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You’ve done the hard work and started your own business. Congratulations—it’s no small feat. As you’ve likely realized by now, though, launching a small business is only the beginning of your to-do list. A business owner’s job is never done, after all.
One of the most important tasks all businesses need to complete is deciding what their marketing strategy will look like. This is a significant undertaking, but once you’ve gathered all your information you can create a marketing plan to detail how you’ll implement all your ideas.
You may not have considered marketing when you first started your business, but you want to make sure as many people as possible to learn about your products, services, or establishment. How can you improve your reach, grow your brand awareness, and increase sales? Why, by learning how to write a marketing plan, of course. Let’s get started.
A marketing plan can be a huge help for growing your business. Any good entrepreneur worth their salt knows that simply putting one foot in front of the other will move you on the path to success. In fact, this is why you created your business plan when you first started your business, so you’d know what steps to take to successfully launch your company. Sometimes your customers need a path too. A marketing plan can help guide your customers to your services or products.
You can use a marketing plan to not only plan out your marketing strategy, but also as a guidebook to learn more about your business. Even if you aren’t a new business owner, you’ll want to consider writing a marketing plan straight away. Keep reading for the key steps for writing a marketing plan.
When writing your marketing plan, you should think about your short-, medium-, and long-term goals. You’ll outline the actions you’ll need to meet your goals as well as review your market research, budget, and how you’ll measure success. Your goals could be broken down by what you want to accomplish in the next month, quarter, year, and several years—or other periods of time that are meaningful to your business. You’re in the driver’s seat, so customize your marketing plan to your suit your business’s needs.
Getting started is easy. You’ll begin writing a marketing plan by briefly summarizing your marketing goals and how you plan to achieve them. You can also summarize your marketing team and, if your business has been around for some time, provide a recap of your past marketing efforts, what worked, and what you learned.
While you’ll go into more detail later on in your marketing plan, you may also include an overview of your target market, who your customers are, and what your competition—and their marketing campaigns—looks like.
If you want to be extra organized, you can also add a table of contents here so your readers have an overview of what’s included in your marketing plan. Essentially, this section should help the reader understand what to expect throughout the plan. Right now, you’re focused on selling this marketing plan to you and your team.
Marketing is important for all businesses of any size. But every business will have their own needs, budgets, and, most importantly, goals. Growing sales is not the only indicator of a business’s success. You can set a variety of business goals you’d like your marketing plan to obtain over the next month, quarter, or years.
A business that finds new customers easily may want to focus on retaining their customers for longer periods of time. On the other hand, ecommerce businesses may want to increase the time their visitors stay on their website. Perhaps you want to create a campaign that encourages customers to leave good reviews about your products. Or, maybe you want to grow your social media following.
Ideally, all goals will lead to increased income and growth. But breaking down that overarching goal into smaller, actionable steps, will help make achieving your goals easier. With each goal, though, be sure to detail why it’s important to your business and what results you’re hoping to see from each. Once you’ve identified your goals, you’ll be able to design specific marketing campaigns to help you work toward them.
No matter what your marketing goals are, you’ll want to conduct market research to figure out the best way to achieve them. Market research is something your entire business should take advantage of—especially when it helps you identify your target market (aka who you want to sell to, where you’ll find them, what their interests are, etc.). If you’ve already created a business plan, chances are you already have plenty of market research that you can easily incorporate when writing your market plan. Ideally, you should take the following steps while conducting your market research.
Now that you have a handle on who you’ll be marketing your business to, the next step in writing a marketing plan is to explore your competition, as well as your own business’s strengths and weaknesses. Looking at outside competitors as well as internally can help you see the big picture when it comes to how you can better reach your audience and spread brand awareness. Let’s take a closer look at two types of analyses you should conduct.
Taking an honest and close look at both your own company, as well as those around you, can better inform your marketing plan and help you identify opportunities to effectively market your business.
When writing your marketing plan, you should clearly lay out what your marketing efforts will look like. You don’t need to do all the work now or have all the answers, but you should be able to determine what you want to get done, as well as how you will get there—or what you still need to figure out to get there. This will give your team, or just yourself, a look at what your upcoming marketing efforts and goals will look like, as well as what everyone’s roles will be to make them happen. Consider breaking down your plans by the following factors:
You can discuss logistics like timelines and creative direction later. You don’t want to get too into the weeds at this stage of your marketing plan; rather, you want to provide a high-level look at your marketing strategy.
At this point, you’ve identified exactly how you plan to market your business and you should have a general idea of what these efforts will cost. If you’re still unsure, take the time to research and talk to outside sources to lock down ballpark figures. Some of your marketing efforts may require very little capital. For example, you may choose to start promoting your business on your brand’s social media pages more. But other marketing plans can be more cost-intensive, like if you want to purchase Facebook ads to boost your brand reach or upgrade your business website to look more professional.
A very important part of writing this plan is creating a marketing budget. If you don’t have an appropriate budget and funds ready to execute your marketing plan, then your efforts could fall apart mid-year. In the budget section of your marketing plan, you’ll break down very specifically what each area of your marketing plan will cost.
Take it a step further. Say you want to rent billboard space. At first glance it will seem like you need to budget for materials and rent. But there are sneaky costs you may not realize at first. For example, do you need to hire a graphic designer to create the art for the billboard? Do you need a copywriter to come up with flashy text? Perhaps someone on your team will require time and resources to do proper market research before you land on a location for your billboard. Break down every cost you’ll encounter so you don’t run into any expensive surprises later—surprises that can risk derailing your entire marketing plan.
You know what your goals are and have an idea of how you want to get there. But do you know how to track your success? Just because your sales go up, it doesn’t mean your marketing plan is necessarily worthy of all the credit. To be sure that your marketing efforts are responsible, you need to find a way to measure the results of your marketing plan. The last thing you want is to continue spending on an ineffective method because you didn’t identify the true source of growth. For instance, positive Yelp reviews may be the key to your success, not those flyers you’ve been handing out around town.
So, you need to find a way to determine if your efforts have been successful. How can you do this? For digital advertisements, tracking links may do the trick. For more traditional marketing efforts, the occasional customer survey can shed light on how they discovered your brand.
Before you revamp your marketing efforts, establish a baseline. Have a clear idea (and the numbers to back you up) of where you started. Log whatever data is relevant to tracking the success of your efforts. Page views, sales, media mentions, etc. You should update this log frequently, on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. Perhaps even weekly for smaller projects such as creating social media content.
Essentially, in this section you will identify what your marketing plan’s KPIs (key performance indicator) are. A KPI is a measurable value that can prove how effectively your business is achieving its key objectives. Both individuals and organizations can use KPIs to evaluate their success.
Then, once your marketing plan has been executed, you can use the data to determine what worked, what failed, and how you can better your marketing efforts in the future.
Like all areas of business, there is no getting around hard work. A high-quality marketing plan may take weeks or even months to create. Analytical, creative, and research skills are all required to create a plan that can lead your business to success.
When learning how to write a good marketing plan, it’s important to give yourself the time you need to create a thoughtful plan. Now is not the time to rush. If you are lucky enough to work in a team, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Their insight and ideas could prove invaluable.
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