Marketing is a key factor in the success of your business. To be successful you need to have established who your customers are, how you reach them, how you win new customers and how you keep existing customers happy. On top of all this you need to constantly review and analyse what you do to make sure you stay ahead of the competition.
An effective marketing plan will cover all of these points and be linked to, and complement, your overall business strategy.
Why a marketing plan?
The aim of being in business (to most people, that is) is to make money and selling to more customers is usually a way to achieve this. A successful marketing plan will move those in your target market further up the tree, preferably to the point where they recommend you to others …
Recommend you to others
Interested in what you offer
Aware of what you do
No idea you exist
The main factors to be considered for inclusion in your marketing plan are:
- Desired Result – Why are you conducting a marketing campaign? It could be to increase sales to achieve a certain number of customers, or to generate a certain amount of turnover. It could be to reach a new audience, such as break into the consumer market having successfully established your product/service in the corporate market.
- Unique Selling Points (USPs) – Most products and services have unique selling points – a feature, price or other attribute that makes what you do attractive to customers and different to the competition. Once you have established your USP/s your marketing plan will maximise the benefit of them to your target market/s
- Timescale – When creating a marketing plan it is important to set a timescale. Are you embarking on a short-term, medium-term or long-term marketing campaign? The objectives you set (with measurable targets) need to be relevant and measurable in the timescale you set.
- Target Market/s – You need to know who you want to reach to make sure you don’t waste time, money and effort marketing to people who are not interested or relevant to what you do, e.g. if you are a high-end web design company there is little point aiming your marketing at OAPs!
- Objectives – Each objective you set needs to be SMART, i.e.
Specific – e.g. win ten new customers
Measurable – place a value to check whether the objective is met
Achievable – if you can’t achieve the objective don’t set it
Realistic – you must have the necessary resources to meet the objective
Timely – set a deadline rather than leave the objective open-ended
Once you have determined why you are conducting a marketing campaign (desired result), why customers will buy your product/service (USP/s), how long you want your marketing campaign to run for (timescale), who your audience is (target market), and what you want your marketing to achieve (objectives), you are nearly ready to write your marketing plan.
You now have the bread for your sandwich, but where’s the meat? The bulk of a marketing plan consists of what you are going to do to reach your target market/s – the meat in the sandwich.
The meat in your marketing sandwich is the marketing tools you use to get your messages across. There are many marketing tools at your disposal but not all will be relevant so just choose those which are most appropriate. The list below is not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, but it gives you a flavour of the range of activities you can put in place to promote your business:
- Direct Mail – e.g. brochures, flyers, sales letters
- Newsletter – printed or electronic
- Public / Media relations
- Sales Promotion – e.g. special offers
- Promotional Items – giveaways, such as mouse mats, pens
- Promotional Material – brochures, leaflets, flyers
- Events / Exhibitions
Month-by-Month Activity Plan
Once you have decided what tools you need to reach your target market/s then you need to put a month-by-month plan together.
This plan shows what activities you will do and when and puts a corresponding cost to each activity allowing you to plan your budget and resources accordingly. This way, you can see what you need to do and when in order to meet your overall desired result.
Top Tips for an Effective Marketing Plan
- Set clear, realistic and measurable objectives
- Set deadlines for meeting objectives
- Set a budget for the campaign and schedule activities accordingly
- Ensure one person is responsible for the plan’s execution and delivery
- Regularly review your progress – learn from your achievements and failures and amend the plan accordingly – your plan shouldn’t be set in stone.
The Alternative …
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to” said the cat.
“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go” said the cat.
If, like Alice in Wonderland, you don’t have a precise idea of which direction you want to take then ad-hoc pieces of marketing will serve you well. If, on the other hand, you have a sound idea of where you want your company to be then a marketing plan will get you there.
It’s your call.