventually you will find yourself in some room somewhere (most likely the boardroom!) wondering how you ended up there.
A marketing plan is your roadmap to business success, but this does not necessarily mean that you must detail every single step of the way. It should be practically applicable to your business and, depending on your company culture, you may prefer your plan to be more or less flexible than others. Either way, it will need to satisfy three core components: 1) Where are you now? 2) Where do you want to be? and 3) How are you going to get there?
Whether you want an exhaustive marketing strategy or a minimalist one, below you will find the inspiration you need to start creating a plan that will work for your business.
Marketing plan section 1: where are you now?
At the very beginning, it is a good idea to outline all the parties concerned. You should summarise your company, brand and mission statement while also highlighting the marketing team responsible for putting the plan to action. As with everything in business, if you want something done then people need to be accountable! But remember, the executive summary is a summary, so keep it brief and punchy.
To get to grips with where your company is right now, it is worthwhile to conduct a SWOT analysis. SWOT is a business technique used to clarify a company’s position in its current environment and it stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Strengths include what your company is good at, its USP, any specialist resources you have and your tangible assets. Weaknesses refer to the things your company lacks, where your competitors are stronger than you and your resource limitations. Opportunities are external factors that can contribute to business success, i.e. a new consumer trend that compliments your product/service offering. Threats are external factors that you have no control over but could damage your business i.e. new competitors entering the market. You can expand this section further with in-depth competitor analysis and comprehensive market research.
Marketing plan section 2: where do you want to be?
What do you want to achieve with this year’s marketing plan? This is probably the most crucial element of your plan because it gets to the crux of why there is a plan to begin with. By setting goals, you can start to have a clear understanding of what success looks like for your business, rather than simply plodding along with no real direction. By the time you get to the end of the business year, you’ll be able to recognise what was and wasn’t achieved. This information is highly valuable for informing what next year’s marketing plan will look like.
There is no point in setting goals without linking them to metrics. Every goal you set, whether it is growing your Instagram followers or improving your website’s SERP ranking, should have a metric attached. For these examples, you could state that by the end of the year you want 500 more Instagram followers and, for SERP, you could aim to rank #1 for a specific search term. By stipulating exact metrics, you collect more meaningful data. This data can then be used to make smarter business decisions that better align your business processes to your overall goals.
Marketing plan section 3: how are you going to get there?
Create customer personas/ideal customer profiles
Knowing what marketing activities to embark on starts with understanding who your target customer is. If you’re B2C, you’ll want to draw up some customer personas, and if you’re B2B then you’ll find ideal customer profiles a lot more helpful. Customer personas are semi-fictional archetypes that are used to better understand and empathise with the different segments of your customer base. The more customer research you use to feed these customer personas, the more effective they are. Ideal customer profiles use a similar methodology but are used to represent target companies instead of people.
Marketing channels and activities
Once your goals are defined and you know who your target customer is, you can determine which marketing channels and activities will support your plan. In this day and age, everyone knows that they need marketing but precisely what that looks like in practice can be harder to pin down. Will you use inbound marketing? Or outbound? Are your customers on SnapChat or TikTok? What is the best way to collect email addresses? Should you have ads on Google or just on social? Or both? If you don’t know what you’re doing, this can turn into a huge headache fast! However, with this marketing plan, you can clearly define exactly which channels and what activities you are going to focus on for the year.
This is the marketing budget and not the general company budget. As you probably know, there are many different ways you can spend your money on marketing! But we advise you to use your budget to itemise exactly what you will spend the money on. Think carefully about the marketing activities you plan to engage in and precisely what costs you might incur. It could be anything from marketing software to ad spend to outsourcing a marketing service to getting a website revamp. It is helpful to have this documented so everyone is clear as to where the money is going, but remember you can always update this later if you find you’re spending less in one area and need more cash fuel in another.