Step 1: Draft an executive summary
Start by drafting an Executive Summary that is a brief outline of everything your plan will map out. Circle back when you’ve completed the plan to revise, refine and finalize the overview. Make sure it accurately reflects all the elements you’ve included.
Step 2: Research
Research is essential to the development of a sound marketing plan as it gives you the chance to analyze industry trends, look at the competition, and gather feedback on your own brand. Create a framework for surveying key constituencies who know your business. This could include talking with your leadership team, employees, customers, non-purchasers, and other stakeholders. What do they think of your brand, products, services, communications, specific features, and their direct and indirect experiences with the company? What emotions does interacting with the brand elicit? Ask them the same questions about your competition. With this exercise, you will be collecting valuable information about preferences and influences that impact your bottom line.
Step 3: Do a deep dive into the competition
A competitive audit assesses the activities of key competitors. It looks at a variety of topics, including their branding, brand attributes, positioning in the marketplace, messaging, content, visibility, and revenue sources, to name a few. It helps identify gaps where you may have a potential edge and deficiencies where your offerings may be at a disadvantage. This exercise helps you sharpen your focus, differentiate your brand, and ultimately excel relative to the competition.
Take a look at the marketing materials of your competitors. Do their websites tell their story in a clear, concise, and effective way? Are they user-friendly? Are their CTAs easy to navigate? What about their graphics or messaging do you like? Are their commercials memorable? Does their video pack a punch? Does their Instagram gallery look integrated? Are their audiences engaging with their content? Are they spending a lot of money on digital advertising? These are just a handful of the possible questions you could ask as you evaluate their activity. Then ask yourself…how can our brand do better and be distinctive? The competitive audit may be part of the initial research or a standalone task.
Step 4: Do a SWOT analysis
Analyze your company’s Strengths and Weaknesses (internal assessment) and the Opportunities and Threats in the marketplace (external environment). The research performed at the outset of this process will help inform the SWOT and then you can use it as a springboard for discussion with team members. Be honest and brainstorm in an open style. This simple exercise is a strategic planning technique that helps you uncover potential strategic improvements for your business.
Step 5: Define your business goals
Are you trying to gain more customers and close more sales? Are you trying to distinguish yourself from the competition in the field? Are you trying to introduce yourself to a new market or community? Do you want social commerce to become a revenue driver? All of these are valid goals and you may have more than one! Just be clear about these intentions. Use the SMART method of goal-setting: make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Step 6: Establish strategic guiding tools: mission, vision, and USP
Write a mission statement to showcase your purpose and add clarity to the goals. What is your brand’s reason for being? A mission statement will help everyone in your sphere understand and get behind you. REI does an exceptional job of this. Its mission focuses mostly on what it wants to do for its customers, but the mission statement also highlights another goal of preserving the environment. Their focus on “getting outside” is what creates a connection between the brand and its customers.
Write a vision statement that sets the tone for the direction you want to take the company. It defines the business purpose and outlines common goals for all stakeholders, especially for your team. It is future-thinking and sets a long-term reason for implementing all the marketing initiatives today. As an aspirational representation of the goals, a vision statement can help get everyone aligned and build enthusiasm for the mission.
Defining your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) sounds simple, but it requires some honest introspection. Look at where your brand’s real muscle lies! Sharply identify what sets you apart in the competitive landscape. What problem do your products or services solve that no one else can? Integrate these distinguishing features into your messaging in a cohesive and reinforcing way.
Step 7: Define your target audience and design CJMs
Clearly identify the profiles, demographics, and emotional characteristics of your target customers. Understand their needs and wants, as well as their general preferences including media consumption patterns and other influences that impact their decision-making. Create buyer personas that delve into the details of what motivates your customers, their pain points, and what their buyer journeys look like. Understanding your audience will inform which target media you invest in.
Then map out how the potential customer moves through its decision-making journey by creating Customer Journey Maps. This will help you improve your targeting and lead gen effectiveness. Examine the steps they take at each stage of the funnel: Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, and Loyalty. Take into consideration their emotions and what influences them. More on this in another newsletter.
Step 8: Craft your marketing strategy
Use all the groundwork you’ve developed in the earlier stages to develop an actionable strategy and tactical plan to reach your goals. This will outline how you will promote your product or service to your target audience. Include categories for tactics such as content strategies, advertising, public relations, social media, email marketing, content marketing, events, and more. We will elaborate on the details of the strategy in a future article.
Step 9: Determine how you will measure success
A good marketing plan includes metrics for measuring success. In fact, the imperative to prove marketing effectiveness is becoming ever more important, and in turn, the number of martech tools has exploded to accommodate this demand. Decide what key performance indicators (KPIs) you will assess and report on. Brand awareness is difficult to measure but you could employ social listening tools to gauge mentions and interest in the social arena. Google Analytics tracks a plethora of data from how many people visit your website to the pages they visit, how long they stay on the site, and where they exit. Take advantage of the tools available today to track activity and measure against your goals.
Step 10: Set the timeline
Establish a timeline for implementing your marketing plan, including milestones, deadlines, and progress reports for each tactic. Identify who will be responsible for the various parts and what the process and accountability milestones will be. While the team will no doubt veer off the schedule at some points and there must be some flexibility in the process, the document will serve as a guidepost to help ensure that you ultimately stay on track and meet your goals. Prepare a month-by-month schedule and define when each tactic will be deployed and what the duration will be. Visually show which elements run simultaneously to amplify impact.
Step 11: Define your marketing budget
Determine how much you can afford to spend on your marketing efforts and allocate your budget to the tactics that will be most effective in reaching your target audience. You may assign the budget earlier as you map out the tactical plan, or you may draft a dream plan with no limits and then reign it back in to meet a digestible budget.
As you wrap up, be sure to write a conclusion to reinforce the plan’s objectives. Also, make sure to keep notes about what you’ve intentionally omitted in the plan, such as any ideation that was not included. Keep it on hand for future brainstorming. Schedule time to revisit the marketing plan at regular intervals to gather feedback and see if the roadmap is meeting your goals. If the plan isn’t on target, evaluate and revise.
For guidance on writing a marketing plan, contact us today.