Developing a Marketing Plan
Developing a marketing plan will help your business build brand awareness, target customers effectively and convert leads into sales. It will also help you keep track of your marketing targets and stick to any budgets you set.
A good plan should identify all the tactics and actions needed to achieve your strategic marketing goals, along with a timetable for getting things done.
In this guide, we provide advice and tips to help you create an effective marketing plan for your business.
What should your marketing plan include?
Every marketing plan will be different depending on your business situation and marketing strategy.
However, you can create your marketing plan by following eight simple steps. Let’s take a look at them each in turn.
Define your market
Your marketing plan should provide detailed information about your understanding of the market or target audience at which you are aiming your product or service. You can’t sell something to people who don’t want it – it’s that simple.
Your plan should typically provide answers to the following questions about your target audience:
- Are there segments in your market that are currently underserved?
- Are the segments you are aiming at large enough for you to make money?
- How much market share do you need to capture to break even?
- Does the market already have too much competition?
- Have you spotted any weaknesses in your competitors’ products or services – and can you capitalise on these?
- Does your target audience really want your product or service, and what value do they place on your unique competitive offer?
Understand your customers
A thorough understanding of your customers is the essential starting point for effective marketing. You need to know:
- Who your customers are.
- What they want.
- What will motivate them to buy from you.
To help you understand your customers, your marketing plan should typically provide answers to the following questions:
- How do your potential customers typically buy similar products?
- What are the demographic characteristics of your target customers in terms of age, ethnicity, gender and so on?
- What kind of habits do your target customers have? For example, where do they get the information to help them make decisions (e.g. television, specialist magazines, social media)?
- What are the primary emotional motivators that will make someone buy your product or service (e.g. looking good, feeling smart, avoiding pain, saving money, being healthy, being popular)?
You can use your research to create a ‘buyer persona’ or representation of your ideal customer. This will help you target your marketing activities at the right customers and convert leads into sales.
Identify your market niche
The best marketing plans identify how to sell products and services to customer groups that fit the lifestyle and demographic profile of a specific target market.
In other words, if you define your market as everybody and anybody, then you are likely to end up selling to nobody. If the marketplace is highly competitive, you’ll find jumping up and down in a small puddle far more effective than trying to make a splash in a large ocean.
Your marketing plan should outline how you will carve out your specific niche and how you aim to dominate it.
Develop your marketing message
Your marketing message should explain what your product or service has to offer and persuade people to buy from you.
There are generally two types of marketing message.
One is short, to the point and often referred to as the ‘elevator pitch’. It’s your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be with someone important who asks you ‘What do you do?’ and you have 30 seconds to make your pitch.
The second type is the complete marketing message, and your plan should develop this type of message and identify everywhere that it’s going to be used. This type of marketing message needs to be compelling and persuasive and should typically include the following elements:
- An explanation of your target customers’ problem.
- Proof that this problem is significant and that it should be solved without delay.
- An explanation of why you are the only supplier that can solve the problem.
- An explanation of the benefits people will get by using your solution.
- Examples and testimonials of satisfied customers who have used your service.
Define your marketing medium
This is a crucial part of your marketing plan and will define the methods and media you will use to ensure your message reaches your target audience. It should identify precisely how you will sell your product or service.
The best medium for you will be the one that reaches the most people in your niche at the right cost. There are many options, including social media, TV ads, websites, online directories and mailshots.
Choose your route to market
Your route to market will largely depend on the type of product or service you are selling and the target market you are trying to reach.
For example, you could choose to sell by a combination of routes such as mail order, via e-commerce, through distributors or sales agents or directly to customers. You should be precise and clear in your plan about how and why you choose your particular market route, and what alternative you will use if your initial route does not produce the results you expect.
Set sales and marketing targets
Targets are critical to marketing success and these should be realistic and specific. Ensure that your goals and objectives use the SMART formula:
These goals should include financial values in terms of volume of sales, monthly and annual revenues, profit targets and sales per salesperson. You can also have targets such as enquiry levels, sales conversion rates, website traffic generated, contracts won, press releases and articles published.
Set your marketing budget and timetable
Your plan should include a realistic budget to allow you to undertake all your desired marketing activity.
Once you have calculated or estimated your budget, you will need to produce a timetable to put the plan into action. This timetable will identify:
- Each specific marketing action you will take.
- Who will carry these out.
- A timescale for each activity and when it will start.
- Key events and milestones during the year, such as trade shows and product launches.
- When you will need to bring in external expertise, such as specialists in PR, graphic design or direct sales.
Monitoring and reviewing progress
Once your marketing plan is underway, you will need to monitor and review its progress continually. Ideally, it would be best if you did this each month.
DISCLAIMER While all reasonable efforts have been made, the publisher makes no warranties that this information is accurate and up-to-date and will not be responsible for any errors or omissions in the information nor any consequences of any errors or omissions. Professional advice should be sought where appropriate.
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