How to create a marketing plan

| June 21, 2016

How to create a marketing plan

If you want to succeed with your marketing endeavours it’s essential to put together a marketing plan. For small businesses, this doesn’t have to be overly complex, but rather a simple, systematic plan to target the right audience, with the right benefits and in the right way.

Know your customers

The first step is to take a look at your potential market. This means understanding your customers and how your products and services fulfil their needs. Try and work out the ideal customer you want to attract.

Sell your benefits

Next take a look at your business and work out your strengths, how you stand out from the competition. Perhaps your business offers a 24-hour emergency service or is open on weekends. Also look at your business goals, what you want to achieve? For example, you may run a restaurant and would like to expand into home delivery. Combining these two areas should give you some clear benefits you offer customers. These benefits will be the message you want to send out in your marketing.

Choose your marketing tools

From here you need to decide which marketing tools you want to put in place to get these messages across to your target market. Tools may include print advertising, monthly newsletters or flyer drops. As well as selling your products and services, your marketing tools should educate the audience as well.

Plan ahead

Ideally your marketing plan should cover a year, so you should be scheduling well ahead. Timing is everything with successful marketing campaigns and you need to give yourself time to implement each aspect. If you have a calendar clearly marked with each upcoming event or action, you won’t rush anything through. This is especially true if you have a seasonal business, e.g. lawn mowing. Make sure you’re marketing hits when people are beginning to think about your service.

What does this cost?

Another aspect to take into consideration at the initial planning stages is how much this will cost. Don’t look at marketing solely as a cost; it’s an investment in achieving your business goals. If you know well in advance the price of each marketing activity, you can budget and it won’t unexpectedly drain your finances. Also consider inexpensive activities like a social media push.

Get the plan in writing

Once you’ve decided on a marketing plan, get it in writing. Ideas can be lost if they’re not recorded somewhere and easy to access. For small businesses, the simple approach is often the best.

The plan can be divided into four columns. The first column is marketing actions, e.g. local paper advertising, writing for a trade magazine, social media presence.

The second is the end results you hope to achieve with these actions, e.g. attract clients, increase followers on Facebook.

The third column is for the actual physical steps you need to take achieve these marketing actions, e.g. have a flyer designed.

Finally the last column lists when you are going to do these activities. Some will be one offs and others recurring activities. Keep referring to the plan and your marketing will run smoothly.