A marketing plan outlines campaigns that will be executed over a specified period of time, defines resources, and details how they’ll be measured and monitored.
A marketing plan contains vital elements including:
- Market research that supports pricing decisions and identifies potential markets.
- How to tailor your message to different target audiences.
- Selecting the tactics and platforms to execute marketing campaigns.
- Setting up metrics, benchmarks, KPIs, and timelines so you can measure the success of your campaigns.
So how do you develop a marketing plan for your business? Start by asking these 10 important questions.
Marketing Plan Question #1: What want or need does your offer fill?
Usually, an entrepreneur has an ah-ha moment when they realize their product idea fills a need in an innovative way. This is the spark of inspiration for the marketing plan.
Think carefully about not only the way your product fills a need but also the timing. Many an excellent idea that filled a legitimate need has floundered because the timing of the product launch was wrong. It’s easy to get so enamored with a product idea that you forget about other important factors like timing, team, and even funding. Create a marketing plan so you detail these important steps on launching your product.
Marketing Plan Question #2: Who is Your Target Market
The answer to this question is the crux of your marketing plan. There are a couple of things that will help in your approach.
First, think of the terms of customer wisdom. This means you don’t just have an idea about your customer’s needs and buying triggers, you understand them to the point of wisdom. You can apply experience, knowledge, and judgment that lets you tailor your offer to a specific audience.
To gain customer wisdom, you must plan campaigns and gather data on what works. You don’t guess your way to wisdom.
As you capture that data, it allows you to refine your value proposition, which is the content that communicates what your offer delivers and how you’re a better choice than your competition. You won’t have customer wisdom or a refined value proposition when you start your marketing, but you should plan for how you’ll gain both as you progress.
Marketing Plan Question #3: Who are your competitors?
A wise man once said:
If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.
One of the most important components of your marketing plan is to analyze your competition. A great deal of how you’ll market your business is based on what competition exists. The value proposition you develop must be explicit about your competitive advantage so people know precisely why you’re the best choice.
Something new business owners tend to say – that’s almost never true – is that they have no competition. In today’s world, there is always an alternative. Even if your product is quite unique, always consider what other decisions your audience might consider (including hesitating and doing nothing).
A more likely scenario is that you offer something with a lot of similar competition. Use your marketing plan to create a niche for yourself so you have a way of differentiating your offer.
Marketing Plan Question #4: What are your goals?
Here the helpful phrase is reverse engineering. Plan out some of your primary goals, then work backward to put what’s needed in place to achieve those goals.
There are many goals you’ll need to consider, such your targeted cost per acquisition, conversion goals, and KPI benchmarks. You’ll need to think about the big picture and how big you want your business to get. Your marketing plan will help you develop a budget that will help you achieve those goals within set time-frames.
Hitting marketing goals takes more time and resources than many people realize. Overnight success is rare. A marketing plan will help you plan for the long term so you don’t run out of capital before your efforts have time to deliver ROI.
Marketing Plan Question #5: What is your strategy for search and social?
The major channels you’ll address for digital marketing will be search and social media. As we all know, between Google and Facebook you’ll find a major portion of the public.
These two channels involve far more planning than we can detail here. So a helpful thing to do when you start your marketing plan is to visualize your target audience and begin to outline how they use these platforms. What types of things will they search for on Google that you’d like to be found for? What kind of social media content do they like, and how can you become part of their network?
Also, go back to question three. What is your competition doing on both of these channels, and how can you out position them?
Search and social media are not just part of the digital marketing pie – they are the pie. Take serious time to initialize your plans on these vital channels.
Marketing Plan Question #6: How will you manage your reputation?
It’s impossible to overemphasize the impact of online reviews in today’s markets. It doesn’t matter if you’re fixing toilets in Toledo or selling high-end jewelry through eCommerce, reviews will eventually impact your bottom line.
Our #1 tip for building a positive reputation – and one you can address in your marketing plan – is to take on a customer-centric approach right from the beginning. This is at the very core of how you do your work and treat your customers; you’ll end up with the reputation you deserve.
Also, detail how you’ll monitor your reviews and take steps to not only ensure you get positive reviews across the web but also that you have a way to deal with the toxic effect that just a few prominent negative reviews can have.
Marketing Plan Question #7: What is your sales process?
Marketing can drive you leads, but how will you close deals? Your marketing plan needs to touch on what you’ll do when your marketing is effective.
A surprising number of businesses (local lead generation in particular) drop the ball on the sales process, often not really owning up to that ball being in their court. You can hire the greatest marketing company in the world, but if you can’t close the leads they generate, you’ll struggle.
This connects to being customer-centric, and it also has a lot to do with being prepared. Make sure your phone skills are excellent and go through a daily checklist so you never miss a beat closing leads. Train your staff in the same way.
Marketing Plan Question #8: How will you automate sales touch points?
With retargeting and email marketing technology, you can efficiently keep your brand in front of prospective clients. Usually, the goal of your top of funnel marketing is just to capture the lead’s contact information or to simply get them to interact with your content. Then you can put automation to work so you can provide timely touches that move them closer to becoming a customer.
A lot of this automation begins with leads visiting your website or interacting with your social media, so make sure you have a professional website and active social media channels. There is a lot more to brand building than many small businesses realize. One of your biggest wins is when a prospect searches for you by name. You won’t get a hotter lead.
Marketing Plan Question #9: What content will you need?
The internet is built on words. Everything we’ve talked about to this point equates to a communication event. From ads to articles to videos, you need content to sell online.
In your marketing plan, develop an outline of what type of content you’ll need and how you’re going to communicate your message with persuasive clarity. Consider how you’ll inform, entertain, and persuade across multiple channels.
Perhaps most importantly, plan for how you’ll access the talent needed to develop your content. Look at the typical business website homepage and you can tell right away they didn’t plan their content. Instead of being a conversion-based landing page that communicates value, it’s a confusing jumble of design and vague promises.
When you create content, remember that the design must support the message. Businesses that don’t plan their content tend to end up with pretty but ineffective designs that have no impact on their target audience. Get a handle on this from the start and you’ll give yourself a big competitive advantage.
Marketing Plan Question #10: Who will be in charge of marketing?
Many businesses come to us with failing marketing plans even when they started with something solid. What goes wrong?
One of the most common underlying problems is that the business never really designated someone to take ownership of the marketing. It starts out as a part-time task for someone in the office. Then they outsource ads to one marketing agency, design to another, and somebody’s niece who just graduated from college does social media.
Marketing today is too complicated and the stakes are too high to haphazardly piecemeal your execution. Make sure you have a professional in place who can execute campaigns and analyze your data. Hire in-house if that’s your preference. We think we offer the best way to outsource marketing activities for small businesses.
Businesses that plan are businesses that succeed. Before you spend a penny on marketing, develop a plan that answers these 10 questions.