If you want to get to a specific place, you need a map. For the business world, that map is the marketing plan.
Having a well-developed marketing plan as a part of your advertising strategy is imperative for every business regardless of sector or size. However, there are still many companies that start advertising without having a clear marketing strategy or a concrete plan.
In this article, we will go through everything you need in order to create an effective digital marketing plan for your business.
Marketing Plan Definition
The definition of a marketing plan is a document that lays out the strategy (or strategies) you will implement in order to advertise, reach your target audience with your message, generate leads, and finally increase your sales. Your marketing plan will of course define your overall goals, but it should also include some of the smaller steps you will take in order to achieve those goals.
How to Create the Best Marketing Plan for Your Business
A marketing plan has to align with the overall objectives you want to achieve, so be sure to create a detailed plan that reinforces the commitment of your team and defines a long term vision. This will also improve the efficiency of your team and can even help prevent mistakes (and solve them rapidly if they are made).
When creating your marketing plan, organization is key. There are a series of elements that every plan should include and a logical order in which they should be carried out in order for the final result to be coherent and successful.
Below we will explain in detail the five basic sections of a marketing plan and what should be included in each of them. If you want to make the process even easier, you can download our marketing plan template here. This checklist contains 20 basic points that we recommend covering before setting anything in motion.
1. Analysis of the Current Situation
The first step is to analyze the current situation of your business. This step is necessary because, without it, you cannot define where you want to go.
With this analysis, you will be able to see the influence of external and internal factors. The external factors can include things like the overall social and economic situation in your industry or country or the particulars of the sector and market you work in. The internal ones refer to the business itself. For example, your team and resources.
To systemize the analysis and guarantee that you are not missing anything, you can always use the classic SWOT scheme: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Strengths are the positive internal aspects of the company, those that make it stand out from the competition and that make the team proud. In the strengths we find the key competitive advantage like having a highly qualified team, or being considered the best for X product.
- Weaknesses are the internal aspects of the company that are lacking, areas where the company is positioned below its competitors or which can be improved. To find them, pose questions such as, in which aspects are our competitors better or what things are we least satisfied with? Some examples of weaknesses could be lack of finances or a limited range of products.
- Opportunities represent the external factors that are in your favor and that can be used to the company's advantage. You can find opportunities by researching the current trends and changes within your target market. For example, there can be a legislative change that favors your brand or a product that you sell becoming a trend.
- Threats are external negative elements that can potentially affect you. They are the factors that can put your business in danger or reduce your market share. Identifying them quickly can help you neutralize them. To find them, pay attention to current changes and market trends. For example, new competitors could present a threat.
Besides SWOT, do a deep buyer persona analysis. Your buyer persona represents your ideal customer. It gives a name and face to your target market by creating a semi fictional representation of it. At minimum it should include the following sections:
- Who is your buyer? Here you'll need to pick up all the general information about your buyer profile, like demographic information and personal identifiers.
- How can your buyer persona help your business? Define the goals and the primary and secondary challenges of your buyer persona and explain how your business and brand can help him/her obtain them.
- Look at the challenges and needs of your customers and the most common complaints they have. Here, you can get some inspiration from the real comments you received during your research.
- Define the marketing and sales messages that will be communicated in order to reach this potential customer.
2. Benchmark Against Your Competitors' Products and Services
This is another aspect in the overall analysis of external factors, but it deserves its own section within the marketing plan due to the important role it plays in the future of your business.
After assessing who your main competitors are, you'll need to answer the following questions:
- What is their budget and their business volume? Big companies publish their annual or quarterly results, so the information is easily accessible. For smaller companies, you can try to ask for reports on databases such as einforma or asexor. You can also extrapolate based on data such as the number of employees on staff (LinkedIn is very useful in these cases) or the breadth of their catalog.
- What are the prices of their products or services? For B2C companies, this information is easy to find, while for B2B companies, you will have to do a little more research. Once you have this information, develop a price range and think of where you want to position your business.
- What is their sales process? From the first contact until conversion, the customer journey of your competitors can provide a lot of clues for your business. The most common way to find out about this is by playing the “client” role and asking for the information yourself.
- How do they get their clients? This refers to their marketing strategies. It is easy to find that out about their digital marketing strategies by checking their website, social networks, and any other digital channels. You can also use tools such as SEMrush and Google Alerts.
Now that the starting points are clear, you have to define where you want to go and how to get there. It's time to set your marketing objectives.
This is one of the most important steps in any marketing plan, and perhaps the most neglected. Many times the management team sets unrealistic objectives based more on their "wishful thinking" than on the real and current standing of the company. To avoid this, always base the objectives on the SMART acronym:
- S or "specific": the objectives must be specific. The "increase brand awareness" kind of goals are too broad because they could mean almost anything and be justified in many different ways. Instead, something like "increase brand mentions on social networks by 20%" would be more adequate.
- M or "measurable": to know if a goal has been achieved, you have to be able to measure it. Therefore, in addition to defining the objectives with precision, you also need to clarify how you are going to measure them. Using the previous example, you could decide to measure the amount of brand mentions on a monthly basis through the Social Mention tool.
- A or "achievable": Trying to become the next Amazon in two days only serves as a discouragement for your team. When you set objectives, you have to take into account the effort, time required, and other costs derived, always starting from your current situation. Then, you can establish whether the goal is realistic or not.
- R or "relevant": for example, many digital marketers aim to increase their website visits. But if those visits are not "high quality" and do not lead to any conversions, in reality, they don't mean anything. The marketing objectives have to respond to the business objectives and be relevant.
- T or "time-bound": every objective needs a time frame to make sense, so do not forget to define your deadlines.
4. Action Plan: Marketing Strategies
With all this work done, you have arrived to the heart of the marketing plan: what are the actions that will lead you to achieve your goals?
In this section, we will define the marketing strategies, always going from the broad to the specific. In the end, the steps to follow and the order in which they will be carried out need to be extremely clear.
To organize and classify the strategies, it is very common to use the famous "4 P of marketing":
- Product strategy. Even if you have a very well defined and positioned product line, changes always occur. For example, you can launch new products, change the positioning of existing ones or update packaging.
- Price strategy. Here it is very useful to analyze the information that you have about the competition. You need to define the launch prices of new products, consider whether you should make changes to those already on the market and, perhaps most importantly, decide the strategy around discounts, promotions and offers. Do not forget to take into account seasonal campaigns, like for summer, Black Friday, Christmas, etc.
- Sales and distribution strategy: if you have detected any weaknesses in the customer experience or simply want to optimize it, you can make changes in this area. For example, search for new suppliers, include new distribution channels such as online sales, improve delivery times, and reduce shipping costs.
- Promotion and communication strategy: here all the actions come into play to make your brand known through both online and offline media. Given the rapid evolution of the online marketing environment and the digital habits of consumers, this is one of the sections that you will have to review the most over time.
5. Real Time Review of the Plan
Last but not least, you have to keep in mind that your marketing plan is not a one time thing. You must constantly modify it so that it always responds to the changing needs of the company.
For this to happen, it's best to organize regular meetings to evaluate the progress of the plan. The following five points can serve as guides for this:
- Objectives: are the objectives set being met? Looking back, were they realistic, too ambitious, or did they fall short?
- Compliance: are you following the actions planned? If you have strayed, why is that? If this is the case, it does not always make sense to correct these deviations; sometimes it's better to modify the plan and adapt if it is working.
- Strategies: what are the most appropriate actions according to performance?
- Budget: does the plan fit the current budget of your business? How is the plan affecting the income and expenses? Is it necessary to make modifications?
- Review: refers to any modifications and extensions of the plan. For example, you can decide to complete the first version by adding a schedule of actions, assignments and tasks.
Marketing Plan Template
Once you have considered and analyzed the points above, you are ready to begin creating your own marketing plan. To get you started with this, we have a useful marketing plan template that you can access here. This will help you formulate your marketing plan and make sure that you are not missing any key steps or points.
All of the above will help set you on the path to success, as a great marketing plan will improve your ROI and results!