Marketing is an essential business activity that helps to bring brand awareness, increase market share, build customer loyalty and improve sales. However, marketing without a targeted strategy can be a waste of time and money. Develop marketing plans for your campaigns to ensure that your marketing activities help you further your business goals.
Understand the Purpose of Marketing Plans
Your own marketing plan is an essential resource for your small business. Using their marketing strategy, businesses can identify whom they want to target, how they want to differentiate themselves, which tactics they want to use and how they plan to measure their efforts. A marketing plan encompasses all of this information and helps small businesses to implement their campaigns.
The detail required in a marketing plan enables businesses to do their research before starting any activities. This ensures that all marketing tactics are highly targeted to a specific audience and are designed to further an established goal.
For example, if a business is looking to build brand loyalty with its customers, it will use different tactics, such as rewards programs and loyalty cards, than if its goal was to attract new prospects, which may require print advertising and content marketing strategy. By doing the research and planning beforehand, the tactics are more likely to be effective.
Know Your Marketing Plan’s Audience
Write your marketing plan according to the audience. If you are your small business’s marketing manager, your audience will be yourself along with any staff who will be implementing the tactics. You may also be writing a marketing plan to show company executives to get their buy-in and budget approval.
In some cases, your marketing plan’s audience may be investors or lenders who are providing the capital for your marketing campaign. Be sure to tailor the plan to its audience. If you’re writing for an investor, you’ll want to focus on the return on investment of your activities. If you’re writing for a staff member, you’ll want to focus on the tactics and how to implement them.
Start by Doing Your Research
The first step to writing a marketing plan is conducting research into the market and how your products are received. You’ll need familiarity with the financial status of your company, the profitability of your products and the size of your market.
In many cases, businesses conduct a SWOT analysis at the start of planning their marketing strategy, as this helps them see how their business is situated in the market. A SWOT analysis includes:
- Strengths: Areas where the business excels, which may be specific product lines or distribution channels
- Weaknesses: Areas that could use improvement, such as appealing to a specific target market or partnering with a key player in the industry
- Opportunities: Trends in the market that could be advantageous for your company, such as the emergence of a new target audience
- Threats: Issues that may negatively impact your business, such as a competitor gaining market share or not having specific expertise in-house
Identify Your Marketing Goals
Marketing objectives are critical components of a marketing plan because they provide the goals that the tactics are trying to achieve. A marketing plan without goals is not effective, as there is no target that the company is trying to reach. The goals of the campaign are like a road map because they specify where a business is trying to go. Be sure to make each goal quantifiable as well as ambitious but achievable.
Your marketing goals will depend on the status of your business as well as the trends in the marketplace. For example, if you are a new business that is just opening, your goals may include attracting new customers and encouraging returning customers. You may have a small marketing budget, so you will want to pay attention to the cost of each customer acquisition.
On the other hand, if you’re an established business that has been around for five years and you have a considerable budget allocated to marketing activities, your goals will be different. You may want to take market share from a competitive business and increase brand loyalty. As a result, you’ll want to try tactics that build awareness and reward consumers.
Goals that a marketing plan may include are:
- Launching new products
- Gaining market share for a product
- Entering a new market or attracting a new audience segment
- Building brand awareness
- Increasing brand loyalty and referrals
- Increasing sales for a particular product
Establish Your Target Audience
One of the key elements of a successful marketing plan is identifying whom you are targeting with the campaign. Your target market consists of all of the people to whom your business caters. Your target audience, on the other hand, is the specific group of people you’re planning on targeting with a particular marketing campaign.
For example, the target market for a clothing store may be women who are physically active and want to look stylish while working out. The target audience for a specific campaign may be a segment of that market who values eco-conscious clothing and cares about the environment. The ad campaign can talk about the sustainable manufacturing process for the clothes to appeal directly to that target audience.
Develop a buyer persona for your marketing plan that provides an overview of the people you are targeting with your campaign. Your buyer persona should include:
- Demographics: Age, gender, occupation, income, family status and other criteria
- Geographic traits: Region, climate and population density
- Psychographics: Activities, interests, values and opinions
- Behavioral traits: Loyalty, purchasing frequency and readiness to buy
Craft Your Marketing Message
By narrowing your target audience, you can begin to tailor the messaging and the marketing tactics to appeal specifically to your potential customers. The unique selling proposition for your marketing campaign is the key message you want to communicate to prospects and customers with your marketing tactics.
It’s critical to appeal to your target audience, so consider what they care about. If your target audience is strapped for time, focus on how the product helps them get more hours back in their day by making their lives easier. If your target audience is interested in microeconomics, focus on how your company provides small loans to people in developing countries so they can start their own businesses. Cater to what is important to your audience.
Detail Your Marketing Mix
The marketing mix is the basic foundation for any marketing plan, as it provides the structure and tools required to target and execute a campaign. Based on the buyer persona of your target audience, identify the elements of the marketing mix in your marketing plan. These should include:
- Product: What products or services will this marketing campaign be promoting? For example, a bakery can promote its sugar-free desserts in a specific campaign targeted toward a health-conscious segment of its target market.
- Place: This is where the sale will be made. Will customers purchase the products online, in a retail location or elsewhere, such as a farmers' market or pop-up shop? The marketing campaign needs to provide this detail so prospects know where they can buy the products. The bakery may choose to only offer its sugar-free desserts in a pop-up shop located close to a local gym and health-food store.
- Price: What are customers willing to pay for the products? The pricing strategy will depend on a number of elements, such as market trends, competitive pricing and demand. Some marketing campaigns may offer specific price promotions, such as “get 10% off” or “buy one get one free”. The bakery may choose to keep its products at the regular retail price because it anticipates the demand to be high.
- Promotion: This is the way the business communicates the marketing message to customers, which can be through advertising, direct marketing, personal selling, sales promotions and public relations. The bakery may choose to hand out flyers close to the pop-up shop and at its retail location.
Specify Your Marketing Tactics
The marketing plan outlines how your business will achieve the marketing goals you have identified. The marketing channels you use to share your message will depend on your target audience and where they are most reachable. For example, if your target audience gets most of their information online, then advertising in a local print newspaper will not be effective.
Promotional tactics that small business owners can use in their campaign include:
- Advertising in print publications, on websites and on social media
- Direct marketing via email marketing campaigns, call-in campaigns and post-mail campaigns.
- Personal selling one on one to build customer relationships in person, over the phone or via email
- Sales promotions such as in-store displays, coupons, contests and other price incentives
- Public relations through sponsoring local events, giving to charity, generating positive media coverage and fostering goodwill in the community
Many successful campaigns use a combination of marketing tactics to reach the target audience. For example, a local business may advertise on social media, send email marketing campaigns and donate products to local organizations as part of the same campaign.
Set Benchmark Metrics to Measure Success
It’s important to measure the success of a campaign by setting quantitative benchmarks you want to achieve, which align with the initial goals identified. For example, if a goal of the marketing efforts is to increase brand awareness, you can measure the increase in website traffic. If a goal of the marketing campaign is to improve conversion, then measuring click-throughs in email campaigns would be a good metric to track.
Outline metrics in conjunction with the goals. Once the campaign is underway, track the metrics to see if you are on track. If the campaign is not yielding the numbers for which you’re aiming, consider pivoting the campaign midway or pausing the campaign and reassessing your messaging. Re-evaluating your results and making key changes can help to increase the success of the marketing campaign.
Learn From the Success and Failure of Other Businesses
Look for inspiration in other marketing campaigns in your industry and in your local area. If something catches your eye, delve into what makes it so engaging. It’s important to learn from successful marketing campaigns and glean key takeaways that you can then apply to your business. Some well-known examples of successful campaigns include:
- Apple’s Mac versus PC campaign: This campaign built Apple’s brand as young and cool, appealing to the target market.
- Dove’s campaign for real beauty: This campaign had explosive success because it discussed what real beauty was to real women — something that was rarely done up until that time. Plus, it honed in on exactly what the target audience wanted to see.
On the flip side of the coin are marketing campaigns that have failed to attract the attention of the target audience. These are also good examples to learn what not to do. Campaigns that have been less than successful include:
- Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad: This campaign was a flop because it trivialized important issues like racism and police violence by saying they could be solved with a can of Pepsi. Their target audience did not agree.
- Colgate’s frozen dinners: The toothpaste company once tried to get into the frozen dinner market and failed, probably because it didn’t do its market research. Colgate’s customers weren’t interested in this product at all.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.