Marketing Planning You Can Actually Do Yourself

How do you write a marketing plan?

Marketing is the lifeblood to a long stable predictable growth to any business and a good marketing plan can only help you get the best return on your marketing investment. After going over my plan I sat down and outlined my five steps to help you build a good marketing plan.

But first why bother with a marketing plan?

Marketing is vital to any business - customers can’t buy from you if they don’t know about your product or service. They can’t buy from you if they don’t know your there. They can’t buy from you if they don’t know how you are better than your competition. You can really waste a lot of time, money and effort marketing to people who are not going to buy from you no matter how good your product or your service is.
A good marketing plan helps you avoid that problem and get the best return on your marketing investment (almost) any time.

So what is in a marketing plan?

A great (and we want it to be great don't we) marketing plan will help you target the right people, with the right message, at the right time, using the right channel. For those not in the profession a channel is what you use to present your message. It might be direct mail, email, social sites, billboards etc.
So to start out, you need to answer some key questions about your product or service and how it’s positioned in the market. This guide explains the main areas you need to think about and answer:

  • What are your business goals and resources? What is it that you want your marketing plan to achieve, how much time, effort and money can you afford to invest in marketing?
  • Who is your target market? Who are they and what do you know about them? Niche yourself down as narrow as possible. Hint, look at your 5 top customers you might be looking at your niche.
  • Who are your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is your competitive advantage? What makes you stand out from the competition?
  • What marketing channels can or will you use? How, when and where is best way and place to reach your target market?
  • What is your action plan? What are you going to do, when are you going to do it, who is responsible, how much will it cost and how will you know if it works?

What do you want to achieve and what can you invest?
Before you even start to think about putting ads in the paper, printing up a brochure or investing in some kind of online marketing, you first need to define what it is that you want to achieve. Your marketing plan must align with your business goals.
For example, if your goal is to grow your customer database by 25% within the next year, your marketing plan will be focused on finding new customers. A lot new customers!
Most marketing does seems to be focused on winning new customers, but  remember that retaining your existing customers, and selling more to them, can be a much more cost-effective way to increase revenue and growth. So make sure you don’t forget about your existing customers in your marketing plan.
Another important thing are the resources you plan to invest in marketing. This isn’t just the money. Think about who will manage the marketing, and how much time you or they can allocate. Often owners of businesses are stretched out so thin and have a limited resource of time more then money. An excellent marketing plan will help you focus on the best opportunities to reach your target audience and achieve your business goals. It is your road map to success.

Understanding your target market

Rarely will your business be relevant for ‘everyone’. There are those products that everyone uses like toothpaste but I doubt if yours is one of them. Do not use a broad, brush approach to marketing because this is inefficient and costly. It’s smarter to target the customers who are most receptive to your product or service. So defining your ideal customer will help you prioritize and carefully direct your resources.
Think about:

  • Who needs or wants your product or service the most? Needs as in needs NOW!
  • What features are most appealing to them? What do they value most if they were to use your product or service?
  • Where do they get their information from – Email, Direct Mail, Social Sites? Do they read the newspaper, search online, or attend particular events?
Create profiles of your ideal customers.
If they are personal consumers, describe their:
Kind of business
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Family status
  • Geographic location
  • Special interests
  • Sensitivity to price, quality and service.
If they are a business, describe their:
  • Size
  • Product/Service
  • Turnover
  • Number of employees
  • Time in the market
  • Market share
  • Geographic location
  • Sensitivity to price, quality and service.


Finding information about your target market

There are lots of places you can go for help with finding this information.
One key source is your local library research librarian.
You can locate your market by age, sex, income, household, or family type, and zoom in on your target market regions, areas, and suburbs.
Industry Profile can be done where you can get stats on small businesses by industry and region, and compare numbers of new businesses, worker turnover, survival rates, and average earnings for staff.
Other sources of information about your target market include trade or industry organizations, chambers of commerce, and city or regional councils.
You can also ask potential customers directly and your existing customers (primary research). That can range from simply talking to your favorite customers to approaching people you know who may be in your target market, or engaging a market research company to run focus groups with people on your behalf.

Understanding your competitors

“Know thy enemy”
Keeping a watchful eye on your competition is crucial in business. You need to know how you compare in the market, where you are in services and products, and where you can compete and win more times than not.
Your competitor research should cover areas like:

  • What is their target market and their market share
  • How well they communicate their competitive advantages
  • How do they promote their products and services
  • What are their pricing strategies
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?


Just Do It

If you follow the sequence of steps you might not have a marketing plan you can talk to your local banker about for a loan but you will have something you can actually use. A readable action plan on paper!

And if your like me and I kind of think you might be, a usable 2 or 3 page plan is much better than an 84 step 64 page plan no one can use, read or follow. 

This will work and hold you or the person or company you hire to implement it on track and accountable. 

So ya, Just Do It!

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