A lot of businesses see marketing as being the “secret” weapon for growing their business. In reality there is nothing secret about marketing – or at least there shouldn’t be.
Developing a marketing plan is key to business growth and writing down your plan will cement its importance: No plan = No Action.
Start your marketing plan by detailing your objectives – ensure that they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). Think about what you want your business to achieve. Do you want to improve sales by x%? Do you want to increase turnover by £XX,XXX and maintain a specific profit margin? If you don’t link your marketing to your business objectives you can’t expect the marketing to deliver the growth that you are looking for. In all cases it is important to begin with the end in mind.
Look at your target audience and define these groups and ensure that your product or service is still relevant to them. Consider each touchpoint that your potential customer has with your brand and how you can move them through that journey to become a loyal customer.
It is also worth taking some time to understand the competitive environment including your indirect competitors – businesses that may be vying for the same disposable income.
Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience and the marketplace you can start to look at tactical ways of reaching the audiences to deliver your objectives. Sometimes it is easier to split this into acquisition and retention activities but really it depends on your business and business model.
It is important to use tactical channels that will reach and positively influence your target audience. It is also important to take an integrated approach as using just one channel is unlikely to have an effect. A customer needs to be exposed to a minimum of seven things before they are likely to respond.
Don’t forget about the role of digital – it can no longer be viewed as an add-on it needs to be an integral part of your tactical plan.
Whilst thinking about the tactics keep relating them back to your customer groups and cross-checking which activities will reach which groups to ensure that you are able to communicate your offering to all your potential customers.
Punctuate your with measures that will allow you to review progress to ensure that you are on-track to achieve your objectives. And remember sometimes you need to retain some flexibility – for unknown opportunities that may arise, and for when things don’t work or an external factor changes.
Assign a budget to your plan and consider the resources necessary to implement the plan – do you have the time and skills in house to deliver? Should you consider outsourcing?
Whilst some aspects of marketing are considered to be ‘free’ many businesses neglect to think about the opportunity cost of these channels. What could you be doing instead, and what would that generate for your business?
At all times make sure that you measure the effectiveness of the plan and the tactics. It is no good pouring 80% of your budget into PR if you don’t know if it is generating sales – how many and of what value? And any repeat business? Measurement and evaluation will allow you to refine your plan in future years.
One final thing – don’t file your plan away – to work it needs to be accessible and used. The best marketing plans are covered in scribbles and coffee stains.