Marketing Plan Essentials

When you started your business, likely one of the first things you did was create a business plan. While you were busy formalizing your business objectives, goals, financials and competitive positioning, you may have overlooked another type of plan essential to your business’ success: a marketing plan.

A marketing plan details the “how” behind hitting your sales goals. Who is your target audience? How will you reach them? What will you tell them when you do? If you’ve never completed a marketing plan before, or your current one could use some refreshing, here’s four things to be sure to include.

  1. Situation analysis: In this section, you’ll take a deep dive into the market forecast and competitive landscape. Is your product or service first-to-market or are you entering a highly saturated space? How does the current state of external factors, such as the economy or the government, affect your business? This is also the place to look at your competitors and perform a SWOT analysis – details regarding your offering’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It can be tempting at first to want to be all things to all people, so this analysis should help you pinpoint exactly why customers would choose you over another competitor. This is what you will focus your marketing around.
  1. Target audience: This section is fairly straightforward in that it answers the question: who would buy this? The more targeted you can make your customer profile the better. Your ideal customer should be defined by both demographic and behavioral information. Demographics can include factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, education level, marital status and geographic location. Behavioral information can encompass things like past purchase patterns and motivation for buying.
  1. Marketing tactics and goals: If you’re taking the time to formalize a plan, clearly you see the benefits marketing can have to your sales goals. In order to justify your marketing budget, you’ll need to establish marketing-specific goals that you can track. Try to make these goals time-bound and measurable. For example, “I want to increase sales 30% YOY.” Once you have established your goals, you’ll need a plan of action to accomplish them. That’s where the marketing tactics come in. Perhaps you’ll increase your yearly sales by developing a customer referral plan or investing in your website to generate more inbound leads.
  1. Detailed budget: Marketing costs money, and if you don’t have a way of tracking the ROI on your marketing efforts, it can be hard to justify the spend. That’s why it’s important to align your budget with the goals and tactics you outlined above. If you devote $10,000 to incentivize customer referrals, then by the end of the year you should be able to see exactly how much revenue was generated as a result. It takes a considerable amount of trial and error to determine which marketing tactics and channels resonate most with your target audience, so start with small investments until you’ve proven their effectiveness and then scale as you see fit.

The Bottom Line

A stellar product or service will never come to fruition without someone to consume it. The foundation of your business growth should be a well-defined marketing plan. For an effective marketing plan, make sure to perform a situational analysis, define your target audience, outline your marketing goals and tactics, and set aside a budget.