President of the Bradford Dalton Group, Jeff is a former journalist with 30+ years of experience as a public relations professional.
Ready to reinvigorate your marketing? First, you need a plan. In this article, I’ll outline how to create a marketing plan for your business.
It is important to know what other people besides you think about your company, so spend some time before writing your marketing plan talking to employees, customers, shareholders and community members — anyone who is touched by your company. Probe to find out what they truly think and how they feel about the company. This cache of valuable information will form the basis for the SWOT analysis portion of your marketing plan.
During your research, be sure to ask people who they think your competitors are, and how your company stacks up against them. Then, to learn more, conduct secondary research by carefully reviewing competitors’ websites and reviewing any news coverage about them. Then, use a website like Semrush or Ahrefs to find out how well their websites perform: how many keywords they rank for, how many visitors they attract per month, what their authority score is, etc. Throughout this research, look for ways in which your company is similar to and different from competitors. Rank them from most to least competitive.
You can’t get where you want to go if you don’t know where you are. That’s why you want to start writing your marketing plan with an analysis of your internal situation (your company’s strengths and weaknesses) and the external situation in which you operate (the opportunities and threats in the marketplace). Mine the research you conducted, as well as your own insights, for this information. Be brutally honest. This is the basis for your entire marketing plan, so if you lie to yourself here, your marketing plan will likely be ineffective.
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The goals section of your marketing plan clearly lays out how you want your business to be different after the marketing plan has been carried out. And make sure they are SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound — so you’ll be able to clearly know whether or not they were met. For example, a SMART goal would be: “Increase annual sales by 10% by the end of the year.”
Objectives are the milestones you must hit in order to achieve your goals. Unlike goals, which are strategic — meaning that they bear directly on the success of your company — objectives are more tactical and generally pertain to the implementation of marketing tactics. For example, an objective might be: “To reach 5,000 sales prospects with an email campaign that has an open rate of at least 30% and a click-through rate of 5%.”
In this section of the plan, specify whom you intend to reach through your marketing efforts. Generally, this is your customers and prospective customers, but it could also be employees and prospective employees, if the goal is to find qualified job candidates, or community and government leaders, if you are seeking to deal with burdensome regulations or disgruntled factions of the community.
The message is what you want members of the target markets to know about your company in order to cause the behavior you are seeking, such as buying your product or service. Generally, the message is some form of the company’s unique selling proposition, or USP, which states the unique benefits your company offers and thus the reason for doing business with you instead of your competitors.
Tactics are the heart of a marketing plan — these are what you will actually do and how you will do it. The key is selecting the tactics that are most appropriate for your business and the goals you want to achieve. Selecting the best tactics generally requires the assistance of an experienced marketing professional.
Here’s a fairly exhaustive list of marketing tactics: awards and professional recognition; blogging; case studies and white papers; collateral such as brochures, flyers, sales sheets, etc.; digital advertising such as pay per click, banner ads, affiliate marketing, websites and remarketing; direct mail; email marketing; events including parties, seminars and panel discussions, and product and service announcements; inbound marketing; infographics; your logo and branding; native advertising and advertorials; promotions and contests; publicity; search engine optimization; speaking engagements; specialty advertising and swag; strategic partnerships; surveys; telemarketing; trade shows; traditional television and print advertising; videos; webinars; and word-of-mouth marketing.
Generally a month-by-month schedule of what will happen, a timeline lays out when each tactic will be deployed and for how long, and which tactics will run simultaneously in order to enhance their overall effectiveness.
In the budget section of your marketing plan, delineate how much money you will allocate for each marketing tactic.
It is possible, of course, to market without a plan — your marketing is just not likely to be effective without one. Unfortunately, the marketing efforts of many small businesses seem to largely be the result of sales efforts by advertising salespeople — that is, many business owners buy whatever they think is the best deal proffered by the local newspaper, radio station, television station or digital advertising agency. These totally unplanned, uncoordinated efforts can produce sporadic results, but usually not sustained growth. To get the most out of your marketing dollars, create a plan and stick to it.
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Author: Jeff Bradford, Forbes Councils Member