Having recently reworked our own marketing plan, we thought it would be a good time to share some pointers with you. Before we delve into the process, we’ll make sure you understand what a marketing plan is and why it is important. Simply put, a marketing plan is an outline that covers the what, when, why and how of marketing a business. Marketing plans can be long and extensive or short and sweet. It all depends on the size of your business, your budget and your goals.
Having a marketing plan will help your business be more effective and make your life easier because:
- Marketing plans can help regulate business and alleviate down time (if implemented properly)
- Marketing plans help you stay more connected with your customers/clients
- Marketing plans help you budget in advance for promotions
- Marketing plans can help you keep your business focused
- Marketing plans can change the way customers perceive a business
Now that you know what a marketing plan is and why it is important, it is time to get started. Below, is our suggested process broken down into four easy steps.
Step 1: Get ready
The following three questions may seem simple, but they may take some thought to answer and they will set the tone for the rest of the process.
When will you work on your plan?
Determine when you will work on your plan. Every business owner or operator can agree that one of the most common reason for not working on their business is they don’t have time. You can solve this one of two ways:
- Take notice of when business is a little slower (it might be a season or time of day) and use this time to work on your plan. You may not be able to control when the time comes, but you can control how you use your time when it is there.
- Make the time. Take a couple of long lunch breaks, schedule time in like you would a meeting, sacrifice a weekend - whatever it takes. This is going to be time very well spent, so don’t feel bad about using your time this way.
Where will you work on your plan?
Designate a place you will work on your marketing plan. Sitting down at your work desk will tempt you to check your email, “quickly” finish that thing you started yesterday, or address a million other work-related tasks that could be done. We suggest finding a place away from your work. This can help you clear your head and gain new perspective. Go to your favorite coffee shop, conference room, local library, or even your kitchen table. If this is not possible and you have to work in your office, at least turn off or close anything that could distract you from the task at hand.
How will you document your plan?
When choosing your method for writing your plan, consider how many people will be using it and how often will you have to access it. Some online tools that might be helpful to use are Evernote, Trello or Google products. Using services like this makes it easier for multiple people to quickly access and contribute to it. You could also simply use Pages or Word and create a typed document saved on your server. To keep yourself (or others) accountable, you could utilize a calendar system for tasks, due dates and alerts. Remember: what works for one business might not work for you. You might use all of these, none of these, or a combination of these. You will have to determine what is best for you or your team.
Step 2: Get inspired
Think about businesses you use repeatedly or were excited to use for the first time. After you determine these businesses, think about these questions:
- What do they do that keeps you going back?
- What did they do that made you try them for the first time?
- What do you think their goals are?
- How do you think they are meeting their goals?
- What can you learn from them?
Then, look at the marketing of your competitors. Consider these questions:
- What are they doing that is effective?
- Is there anything that is not effective about their marketing?
- How will your marketing differ?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses compared to you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses compared to them?
Step 3: Get writing
Now that you are ready and inspired, you are prepared to begin writing your plan. Below are aspects to think about that will help your marketing plan take shape. Remember that these areas may not apply to you at the current moment. Try to develop a plan that you can implement now and keep in mind you can continue to develop your plan as you grow.
What is your mission?
What are your services and/or products?
What do you want to achieve through your marketing?
- Customer loyalty
- Gain new clients
- Build reputation & authority
- Grow awareness in community
Who is your market?
- Age range
- Common interests
Keeping the above in mind, what avenues will you utilize to reach your market?
- Promotional products or apparel
- Social media
- Networking with community
How often will you use these avenues?
- Google AdWords, Facebook ads, or other online advertisements
- Website domain, hosting, maintenance, development
- Printing & mailing
Step 4: Get results
The last step is to implement your plan. Stick to your plan and wait a few months before you make any evaluations of effectiveness. If you find that you are not meeting your goals, you may need to adjust your plan.
As a small company ourselves, we understand the challenge of this task and know it is a lot to process. If you find that after you get started you need a little guidance, we are here to help so don’t be afraid to reach out.