In our last “What is…?” post, we demystified content marketing and explained it in layman’s terms. Now, we’ll do the same for another industry buzzword: the marketing plan.
A marketing plan is a document that outlines your current market position, marketing goals, and how you’re going to achieve them.
The marketing plan is the bridge between strategy and execution. There’s lots of different information you can include in this plan, but there are a few key items that should be covered:
1. Business overview
Summarize the research and discovery work you’ve done for your company here. This section could include highlights of your history, leadership, revenue, employees, overall business goals, and specific marketing goals (if they’re different than the overall ones).
Looking at your competition is one of the most important steps when developing your marketing because it allows you to identify what’s normal in your industry and creative ways to stand out. Make sure to research your competitor’s positioning, visual appearance (website, marketing materials, physical location, etc.), messaging, customer experience, and industry standards.
Once you know what your competitors are doing, you can make an informed decision about how to position your company. It’s impossible to be everything to everyone, so be as specific as possible. Think about your products or services, the benefits you provide, your specific target audience, and one or two things that make you unique and better from your competitors (remember to stay away from the defaults). It also may be helpful to brainstorm some talking points as a guide for talking about your business with others, do a SWOT analysis, and gather ways you can prove your claims (e.g., testimonials, facts, and figures).
Before diving into executing your plan, it’s crucial to do your homework and put some foundational pieces in place. At a minimum, this includes the 3 essential elements, a verbal style, and a visual identity. You can also incorporate more in-depth elements, such as a brand metaphor, guidelines for the customer experience, and an internal alignment plan.
It’s tempting to skip this step since many of us think we know exactly who our customers are. However, making assumptions or taking action based on incorrect information could result in a huge waste of time and money. Think about each of your target audiences, and get a mental picture of who they are. How old are they? What do they do for work? What’s their family like? What problems are they looking to you to solve? How do they make decisions? (See Amy’s video on decision modes for more help on that.) This information will help you craft the right strategy and message.
Now that you have all the necessary background information, you can start thinking about the specifics of your marketing campaign. Marketing costs can range from free to millions of dollars, so setting a budget will give you a good place to start. While budgets vary depending on industry, size, goals, etc., a standard rule of thumb is a growing business should be allocating 5-10% of revenue to marketing and advertising efforts.
7. Marketing ideas
This is where it gets fun! You’ve probably done a lot of brainstorming about all the places you could possibly advertise and promote your company. Narrow down all the options to the ideas that make the most sense for your budget, goals, and timeline. This plan doesn’t have to have every little detail about where and when you’re going to advertise, but it’s helpful to document some general tactics, such as content marketing, advertising (print, online, outdoor, event, etc.), social media, public relations, and more. (Check out our 40 Creative Marketing Ideas workbook for help with this part!)
So, you’ve decided where you’re going to advertise, but now, what will you say? Identify the 2-3 key points or promotions you want to convey to your audience, and stick to those. We all fall prey to wanting to tell people everything under the sun about our companies, but that can be confusing and overwhelming. Hone in on the things that matter most to them, not you.
When possible, it’s important to measure the results of your marketing efforts. Some channels are easier to measure than others, and numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story. However, they can give you a general idea of what’s working and what’s not. Identifying some ideas for measuring your campaign’s effectiveness will help keep you accountable later.
It may seem complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. A marketing plan comes back to the good ‘ol “who, what, where, when, why, and how” planning method. With a solid plan and motivated team in place, you have all the right tools to make your marketing a success.
If you need help putting your own plan together or have other suggestions on what to include, let’s chat!