Mon Jan 2022
7 Steps To The Perfect Marketing Plan
As the Cheshire Cat once pointed out, if you don't know where you're going, "it doesn't much matter which way you go."
Writing a marketing plan will help you work out where you are going and give you a road map to get there.
As your business and marketing team grows, your marketing plan will provide the key to keeping everything under control. It will help you keep your team on track and help induct new members.
What Is A Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan acts as a map for your marketing team. It looks at where you are starting from and where you want to be in 3/6/12 months.
A marketing plan usually outlines:
- Mission and values
Your marketing plan is a revolving document and can change as situations change. But your document should reflect your business goals as a whole.
So, let's create your marketing plan.
1. Review Your Current Situation
Start by looking at your current marketing efforts and the climate you are working in.
There are three areas to look at:
You current channels
Make a note of your current channels. What's working and what needs more work?
Use analytics programs such as Google Analytics to create an overview of your current marketing efforts. Look how the customers interact with each platform and where it falls in your customer journey; after all, just because a channel isn’t directly driving revenue doesn’t mean it isn’t making a significant impact. It’s also worth checking to see if high effort channels have the right effect and get the results you expect. At this stage, you can engage a marketing consultant to help you decide which channels are right for you and help you to understand the results you have.
Running a comprehensive competitor analysis can help you find your position in the landscape. Looking at your competitors allows you to see how they position themselves as a brand. Are they more expensive or cheaper? Do they portray the higher price through luxury marketing? What messages seem to resonate more with audiences? What types of content are they producing?
You should look at any competitors on your level or any bigger competitors. If Amazon or companies like them threaten your industry, you should also add them to your list to analyse.
PESTLE stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental. PESTLE allows you to look at external factors that affect your business. All of these factors may have an impact on your messaging. For example, under Political, you might want to look at what industries current governments favour. If your current government is committing to reducing CO2, and your business is firmly carbon negative, that is something you can look to address in your marketing. This can also work at a local level. If the local council has specific initiatives that align with your values, this should be noted in your PESTLE analysis for later.
2. Create a SWOT Analysis
From the Situational Analysis, you should start building up your SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for:
Look at all of the points you’ve written down and start to organise them. When you begin to work out your marketing strategy, you’ll want to address each point and find ways to show off strengths, fix weaknesses, exploit opportunities and address threats.
3. Create your Goals
Now you know where you currently are, you need to start looking at where you want to be. Your marketing goals should reflect and benefit the overall business goals. You should be wary of setting only revenue goals for marketing as there are too many factors that may be out of the marketing department’s control. For example, if your purchasing team has issues with stock or the sales team cannot close deals with leads recruited to their exact specification, then failure to purchase is not on the marketing team.
The best goals to set are around increasing CRM contacts, improving website conversion rates, improving customer AOV or improving retention rates.
Your goals should be carefully considered, using something like the SMART goals methodology.
4. Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP)
Defining your segmentation, targeting, and position is incredibly important for the success of your business. Many startups often skip over this section, believing that “everyone” will be an audience. While “everyone” could potentially be your audience, marketing works far better when it is targeted and relatable.
Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning help to define the different markets you can target and how to position your business to compete against other companies.
Segmentation is dividing a bigger market into smaller segments, usually on some form of characteristics, such as demographic, psychographic. For example, for toy store, you might divide the audience into “Wooden Toy Lovers”, “Action Fans”, “Fairytale fan” or you might segment them into those who pay £10 for a toy, those who pay £100 or those who spend £500 on a toy.
Targeting is the art of choosing which segments to target. Continuing our Toy Store example, one toy store might choose to sell £10 toys because they have a store near a school and can use parents on the school run to encourage impulse buying. Another may choose to sell £500 toys, as their store is in the centre of a very affluent area and want a slightly more upmarket set of toys for their child’s playroom. Another toy store might want to take the mid-range market, as the other two stores do not cover this, with a view to slowly expand the price range to steal market share away from the other two stores.
The number of target markets you want to target depends on the goals you need to hit. If you are just starting out, then you should focus on just one audience so you can be hyper-focused on serving that community as best you can. If you are a bigger company with huge goals, you might want to start branching out into new audiences to help boost revenue.
Positioning is the practice of building a reputation and association with your audience which helps to cement your position in relation to other brands. For example, you could position yourself against the competition “Number 1 brand for…” or you could position yourself by price, such as being a “budget brand” or a “luxury brand”. Where you position yourself is up to you and the research you’ve conducted, but your marketing mix must back up your position. There’s no point in positioning yourself as cheapest or budget if your prices are higher than your competitors.
5. Layout your Marketing Mix
Your marketing mix is a set of parameters laid out by E. Jerome McCarthy and later expanded by Bernard H. Booms and Mary J. Bitner. The marketing mix contains 7ps of marketing, which helps define your overall strategy. These are:
- Product - What you sell, how it’s packages and the overall quality. A product can be physical, such as a toy, or intangible, such as a consulting service.
- Price - How much you are selling the product for and where does that benchmark with your competitors. It also covers the profitability of the product, for example, is it a high margin product or is it a loss-leader in order to draw customers in for long-term loyalty.
- Place - where your product is sold, such as a website or shop. This takes into account the look, feel and presentation of your store and how your customers move around it.
- Promotion - how you will promote your products. Will each channel have it’s own direction, goals and campaign or will you run an integrated marketing campaign? Will you use discounts and sales as a selling tactic?
- People - All the staff or volunteers are involved in your business, especially those who are customer-facing. Will you have highly trained technical contact centre staff, or will they read from a script? Will you use staff in your marketing, for example, having product experts create tutorials? Will you be the fact of your company?
- Process - The start-to-end journey your customer has with the business, and also the start-to-end journey of your product. For example, will you have a customer onboarding? Will that be inbuilt or will it require separate webinars?
- Physical Evidence - how can you prove you can deliver on your promise? Is it through reviews? Physical locations? Tangible marketing material?
6. Outline your Marketing Channels and KPIs
Now it’s time to outline which marketing channels you want to use. There are more marketing channels available to you than you would ever get time to use, so defining the right ones for your business is vital.
You will want to divide your marketing strategy into customer journey stages and where they will fall. The Customer Journey has five stages:
Think about where each channel comes into your strategy. For example, when customers are researching, they may find your blog and sign up to the email list. But a constant bombardment of sales messages for your most expensive product is not going to convince them to buy. You’ll need to warm them up and convince them to purchase by showing them the benefits of your product. Then, once they have converted and you have shown they can trust you, you can upsell and retain the customer.
When looking at marketing channels, you’ll want to ensure you consider cost, effort and time associated with the activity. If you are a one-person business, SEO may become overwhelming, as building quality links and SEO-friendly content is incredibly time-intensive, especially when you are an SEO beginner. However, SEO has a fantastic effect on revenue, so it may be worth outsourcing any time-intensive but effective channels to an agency at the first opportunity you get.
You’ll also want to ensure that your brand message is consistent across all channels. Are you using the same tone of voice? Are you using the same look-and-feel across your channels?
7. Create your Campaign and Content Calendars
You’ll want to create your campaign calendar in a place where everyone in your business can see it. If you are remote, you might want to use a Google Sheet. If you’re in the office, dedicating a wall to the calendar may be helpful. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it works.
Ideally, you should start with your big overarching Integrated Marketing campaigns, for example, you might want to dedicate a quarter per campaign. For example, a Christmas campaign wil most likely run from November to December, but you might take September and October to start building the foundations for your campaign, with customer research or list-building in preparation.
Next, you should start looking at the smaller micro-campaigns. These include national days, product-specific promotions, film tie-ins and other relevant campaigns. These may be one-channel campaigns or short bursts of integrated marketing campaigns across a whole channel.
Once you have your campaigns, you can then build out your content calendar. You’ll want to ensure that your content ties back to a campaign in some way as this can help you to promote the content piece without it feeling forced.
8. Collect and Analyse Results
From your goals section, you should have a list of goals you want to achieve, now you need to see if you are achieving them. Your plan should include the KPIs and benchmarks. It is incredibly easy to get lost in analytics and graphs, as there are so many vanity metrics and numbers that are not a true reflection of the success you are aiming for.
Ensure whichever numbers you choose to track match back to the business goals.
Once you have completed these steps you should have the basics of a marketing plan. To take your campaign to the next level, consider hiring a marketing consultant or agency who can help bring your campaign to life.