A marketing plan helps you identify your goals, understand your customers, craft your story and define your competitive advantage and value proposition. While most entrepreneurs and executives understand the value of a well-crafted marketing plan, the prospect of actually creating the plan can be daunting.
While writing the entire marketing plan in one sitting can be a little overwhelming, breaking the process up into manageable steps makes it a lot easier. This article illustrates how to create a marketing plan over the course of a week – perfect for small businesses.
Monday – Set Your Goals
To get started, think big. Where is the current state of the organization and how do you want it to evolve over the next year? Your marketing goals can focus on products, customers or revenue. When developing goals, I like to use the SMART framework. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Examples may include:
- Grow sales in Region X by 10% before December 31, 2020, by implementing a content marketing strategy that engages our most likely prospects.
- Achieve a 50% awareness rate among likely buyers for our new product by the start of the second quarter. Likely buyers are defined as purchasing managers at the following organizations.
- Improve our Net Promoter Score (NPS) from 8.3 to 9.0 before September 1, 2020, by developing and publishing an online tutorial library addressing top customer concerns.
Tuesday – Define Your Segments
Now that you know where you want to go, start thinking about segmentation. Segmentation is how you divide up the universe of potential customers based on different characteristics. Generally speaking, there are four different types of market segmentation. These include:
- Geographic: Segment customers by defined geographic boundaries (ex: The North American Market)
- Demographic: Segment based on variables such as age, gender, income, occupation, etc. (ex: college-educated working moms in urban areas of the U.S.)
- Psychographic: Segment based on intrinsic traits of your customers (ex: customers who self-identify as environmentally conscious)
- Behavioral: Segment based on how customers go through the buying process (ex: customers who conduct their product research by reading online reviews vs. those who are influenced by a television commercial)
Thorough and accurate market segmentation is vital, as each segment will require unique actions to reach and engage the intended audience. More on this later in the week.
Wednesday – Map Out the Competitive Landscape
So far, your work has focused internally. Now, it’s time to look at the broader competitive landscape. Who are the main competitors in your industry? Be sure to identify both direct and indirect competition. Direct competitors, like Toyota and Honda, compete for the same customers with similar products. Indirect customers, on the other hand, compete for the same customers with different products. Wendy’s and Pizza Hut are indirect competitors. Both are competing for customers seeking a fast and inexpensive meal, but their product offerings differ greatly.
For each competitor you identify, be sure to map out the strengths and weaknesses compared to your offerings. For example, your software solution may be more expensive than your closest competitor, but if it offers unique functionality not available elsewhere, you have a compelling value proposition to communicate to customers in the segment considering both products.
Thursday – Create Your Story
Once you know how your business competes with others in each segment, it’s time to craft a compelling story to attract new customers and engage existing ones. To do this, start with the desired outcomes. Think about how you want your customers to feel when they hear about your organization. What do you want them to know about your product’s services and what do you want them to do once they learn about them? Next, develop your plot and narrative. Think about why you started your business, who your products and services help and where your business is going.
Here’s an example of a story I helped craft for our organization, Larx Advisors.
Larx Advisors is a consulting firm created to help middle-market organizations thrive in an ever-changing competitive landscape. Our firm was founded on the belief that small and mid-size enterprises should have access to top business expertise at a great value. Larx has experience in turnaround management, merger integration, interim leadership, marketing and lean six sigma. We have over 30 professionals in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, and Miami. Contact us today to start a discussion on how we can partner to grow your business.
Once you’ve created a draft of your story, be sure to test it with customers – both prospective and existing – to ensure it resonates.
Friday – Identify Your Marketing Channels
Congratulations, you made it to Friday. It’s been a productive week, but we still have a lot of work to do.
Today, we’re going to focus on the channels – or the people and processes your customers interact with to learn about or purchase your organization’s products or services. Examples of marketing channels could include:
- Your website and social media properties
- TV/Radio/Print advertising
- Conferences and industry events
- Digital/mobile advertising
- Paid search
- Search engine optimization
As you identify and prioritize your marketing channels, think about the segments you identified on Tuesday. Which channels are most effective in each segment? Try to identify what you are spending to engage customers in each channel. Knowing your average cost per lead (CPL), and cost per sale (CPS) by channel will help you optimize the performance of your marketing plan.
Saturday – Develop your Tactical Plan
No sleeping in today. Throughout the week, you worked hard to identify your goals, segment your customers, understand the competitive landscape, create your story and analyze your marketing channels. Now, it’s time to put it all together in a tactical marketing plan.
The tactical marketing plan describes the specific steps that need to be taken to achieve the goals you identified on Monday. For each goal, the tactical plan addresses the following:
- Who is responsible for achieving the goal?
- What tools and resources are available to ensure the goal is met?
- What actions need to be taken to ensure the goal is met?
- What is the budget?
- What is the timeline?
For example, if your goal is to increase the number of qualified leads you receive by 50 each month, your tactical plan may include:
- Implement a digital lead generation strategy by creating one high-quality, blog or whitepaper targeted to each segment every month. Create the first content piece no later than October 31, 2019.
- Identify potential customers and target them on LinkedIn, offering them a free copy of your whitepaper in exchange for their name, phone number, and email address. Set budget at $500/mo initially and adjust as necessary throughout the year.
- Follow up with each lead submission within 1 business day.
There are a lot of free templates that can help you organize your plan. I like this one by Microsoft.
Sunday – Create Metrics to Define Success
You’re nearly there! Now that you’ve created both a strategic and tactical plan, the last step is to think about how you will measure the efficacy of your new plan. While the exact metrics you use depend on your industry and goals, some examples of informative metrics include:
- Lifetime value of each customer
- Cost Per Lead
- Cost Per Sale
- Conversion rate by channel (website, social campaigns, landing pages, etc.)
- Net Promoter Score
Congratulations! You now have a comprehensive marketing plan you can use to grow your business. Remember, this is a working document and needs to be enhanced and updated as market conditions or the competitive landscape changes.