Many entrepreneurs understand the importance of creating a business plan. However, they tend to overlook another vital document to a business’ success: the marketing plan.
Marketing is crucial. This department is responsible for creating and executing a communication strategy with customers. Marketing covers everything between determining who your customers are, how to reach them, how to attract them, and how to keep them.
How do you create a marketing plan? It can seem overwhelming for those who didn’t study the field, but in reality, all business owners can make one. With a sound knowledge of the market and the business, you can have a thorough marketing plan in five steps.
1. Define Your Business
The first step is to fully understand your business and what makes it unique. Here, you’re going to conduct a SWOT analysis. This is a common marketing technique that helps an owner identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
When assessing your strengths and weaknesses, only look at internal factors that are within your control. This includes your financial resources, physical resources, human resources, and intellectual property. Pinpoint what makes your products and services better than the rest, as well as where you may be coming up short.
Opportunities and threats refer to external factors that are beyond your control, such as marketing trends, economic trends, political conditions, demographic factors, and environmental factors. This will reveal possible opportunities you can leverage, as well as help prepare you for potential threats.
2. Define Your Target Audience
The next step is to define your customers. We suggest using the Buyer Persona technique because it helps in not only identifying your consumer segments but actually understanding them. Buyer personas are semi-fictional characters that represent your customer groups based on market research and your real customer data.
For this exercise, split your customers into segments based on commonalities. Then, focusing on one group at a time, create a single shopper to represent the whole segment. When creating these profiles, it’s important to go into details and include demographic factors (age, sex, family composition, earnings, geographic location, etc.) as well as lifestyle and personality attributes. Go as far as to give them a name and a face. This technique helps you get inside the heads of consumers to gain a deeper appreciation of their goals and challenges.
3. Define Your Goals
You need to establish your marketing goals. To avoid creating ambiguous or overly-specific objectives, follow the SMART goals method. Let’s review:
Specific: Be specific about what you want to accomplish. “I want to open three more locations in five years” versus “I want to grow my business fast.”
Measurable: Make sure you can track the progress of your goal. Which metrics can you follow?
Attainable: Be realistic. Set a goal that you know you can meet given your current resources.
Relevant: Choose a goal that makes sense. Does it align with your business and your other goals?
Time-based: Give yourself a target end date.
4. Define Your Marketing Tactics
Between out-of-home billboards, radio ads, social media ads, and pay-per-click campaigns, business owners are faced with a vast selection of marketing tactics to choose from. Take time to fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Remember that your customers are more or less receptive to different messages and media at varying stages of the buying journey. Focusing on one buyer persona at a time, map out their decision process, and determine which tactic is most appropriate at each stage. For example, when considering your younger demographic, social media may be the best way to raise their awareness. Then, once they’ve made a purchase, email campaigns may be a more influential option. And, once they become repeat customers, a digital loyalty program may be the optimal choice to keep them coming back.
5. Define Your Budget
The last step in your killer marketing plan is managing your budget. How do you want to allocate your marketing dollars amongst customer groups and marketing tactics? This will depend greatly on your particular business and overall company goals. If you’re a start-up, you’ll want to invest heavily in marketing tactics aimed at increasing brand awareness. On the other hand, if your business has been in operation for many years and you’re looking to boost sales, consider allocating more dollars to loyalty campaigns that encourage repeat purchases.
Now you’re all set. Whether you’re an entrepreneur about to jump into your first venture or a business owner of many years, it’s never too late to create a marketing plan. Turning data into actionable insights will help you better connect with your customers, and in turn, improve your small business.