9 Steps to Building a Marketing Plan

By Published 19 November 2014
9 Steps to Building a Marketing Plan

If you’re serious about growing your business you will need to put a marketing plan in place. Your marketing plan may be part of your overall business plan to develop your business, however it’s fundamental to understand the importance of this. Without a marketing plan in place your business will just continue on the path it’s always been and nothing will change.

MarketingLet’s be clear first, though and not confuse Marketing Plan with Marketing Strategy – here’s a brief definition to differentiate the two:

 

A Marketing Strategy:

  • is a collection of medium/long term methods for achieving your company’s objectives
  • won’t change yearly, but only when a major change occurs that affects your business as a whole – eg, the rise of a new competitor, implementation of new legislation that impacts your business, a sudden change in consumer needs
  • supports business objectives
  • is generic, with loosely defined budgets and deadlines

Unlike a Marketing Plan which:

  • has a list of initiatives to be implemented in the short term (usually within one year)
  • changes yearly based on competitive actions and short term opportunities and threats
  • supports your marketing strategy
  • has a “to do list” that includes well-defined responsibilities, budgets and deadlines

So the Marketing Plan is the action you need to take to make things happen.  Let’s take a look at where to start.

Step 1. What’s your objective?

Sometimes it’s often best to work backwards. By looking at where you want your business to be in 1 year, 3 years 5 years time will give you an indication of what to aim for.  What will your business look like? Who are your ideal clients? What type of work do you want to bring in? How much will your turnover have increased by?  By answering all these questions it will give you a clear picture. Although these questions are not easy ones to answer they will start to give you a clear direction in which you are heading.

Step 2. Create a Summary of Recommendations

Once you’ve identified the goals, now look at what you need to do to achieve them.  If your target is to increase sales by 25%, how will this be achieved. Is it going to involve focussing on more Landing pages, maybe using Google PPC or Facebook Marketing to attract the traffic.  Summarise the avenues you need to address to reach this target.

Step 3. Your Current Business & Market Conditions

Market conditions are always liable to change. Always keep an eye on how the changes in the competitive landscape affect your company. Identify the current business climate. Look at your competitors – what are they doing? Where do you think your business sits amongst your competitors?  And more importantly what differentiates you amongst your competitors?  Look at how you can stand out above the crowd. By creating a USP (unique selling point) it will give you more of a focus point.

Step 4. A SWOT Analysis

Here you have to be brutally honest about the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of your business. Look at what you’re good at. Because what you’re good at will always get done first. There will always be areas that will not be your strength so you have a choice – either learn quickly how to do them or outsource them.  It may be painful financially but well worth it in the long term to outsource your areas of weakness. At least then it will take the pressure off and you know that your un-favourite job is not adding to your “to-do” list.

Step 5. Your Strategies & Tactics

Following on from Step 3 above, once you’ve identified your differentiator look at how you plan to implement the changes. What needs to be put in place? Does additional design and artwork need to be implemented on your website? Do you need to add more “Call-to-actions”? How do you plan to communicate with your prospects and customers? Do you need to work out how you’re going to do more email marketing, and how are you going to start to segment your lists so that you can send the right messages to the right audience.

Step 6. Sales Forecast

Set yourself an “achieveable” sales forecast for the forthcoming year. If you start by aiming too high you’ll end up just feeling disappointed if you don’t hit those targets. Be realistic! Look at what you believe is workable.  Focus on the year ahead, I don’t think you can forecast too accurately beyond a year, but this will give you some indication of what to aim for. Don’t get too hung up on this – it’s there to give you a baseline aim. Top Tip: Forecast low and aim high – you’ll feel great for it.

Step 7. Know Your Budget

There will always be a certain amount of marketing that can be done for free – and we all like free!  However, one thing you must remember is – and I go back to the basic SWOT analysis here – is if marketing is not your strength, partner up with businesses who complement your weaknesses. Outsource. Work with partners who understand and know how to get the best results. Don’t try and do it yourself because it just won’t get done. So set yourself a realistic monthly budget – if done properly the return will be well worth it.

Step 8. Control and Tracking

So now you have a plan.  Take a snapshot of where you are now – measure the traffic you’re currently receiving, the enquiries you’re getting, your current sales turnover.  Then measure monthly and quarterly. By measuring your results you can see what’s working and what isn’t. If Facebook is working better than Google it may be that your revisit your plan and put more effort into Facebook. Measuring is crucial to your success. With the internet now it’s much easier to measure where new enquiries and sales come from, this just couldn’t be done years ago. Measure, review, update! Measure, review, update!

Step 9. Supporting Your Plan with Research

Continual research although takes time can be incredibly beneficial. Keep on top of what’s happening in your market, keep ahead of the changes. If you don’t your competitors will, so make sure your research is up to date.  A top tip here is to follow your industry leaders on Twitter. Twitter is the best tool for doing this because it’s live and deals with the NOW.

The points above should allow you to get visualised and get started with your Marketing Plan. Be mindful to not rush this procedure. A considerable amount of thought and care should go into the creation of your marketing plan and if you do find yourself stuck then drop us an email and we’ll see how we can help you.

Author: Alison Boyle

Alison co-founded LA Marketing and is specialist in strategic online marketing for small businesses, and is passionate about teaching SME’s to grow their business through understanding social media, and empowering them to market themselves online. You can follow Alison on Twitter or Google+

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