Do I need a marketing plan? Why?
As marketing is critical to pretty much every B2B and B2C business, then formalising your marketing strategy and plan is paramount to your success.
So, let's take a look at what the advantages of creating an effective marketing strategy and what it should include:
What is a 'proper' marketing strategy and plan?
It is a written document which outlines and then details your marketing plans over a given period. The period you chose and the remainder of the format is quite flexible.
There is absolutely no need to produce a large, highly detailed document. For most small and growing businesses, it can be a short document which simply highlights the form your marketing activity will take, the timings and the intended budget.
For those who prefer a larger, more detailed document, you can include all the analysis, decision making and details you used to create your strategy. Regardless of your chosen format, it should reference your customer base.
So, what do I put in my marketing strategy and plan?
When I create a fully detailed, comprehensive marketing strategy and plan for a client, it will invariably include the following:
Background and objectives – the company's journey and what it hopes to achieve over the agreed time period of the plan.
Market analysis – of their products and services, competitors and market conditions.
Existing marketing analysis – a review of all marketing collateral, like websites or brochures they have created and used to date, and any lessons to be learnt.
SWOT analysis – Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats - brainstorming the SWOT analysis is especially good for identifying opportunities to exploit and threats to overcome.
Marketing channel mix – considering the right blend of strategic, digital or traditional (offline) marketing to achieve their desired objectives.
Messaging – developing the right core messaging and tone to communicate whatever the marketing method used. Depending on their various audiences, this may differ, particularly when a business has trade and consumer arms.
Plan and visual chart – breaking down the what, when and how much (including budgetary controls). This can be on excel, a Gant chart, or a platform like Trello.
KPIs – or key performance indicators identified and other ways to measure the success of chosen activities.
Remembering that most small businesses are still developing and have resource limitations, you will probably find that you do not need every section to be present in your final marketing strategy and plan.
For those wanting a smaller, more concise document, you can create something which considers your audiences, how you will reach them via your chosen marketing channels, key messages for each audience or channel and a visual representation of what you will do, when and the expected results.
Why do I need to draw up a marketing strategy and plan?
There are some clear advantages to drawing up a plan, however detailed.
Gets your team on the same page, so you all know what you are doing, when and why.
Gives you some accountability. Drawing up a marketing plan makes it real for most small business owners, however simple it is.
It clarifies your objectives for the chosen timescale and gives you a framework to build your business.
It helps you understand what promotional activities work for your business so you can increase those that work and park those that do not.
It helps you make the right decisions. Guesswork rarely works in business! Following a clear and measurable path makes decisions better and more suitable for your business's specific circumstances.
It makes you make time to promote your business. Not giving marketing sufficient time or resources is one of the most common mistakes we see in marketing.
It helps you keep on track. We've all done it... Started out with a clear goal that has morphed into something entirely different. In marketing, the usual reason an objective never gets achieved is that the efforts applied are not consistent.
A marketing plan will help you and your team review, revise if needed, and consistently stick to your business messaging and tone.
Whilst, particularly in these changing times, it is essential to be flexible and adapt to different conditions, sticking to your original goals often gives the best chance of success.
On the flip side of the point above, it is important to be pragmatic and change tactics which do not work. Knowing they are not working rather than guessing it is a different thing, though. Your marketing plan will have KPIs or measurables, so sticking to it and gaining a solid view of the results of your activity will give you the evidence to change tactics.
There are some other solid reasons as well. These include:
Selecting the right marketing channels.
Almost every client I visit feels they need to focus on digital marketing. But do they? Picking your marketing channels is critical. You need healthy discussions about what channels to choose, which channels to lose, and how integrating your marketing approach should work to get better results.
To select your channels, digital or traditional, take a look at your customers first. Where are they likely to be hanging out? What do they respond to? Consider how they hear about products and services, where they research their purchase and what type of activity will hit their eye line. Creating a written marketing strategy and plan allows you to formally have these discussions and consider your options.
You can check out what your competitors are doing and where but be mindful that their business and resources might be different from yours, and you will not be aware of which type of activity is really bringing them results.
Finally..... Set your milestones and methods of measuring success.
If you don't set your goals for your chosen period, how will you know when you've succeeded?
Setting purely statistical milestones for marketing can be a little misleading, so don't always focus on numbers, like email opens or social media engagements. Instead, a formal marketing strategy and plan can help you identify the actions which lead to the desired outcomes. If you are building brand awareness, make sure you have enough activity going on to ensure you are regularly in your potential client's eye-line. If your focus is purely on generating sales, focus on purchase-led activities, but take care not to overdo it and turn people off. This is where building your sales funnel also comes into play - but that's a whole other blog!
Remember the time element too. Building brand awareness and customer confidence take time. Marketing results typically follow a curve – with results slow to build before they increase as momentum builds!
A successful marketing strategy is typically at the heart of what I deliver for clients, helping turn their business aspirations into a reality. If you feel you need to review your marketing to make the most of the economic changes, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org