A marketing plan is essential to any business that wants to thrive. Whether you’re a small mom and pop shop or an expansive corporation, a well thought-out marketing plan is one of those must-have items if you want to avoid stagnation and move your business towards success.
Stripped down to their simplest sense, all marketing plans consist of three things:
1. Who your customer is and what they want
2. Goals for how you’re going to give your customer what they want while growing your business
3. An action plan for achieving those goals
While the actual length of marketing plans can range anywhere from one page to hundreds of pages long, the most important thing is that your plan clearly defines the three things listed above. It is important to keep your marketing plan current, so make sure you put this on your priority to-do list at least once a year and plan out your upcoming year.
How do I define my customer and what they want?
One of the first things you want to do when creating a marketing plan is market research. Lots and lots of market research. Getting out of your office/store/etc allows you to see things from your customers and potential customers’ point of view. One of the best things you can do to start is to talk to existing customers about your current product/s and service/s and ask them for ways you can improve. But don’t just talk to existing customers and stop there. It’s important to research people who could be potential customers to find out ways you can expand and get new customers as well.
Market research can take many forms, but here are a few research techniques that you could use:
- Culture Hunts
- Panel and/or Roundtable Discussions
- Persona Development
Doing thorough market research starts you off on the right foot by helping you clearly define who your target market is and what they want from the beginning, which makes it so much easier for you to figure out how you can meet their needs.
How do I create goals to give my customers what they want and grow my business at the same time?
This part starts with an inward look at yourself (your company). What is your mission and vision statement? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT)? Reminding yourself who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are will help you in your goal setting process.
Now it’s time to set some goals! The goals you set should be SMART goals, or in other words, specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and timely. For example, these would be some SMART goals:
- Get 2,000 unique site visitors by April
- Schedule 120 consultation appointments by September
- Sell 5,000 units of Product A by February
How do I create an action plan for achieving my SMART goals?
Setting SMART goals requires you to know where you want to end up and gives you something to hold yourself accountable to, which is the first part of the formula for getting to where you want to go. The second part of the formula is your action plan, or the part of your marketing plan that sets the strategy for achieving those goals. Some people look at the action plan as their roadmap to their destination, and in a sense, this is exactly what it is.
Part of your action plan should specify deadlines and accountability. Knowing when you’re going to accomplish each of the steps you have to take to reach your goal and who is going to be held accountable for making sure that happens will increase your success rate exponentially.
Another part of your action plan should specify a budget plan for your activities. It’s important to know in advance how much each thing that you do is worth to you before you do it. For example, if your goal is to acquire 50 new customers by April, and a customer’s lifetime value is $1,200, it would make sense to set a budget of $400 for activities devoted to acquiring new customers. If the lifetime value of a customer is only $200, if would be unwise to spend $400 every time you tried to acquire a new customer. Return on investment should always be greater than your budget
That’s it… your simplified marketing plan.
Creating a marketing plan really is that simple. And while it really is that simple, sometimes the next step- execution of the plan- is not. Just remember to keep yourself on track with your plan by sticking to the deadlines and maintaining accountability. You may need to be flexible and make adjustments while executing your plan, since life happens, but do your best to stick to it and see it through all the way to the end. And celebrate your successes along the way… as you accomplish each action item, give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate in a big way when you arrive at your bigger goals.
The execution isn’t always easy, but when you plan, follow through, and arrive at your destination, the feeling of success will be more than worth it!