A marketing plan is an operational document that outlines how an organisation will communicate and promote its products or services to its target markets.
A good marketing plan capitalises on the business’s market research and understanding of its unique selling points to better promote and communicate its products and services to a target audience.
Or, to put it simply: It’s a simple step-by-step guide on how and where to market/promote your business.
Remember, depending on your business, it can take 3-6 months for your activity to produce outcomes. Planning will ensure you’re not missing out on time-based opportunities, help you allocate resources, and prepare for quieter business periods.
Marketing plans needn’t be an overwhelming, complex document full of clever marketing terms. However, not having one could be detrimental to your business.
Here are three steps to help you create a successful marketing plan:
1) Create an annual, calendar-based plan
While it’s good for a business to be flexible and adapt quickly to unexpected changes, you still need to have a structured plan for when things do go as expected. Running all your marketing on an ad-hoc basis just won’t cut it.
First, create an annual plan. Outline all the critical dates in the year, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day and Halloween. While some of these events might not affect you directly, they may have an impact on your suppliers and customers.
Next, take a look at previous sales information and see if there are any trends. For example, do you need to account for the school holidays? Is August typically a slow month for sales?
Using this information, you can allocate resources and plan when key marketing activities need to happen. For example, as a flower shop, Valentine’s Day is typically an important event. Therefore, your plan for this event might look something like this:
- Adjusted stock order complete by 1st December to accommodate increased demand
- Temporary sales staff interviewed and employed by 25th January
- Update website 1st February
- New products loaded to the website by 25th January
- Promotion codes loaded to the website by 25th January
- Advertising should start on 1st February
- Message approved 11th January
- Designs approved 18th January
- Printed materials ordered 19th January
- Digital adverts scheduled for 1st February
- Email campaign sent on 1st February
- Email design by 29th January
As you can see, there’s plenty to plan for this event. What you might consider being a simple leaflet, webpage or promotion might require multiple steps that need to start months before the actual event.
In addition to this, if you’re using external resources, such as a design or web agency, you may need to factor in their workload too. Technically, it might only take them a day to create the things you need for your marketing, but they may need a week’s notice for that day. Planning will ensure your marketing activity can be delivered on time.
2) Keep your marketing plan strategic
While you might like to include tactical elements such as ‘social media post published to Facebook on 12th February‘, within your Marketing plan, it’s essential to link all your activity back to your core objectives.
- Who is this post for? Who is the customer?
- What is the message that works best for them?
- What is the USP you want to communicate?
Thinking strategically will help ensure all your tactical marketing activities are focused and support the larger business goals.
For more information on identifying your target customer, please read the first in our How to market your small business series: Organising your customers to grow your business.
3) Take action
As with all planning, it will be a waste of time if you don’t take action on what you plan to do.
Once you better understand your annual plan, you can begin to break this down into more manageable chunks. First, create a rolling quarterly plan, then assign actions and responsibilities each month.
Scheduling monthly planning meetings to assign responsibilities is a great way to keep activity moving. If two or more people are in your team, you could define roles for each task. For example, you may be accountable for the social media post that needs to be published on Facebook on 12th February, but your marketing assistant is responsible for creating the post.
How ETC can help
If you need help creating a successful marketing plan, please get in touch.
If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.