by Analuz Abing

December 20, 2019

Marketing 7 min read

9 Steps to Writing an Effective Marketing Plan

It’s every business’s goal to generate more sales.

But cold calls and random ads are not enough to keep the cash flowing. To attract, convert, and delight customers — you need a solid marketing plan.

A marketing plan outlines your marketing strategy for a given time. You can use it as a stand-alone document, or as part of your business plan.

If you’re opening a new business, launching a new product, or want to revise your existing marketing plan — follow these steps.

Follow These 9 Steps to Create a Marketing Strategy

Set clear marketing goals

Set clear marketing goals

What do you wish to achieve with your business?

Your marketing goals are your desired results. They give meaning to your marketing efforts — or why you’re doing them in the first place. They’re your driving force to reach success.

To develop smart goals, use the S.M.A.R.T. framework: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-based.

Here’s an example:

Goal:

By April 2020, we want to increase the total number of marketing-qualified leads by 30% through free trials, software demos, and newsletters.

This example shares a specific timeframe, measurable goal, and the action needed to achieve the goal.

Set KPIs/key metrics

Set KPI metrics

Are you anywhere close to achieving your marketing goals?

Setting and tracking the right marketing KPIs (key performance indicators) lets you measure your progress. It also helps you modify existing strategies and budgets.

So say your goal is to get a 30% increase in marketing-qualified leads.

Your KPI could be the traffic-to-lead ratio in a given timeframe. After generating this number, compare the before and after results to see how you fare.

If you get a positive result, congratulations! Continue to improve and monitor the strategies you have in place.

If not, don’t fret. You can always modify, adjust, and redo. For more on marketing KPIs, Impactbnd has an excellent list of KPIs you should be tracking right now.

Know your target market 

Know your target market

As the famous quote says, marketing to everyone is marketing to no one.

Your target market is the foundation of your whole marketing plan. It helps you develop more specific and relatable marketing messages.

Define your target market by mapping out your buyer persona.

A buyer persona is a fictional profile that represents the characteristics of your ideal customer.

Detailing your buyer persona helps you craft a better picture of who you’re marketing to — and how to structure your content.

This way, you won’t waste your time, effort, and marketing budget.

To map out your buyer persona, follow these steps:

1. Gather data about your target audience.

Research on the demographics and interests of your current customer base. Here are some ways to do it:

  • Social media analytics (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
  • Website analytics (e.g. Google Analytics)
  • In-depth customer interviews. Ask questions about their experience buying or partnering with you.

Don’t have customers yet? Check out these tips:

  • Do focus groups: Gather around 10 to 20 people in your target market. Conduct discussions on how they see your product and service.
  • Gather from your competitors’ customers: Take a look at their social media followers — or use competitor analysis tools like Sprout Social and SEMrush.
  • Do market research: This may cost you a little since you’ll need an agency to gather accurate results. But it’s a good investment if you want to learn more about your target audience.

2. Segment your audience.

Group your audience based on the data you’ve gathered. Arrange them according to demographics, psychographic characteristics, and buying behaviours.

3. Craft a persona profile for each segment.

Develop your persona profile by listing the following elements:

  • Title (e.g. Instagram influencers, breastfeeding mothers, university students, etc.)
  • Demographics: Age, gender, location, income
  • Personality: Interests and challenges
  • Quote: Include statements from real customer’s pain points
  • Goals: What would your persona achieve through your product?
  • Action: What steps should your persona take to reach those goals?
  • Motivations: What inspires them to take action?
  • Communication channels: How can you reach them? Through social media? Events? Your website? Or a mix of all channels?

Lay out your strategies

Lay out your marketing strategies

If you’ve defined your marketing goals and target audience, it’ll be easy to outline your strategies.

Marketing strategies are the actions needed to take to achieve your goals. Simply put, these are your specific marketing campaigns.

Let’s take our example from earlier:

Goal:

By April 2020, we want to increase the total number of marketing-qualified leads by 30% through free trials, software demos, and newsletters.

Sample actions:

  • Free trials - run search ads, release product-centric content, provide free trials to influencers or bloggers to review your product/service.
  • Software demos - host or join events related to your niche/industry, run ads in B2C platforms like Twitter or Facebook
  • Newsletters - create valuable content (i.e. eBooks and whitepapers) to get users to subscribe to the newsletter

Set your marketing budget

Set your marketing budget

A majority of marketing strategies involve trial and error — something that can be costly for small businesses.

So how do you know where to prioritise your spending? First, take a look at where your business stands.

Starting out? Set aside a budget for a logo and a company website.

As your business grows, so will your budget and need to grow your customer base.

Identify how your customers find you, what they need to know before clicking that BUY button, and the factors that influence their buying decision.

From there, you can create a marketing budget based on your current operational costs.

Remember, you don’t have to scrape every last dollar! There are marketing tools that you can get for free, and local events you can join without breaking the bank.

Study the competition

Learn about the competition

Who are your competitors? How do they promote their product/service?

No matter what industry or target audience, you’ll always have competitors. Studying them has its advantages, like giving you better insights about customer behaviour and letting you sharpen your unique selling points.

Some data samples you can get from competitors include:

  • Products/services features
  • Prices
  • Location
  • Messaging and tone
  • Reputation

You can even dig deeper by taking the SWOT approach:

Strengths: What sets you apart from your competitors? What makes your service/product unique from them?

For example:

  • Low-cost but high-quality products
  • A leader in product innovation
  • Highly satisfactory customer service
  • Established customer relationship
  • Award-winning products/services

Weaknesses: What areas need improvement? Are there key features that are not present in your service/product?

For example:

  • Poor online presence
  • Insufficient knowledge about target audience
  • Outdated manufacturing technology
  • Poor brand reputation
  • Lack of marketing budget

Opportunities: Do you see any potential channels to boost your profit? What industry trends or technological changes could you use to your advantage? Are there lifestyle changes in you target market that you could use as your strength?

  • Increasing popularity of social media
  • The rise of digital marketing (SEO, content marketing, paid ads, etc.)
  • Advanced manufacturing equipment
  • Upcoming events where you can promote your business (i.e. community, industry and charity gatherings)

Threats: What are the threats to expect to result from your weaknesses? What industry trend or lifestyle change could possibly harm your business?

  • Increasing number of competitors
  • Competitors are thriving online
  • Customers demand faster and more efficient service
  • Competitors’ ads are everywhere
  • Competitors offer the same product

How do you gather all these information?

  • Be their customer yourself. Contact or visit them. Then learn about their prices, sales strategy, and marketing approach.
  • Talk to their customers. Know what part of your competitor’s offer delights or frustrates customers. And gain insight on what made them choose this competitor over another.
  • Visit their website. The website is the digital representation of a business. It houses a lot of information. This makes it an easy source to learn about your competitors.
  • Conduct an online research Search your competitors on Google or look up online business directories. Directories are a great source of customer experiences because of customer reviews.

Identify your USP (Unique Selling Point) 

Identify your unique selling point

Why should customers buy from you? This is where your USP comes in.

A USP is what sets you apart from your competitors. It could be a key feature of your product or service that others don’t offer — the one strong benefit that makes you memorable.

Without a USP, you’ll get lost in the crowd and lose your target audience’s attention.

How do you determine your USP?

  • List down the features and benefits that are unique to your business and are not easy for your customers to imitate.
  • Match what emotional need your product or service satisfies. Interview or survey 15 to 20 people in your target market and determine what they like most about your product/service.
  • Create a short and concise catchphrase about the unique features of your product or service. Make sure it answers your customer’s question — “ What’s in it for me?”.

Develop your brand identity

Develop your brand identity

Your brand identity is the consistent look and feel you want your brand to appear as. It’s also a great way to differentiate your business from competitors.

Think of it as your unique personality and trademark.

Build your brand identity with these essentials:

  • Punchy slogan/tagline: Your tagline is the fastest way to tell customers why they should buy from you. Keep it simple, clever, and memorable.
  • Professional-looking logo: Like your slogan, remember to keep your logos simple. You may need to hire a pro artist to really capture your brand’s personality.
  • Brand voice: Your brand voice determines the tone used in your content and messaging. A law firm, for example, often uses a formal tone to establish an authoritative image. Brands in the creative industry, on the other hand, are fun and youthful.

Outline your marketing project management

Outline your marketing project management

When working as a team, you’ll need to lay out a clear project management plan. This gets everyone working in sync, minimising delays and miscommunications.

Your marketing project has different stages: initiating, planning, execution, monitoring and closing.

On each stage, make sure to set:

  • Goals and objectives
  • Tasks and responsibilities
  • Key approvers
  • Timelines/deadlines

Conclusion

A well-ironed marketing plan is like a roadmap to success. Think about it — it outlines all your marketing strategies from execution to finances.

Now that you’ve learned the different steps to creating a marketing plan, it’s time to gear up and start working on your own.

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