A business isn’t alive without customers.
But with Australians drowning in a sea of online and offline promotions – around 600 messages every day, according to Microsoft research - it’s not easy to capture attention or sales.
Launching random Facebook ads, email promotions or staff dancing in panda suits and twirling signs by the side of the road just isn’t going to cut it. Alright, the bear idea might stop traffic.
However, if you want to achieve long-term growth and ROI, you need to a proper marketing plan.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a strategic roadmap to promoting your products or services to your target audience.
Depending on your marketing objectives, campaigns and the number of people involved, it can be bare bones basic or meticulously detailed.
Either way, a marketing plan should be easy-to-read and compelling enough to help get people on board with your plans – whether they’re part of your team or potential investors.
Benefits of a well-structured marketing plan
When you invest time, thought and passion into developing a marketing plan, you’ll reap what you sow. It can help you:
· pinpoint your target audience (understand who you need to be really nice to)
· identify your competitors (understand who you need to crush – not that it’s a competition!)
· define your Unique Selling Position (understand what makes you awesome)
· increase returns on marketing spend (understand what to say when someone – especially you - asks, “Why are you dropping cash on that?!)
· be strategic about winning business (understand the smartest and most cost-effective way to swoon customers)
· by becoming your agreed marketing ‘bible’ to refer back to if tactics veer off course.
10-step marketing planning process
Get crystal clear on your marketing goal
Before you unleash all your creative Mad Men marketing ideas on the world, you need a big picture objective for your marketing plan. The end result that effects the whole business.
Don’t be airy-fairy with your description. Include a specific thing or things you want to achieve.
· If your business mission was “Make natural, non-toxic skincare products for women who care about their health and the planet”
· Your marketing objective might be “Increase our brand awareness by 50% and increase online sales by 25%.”
This high-level information should be the meat in the Executive Summary at the start of your marketing plan.
Understand and describe your target audience
Once you have agreed on your marketing goal (even if it’s just with yourself), you need to get inside the minds of the people you want to attract and convert into customers.
This is where a buyer’s persona comes in.
A buyer persona is a profile of your ideal customer. Depending whether they’re important or not, the profile might include their age or age range, sex, marital status, location, job and other demographic details.
Most importantly, you want to understand and include audience:
· Problems (why they need a product or service like yours)
· Frustrations (why they haven’t been able to find the answer so far)
· Goals (what they need to know about your product/service/business before they buy)
· Motivations (how they want to feel, or life to be, once they buy)
· Friction (things that could be holding them back from buying from you)
The key to creating a useful persona is to be objective. Don’t guess or make assumptions based on your own views. Ask your customers and prospects what they feel and need.
Many businesses have more than one persona. For example, a travel company could be targeting families, business people and backpackers.
They are all travellers, but with very different problems, needs and motivations.
Know your buyer’s journey For your marketing plan and promotions to be effective, you need to understand the stages that you customers go through when buying for the first time – and coming back for more.
The stages are:
· The point a buyer recognises they need something
· Or when they learn about your product/service
· The point they consider you a possible solution.
· Evaluate options on what’s most important to them e.g. price, availability, quality, solves problem, improves situation, status, etc
· Customer is ready to buy
· Decides which product or service best matches their needs.
· How should they buy it?
· Is it easy to buy?
· Evaluates how good the product or services has been to use
· Would they buy again?
· Would they tell others about you?
Understanding how, when, where and why your target market buys will determine which strategies you use e.g. Facebook ads, radio, content marketing, SEO, etc. So, it’s key to converting prospects.
Study your competition
Learn as much as possible about competitors that your target audience are aware of, are considering using or have purchased from.
How do you do this? You could go undercover as an office pot plant, but that may not be safe or legal during covid times.
Instead, ask the prospects that you interview for your personas. Jump online and explore the enemy’s websites, get on the phone and make out that you’re a customer, or walk into their stores and see how they treat prospects.
This will help you understand who you are up against and where opportunities lay.
Do a SWOT Analysis Time to remove the rose-tinted glasses and list your business Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats from an objective view. This is where you bring together your first-hand experience, everything you’ve learned in your marketing plan research, and a willingness to see your business and competitors through the lens of your target audience.
The SWOT analysis will help get you clear on what makes your business unique. Customers like to know that.
It will help you be honest about where your competitors are stronger or more appealing than your business. And where there are gaps in the market waiting to be exploited.
This potpourri of analysis will help you understand how to position yourself in the market.
Realise your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
There are a hundred hairdressers, builders, fashion stores, lawyers, florists, personal trainers and life coaches in every city that offer ‘the best price’ or the ‘highest quality service’.
But when potential customers hear those sorts of ambiguous claims, most are thinking, ”But what makes you different from everyone else, and why should I care?”
Enter stage left…the USP. Here are a few famous ones:
· Avis - We’re number two. We try harder.
· FedEx - When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
· Domino’s Pizza - You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.
So answer your customers burning question, “Why should I do business with you instead of someone else?”
Determine your pricing and positioning strategy Once you are clear about what makes your business special or different, it’s easier to decide how you’ll position your brand and price levels.
For example, if your brand is about high-quality service or luxurious products, low prices might confuse or detract potential customers. And vis versa.
Outline your marketing strategies
If your marketing plan is the general, your marketing strategy or strategies are its foot soldiers that head out on missions to achieve specific goals.
A marketing strategy could be:
· Using a Facebook paid advertising campaign designed to increase brand awareness and drive high-quality leads.
· Creating a Google Ads campaign, YouTube video and website landing page targeting local customers, to bring them to your store.
· Sending an EDM series to existing customers announcing the launch of a loyalty club with free delivery and special offers.
· Exhibiting at a trade show to launch a new product, build brand awareness and acquire leads.
Your overall marketing goals are high-level e.g. increase annual sales by 10%. Your strategies are the tactics that will help you get there.
Measure your performance
If you don’t have figures and benchmarks to measure your marketing strategies and plan, you’ll never:
· know for certain if you’re business is improving
· deeply understand what works and what doesn’t with your audience
· achieve the best return on your marketing investment.
A lot of businesses use KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – to measure the effectiveness of their marketing.
Depending on your goals and activities, this might include a specific increase in:
· website visitors
· phone calls
· social media likes, shares or retweets.
Use important KPIs to keep track of your goals and strategies throughout the year, on a weekly or monthly basis.
Calculate your marketing budget
In some ways, this should be step one. Because without knowing what you need to spend, you don’t know what sort of marketing you can do.
However, once you’ve compiled your marketing goals, you can start allocating dollar spend to the strategies, tools and channels you’ll need to use to turn ideas into business, such as:
· SEO-friendly website
· Content such as blogs, guides, whitepapers, etc
· Email marketing
· Point of sale material
You might use some of these, or all of them. It will depend on your business, product, service and strategies.
How much should you allocate to your marketing budget?
There’s no hard and fast rule. Your goals, resources and budget will be different to the next business. A popular rough guide is:
· Less than year in business: 0-10% of projected revenue
· 1 – 5 years in business: 10-20% of gross or projected revenue
· More than 5 years in business: 5-10% of gross or projected revenue
With a budget you can identify:
· which strategies to tackle first
· the staff and suppliers you need to help
· how long you can run campaigns and strategies.
Where can I find good marketing plan examples?
The marketing plan examples linked below didn’t use the exact template we’ve suggest. However, simply seeing what other businesses have done can inspire ideas for your own marketing plan.
Remember, your plan can only work if its purpose-built for your business, goals, audience and budget. So, don’t copy these examples. Just use them as a guide.
Your small business marketing plan template
Ready to dive down the marketing rabbit hole to create an exciting and structured plan that gets your business where you want it to be sooner?
Use this small business marketing plan template to help your customers understand why your products or services are the ones they need - and how you can uniquely transform their buyer pain into happiness.
Tips for implementing your marketing plan
Now you have the tools and templates to create your marketing plan masterpiece, but where do you start? Try these four steps:
Meet with your A-Team Get together with key people in your business to discuss these steps in the process. Encourage questions, concerns and criticisms you haven't thought of so you can tweak your top draft plan and strategies.
Create a timeline for every task and allocate jobs to people so you can execute your plan.
Once your plan is in action, hold weekly catch-ups in person, by email or over Zoom to ensure everyone on track or able to get the assistance they need to make the magic happen.
Keep everyone up-to-date
Share a weekly progress report with all parties involved to ensure you are moving in the right direction.
Like some free expert help marketing your business? Did you know that Bayside BEC offer our members high-quality advisory services on doing digital business, including marketing expertise? It’s a free service to members, funded by the Australian Government with the ASBAS Digital Business Solutions Program. Learn more about our free digital business advice services [S2]