How to Write a Marketing Plan
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Originally Posted On: https://www.bsbcon.com/blog/how-to-write-a-marketing-plan/
Stop right there. Before you even think about writing your marketing plan you need to ensure you’ve done something else. Something that is so paramount to your business’s success. Ok, now take a guess on what it is!
It’s developing a business strategy for your company. A business strategy identifies what is unique about your products or services. Here are a few similar terms to define a business strategy:
- Unique Selling Point (USP)
- Unique Selling Proposition
- Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
- Competitive Advantage
- Unique Offering
At the end of the day, you can call a business strategy whatever you like, but you must have one, and it has to be effective. Your business strategy is what separates your company from your competitors. Your business strategy is what defines your marketing plan.
So, if you have a clearly defined business strategy here’s how you write a marketing plan. The following is our breakdown of the 14 components to a successful marketing plan.
No matter how good you think your business concept is, you should investigate its market viability. One way or another the market will judge your product, so wouldn’t you rather know before you sink your life savings into it?
Market Research provides a realistic, data-driven decision on whether it can succeed in the marketplace, or not. Market research companies provide exhaustive reports on nearly every business sector. These reports provide findings on:
- Market size
- Growth rate
- Consumer base
- Industry leaders
- Key Trends
- Competitor analysis
- Industry Risks
There are two notable types of market research: secondary and primary. Secondary is market research utilized from other sources such as:
Primary market research is executed independently by yourself, or your team. In many ways, primary market research, when done properly is superior to secondary market research.
One of the biggest takeaways from market research is identifying your target audience’s market pain. Market pain is a challenge, inefficiency, or shortcoming of a current process, product, or service. If there’s anything your market research efforts should do it is to validate the market pain your offering is meant to serve.
How can you analyze your business environment effectively? A powerful way to do this is by using a PEST Analysis. This is a simple four-point framework to assess the following market factors:
Your analysis can help you to understand the forces of change in your environment, and guide your strategic decision making.
Political – Start by considering the political factors at play in affecting your business. For example, are there any upcoming elections going to be held, and how are they likely to play out? Will any legislation or taxation laws change, and how is this expected to affect your business?
Economic – Then do the same for economic factors. How stable is the economy? Is it growing, or shrinking? What is the unemployment rate? How is inflation affecting your industry? Are these factors likely to change much?
Socio-Cultural – Next consider the socio-cultural factors of your external environment. This includes trends of population growth rate, age distribution, income levels, attitudes towards careers, health, lifestyles, and possible cultural barriers.
Technological – These factors pertain to innovation in technology and the regulations surrounding technology that may, or may not affect the operations of your market. Think about technology incentives, level of innovation, automation, technological change, research, and development activity.
Whether your business is a startup or well established a SWOT analysis can assist in identifying the internal and external aspects of your company. The first segment of your SWOT analysis looks at the internal strengths and weaknesses of your business. The second segment looks externally to your opportunities and potential threats.
A SWOT analysis is best completed using a four-square template, commonly referred to as a SWOT matrix. There’s a box for each of the four elements: strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats. Here are some common items:
If you’re writing a business plan, and develop a SWOT analysis be sure to revisit it at least every quarter. A SWOT analysis can be a sobering reminder of the strengths you achieve, the weaknesses you need to correct, the opportunities you can capitalize on, and the threats you must have answers for.
By understanding your industry competitors, and more specifically your three direct competitors you are able to hone in on what makes your offering so unique; furthermore, refining your business strategy.
It’s important to have an open mind when assessing your key competitors, but you must start by understanding which part of the market your company belongs to.
Let’s take “Very Vegan Pizza Ltd.” for example. Very Vegan Pizza is looking to open a few stores in Vancouver, BC. In order to best understand the competition they run a thorough competitor analysis:
- Pizza Hut
- Little Caesars
- Papa Johns
- Panago Pizza
Local Pizza Restaurants
- Freshslice Pizza
- Pizza Factory
- Romano Pizza
- Lombardo’s Pizzeria
Vegan Pizza Restaurants (Key Competitors)
- Virtuous Pie
- Vegan Pizza House
- Pizza Garden
It’s imperative to run a thorough competitor analysis as you may stumble across findings you may have not expected. For example, competitors outside of your specific market may be positioning themselves to attract customers from your niche.
We can’t understate the importance of knowing your competitors. Go to their establishments, try their products or services, and experience their offering yourself. At the end of the day, your business will be successful if it offers something unique. The only way to ensure you’re offering something unique is to know what you’re up against.
In order to understand your target market, you must first identify your price point. Do you offer a specialized product or service that costs more than most of your competitors? Do you offer a product or service that’s in the mid-range of your industry? Do you offer a product or service at the lowest price in your industry?
Each price point has its advantages and disadvantages.
Remember to know where your price point stands in your industry. Your business strategy helps your company understand what differentiates your offering from your competitor, and your marketing plan explains exactly who your target market is, how you will reach them, and why they’re interested in your product or service. Realize the importance of your price point in this equation.
If you fail to properly identify your target market then none of your marketing will work. Your target market or target audience is the end consumer you’re looking to sell your products or services to.
For business-to-business (B2B) service providers, this would be a company, nonprofit organization, or a governmental body.
For business-to-consumer (B2C) based company’s this would be identified using demographic, psychographic, geographic, and behavioral segments. These four factors are a function of market segmentation: choosing the part of a market a company wants to attract. Here is a breakdown of how to define each market segment:
In order to fully understand the demographics of your target market, you should develop an understanding of the age, education, gender, family size, ethnicity, household income, occupation, nationality, education, and religious beliefs.
In order to build a psychographic representation of your target market, you need to completely forget about demographics. Instead, you must work to understand the personality, interests, lifestyle, values, and attitude of this audience.
Geographic factors can be used to target people in specific locations. This could be as large as a country, or as specific as a neighborhood. Geographical factors include at least one of the following: climate, continent, cities, country, or city/towns with a certain population threshold.
Ask yourself what prospective customers expect from your product or service, and how their actual experiences influence their behavior. This includes factors such as user status, brand loyalty, buyer readiness, expected benefits, and occasions.
7.Ideal Customer Avatar
A good place to start when developing your target market is with an ideal customer avatar. Typically when we’re creating a target market list we find 3 target markets or target audiences. Try to develop an ideal customer or client for each of these segments.
Here’s an example target market list. We recommend having three target markets for most businesses. This target market list is for a waxing shop in Washington, D.C
- Ages 18 – 55
- All ethnicities
- Religion: typically non-religious
- Interests: Health and Fitness
- Location: Washington, D.C.
- Expected benefits: thoroughness
- Ages 18 – 29
- All ethnicities
- Religion: typically non-religious
- Interests: Health and Fitness
- Attitude: Easy-Going
- Location: Washington, D.C.
- Ages 30 – 55
- All ethnicities
- Religion: typically non-religious
- Interests: Self-Care
- Income: Disposable Income
- Expected benefits: thoroughness
One of the most important concepts to understand when running any kind of business is the sales funnel.
In researching sales funnels you find a variety of styles, but they nearly all have one thing in common: awareness comes first. Awareness is the first step to finding clients through a sales funnel. The interesting part is that you can build awareness with prospective clients in so many ways. For example, a previous client may refer your business to them (awareness), they may hear your ad on the radio, find your Facebook business page on social media, or see your google ad when searching for your industry.
When building awareness as an SME (small to medium-sized enterprise) you must be extremely tactical. Large corporations spend tens of millions of dollars on a variety of marketing channels, from billboards to radio advertisements, from digital marketing to print. If you are like most businesses you operate an SME. SMEs must choose how they build awareness with their prospective clients. For example, our firm purposely doesn’t advertise on Instagram anymore; instead, we advertise on LinkedIn and Facebook, because our target audience are active on those platforms, so we’re better off building awareness on those specific platforms.
The main takeaway? Be smart about how and where you build awareness. Do so on platforms and channels that your target audience are on.
Congratulations – your work in building awareness of your brand has made a prospective customer consider your offering. At this stage, customers will take a look at their options, and weigh out the pros and cons.
This is where the importance of “leadership marketing” or “social proofing” is paramount. By having positive testimonials, and a professionally designed website you can help build trust that you’re a leader in your respective market.
Utilize website content that educates your target audience instead of sells to them. This will:
1) help your website rank because people gravitate to educational content
2) build transparency with your audience that you’re an expert in your field
The focus is to establish your expertise, and genuinely help them make an informed decision. Just think how great of a client they’ll be if after everything they decide to choose your company. There’s a relationship that’s been established on trust instead of out-of-date sales practices.
This is where you show your product or service in action. Just ask yourself if there’s a way a prospective customer can test your product, like how someone test drives a car.
If the closest thing to this is a video of other people experiencing your product or service that’s completely fine. At this stage your prospective customers are serious about purchasing; they just need some proof that your product or service is the real deal.
Is there a way to show some examples of your work? Give your audience a taste of what you offer.
The almighty purchase. Don’t fumble the ball! You want this to go as smoothly as possible. Every part of your sales funnel should be fluent, and your purchase process can not be an exception.
It’s imperative to understand why your clients have decided to proceed with your product or service. To be fair it’s almost always a collection of reasons.
For example, Client Z purchased our business plan writing services because they: were impressed by samples of our work, we have lots of five-star Google reviews and our prices met their budget.
Far too many sales funnels stop at the purchase. Wouldn’t you prefer recurring clients over lots of new ones? From a budgetary perspective, this makes more sense too.
Now that your client has purchased your product or service they’re already your client. It’s all about keeping them happy, getting their feedback on what they enjoy, and most importantly where you can improve. There’s no more trying to make them your client – only keeping them as happy as possible and adding value to their lives or their business.
If you’re able to keep your clients happy month after month and year after year you will be rewarded with client loyalty. This is recurring revenue. Please do yourself a favor and never take your clients for granted. This is the biggest sin you can make in business other than all the obvious ones.
Your client is loyal to you and your business. Amazing! What’s next? When your client becomes an advocate for your business.
This is something that you can’t force or suggest. It just has to happen naturally once they’ve experienced your product or service themselves and built some trust with you.
“People talk”. Whether they’re on social media, talking to friends, or referring your company to colleagues at work. You’ll only get to this final stage of the sales funnel if you offer something valuable, memorable, and trustworthy.
9.Call To Action
A winning call to action (CTA) is short, sweet, and compels your audience to act. A call to action will shift prospective clients towards conversion. Keep in mind you must give your audience a reason to take the desired action. This should feed into your value proposition, or unique selling point (USP). Your USP is arguably one of the most important pieces of acquiring new leads, so creating a USP/CTA mash-up is a vital way to increase conversions.
Here are a few calls to action samples:
BSBCON – “Get funded with a customized business plan”
BSBCON – “Mitigate climate change with a sustainable business strategy”
General CTA: “Buy now!”
My Perfect Resume: “Create my resume”
1-2-3 Shrink Diet – “Get the secret now!”
Finally, here are a few tips to help you create your call to action:
- Establish credibility with your audience.
“Get funded with Canada’s top business plan writers.”
- Explain immediate benefits.
“Boost your credit score today!”
- Guarantee low risk.
“Join now, cancel anytime.”
Brand positioning: the space a company owns in the mind of a client and how it differentiates itself from its competitors. Also understood as a marketing strategy that helps businesses set themselves apart.
Brand positioning should help clients instantly recognize and connect with a company. One of the most important factors of success is how well, and how many, people know your brand. It’s not enough to set up a generic website and hope people flock to it by the millions. The reality is that no company is able to truly thrive in the marketplace without an established brand position.
Implementing a brand position for your business all begins with a statement. A brand positioning statement is a description of your target market that also includes a holistic picture of how you’d like your brand to be perceived by customers (based on research and data). Your brand positioning statement is the who, what, when, where, and why of your brand’s identity.
Brand positioning is important for your business in these four ways:
- Market differentiation: Showing the uniqueness of your product in any industry creates a major advantage. When you use your brand positioning to celebrate how your product solves a particular problem or need differently than your competitors, customers will take notice.
- Easy purchase decisions: By clearly defining your product and how it can benefit your customer, you take the guesswork out of the purchase process.
- Value confirmation: A strong brand doesn’t have to rely on pricing wars with competitors. Instead, great brand positions establish the high value of their product, making customers want to buy it no matter what.
- Magnified messaging: A clear brand positioning statement gives you a springboard for compelling creative storytelling. By having a concrete vision, you can elevate each additional piece of marketing to further solidify your place among the competition.
Any skilled marketer can develop a brand positioning strategy. The real challenge? Making it lead to real business results and resonate with your target audience. From massive companies to growing startups, any business in any industry can benefit from brand positioning.
Verizon Wireless got their brand positioning statement right and gained the trust and dollars of millions of Americans.
“America’s Largest, Most Reliable 4G LTE Network.”
Brand positioning is the difference between being a household name, or just another company trying to compete in an oversaturated market. Even after establishing your initial brand positioning, always be flexible and willing to fine-tune your statement to ensure the best client recognition and relationships possible.
At this point in your marketing plan, you should have so many things identified: who you are, your unique offering, price point, business environment, key competitors opportunities, and threats. But which channels will you reach your target market through? Here’s a list of nearly every marketing channel available:
- Google search, search engine optimization (website)
- Pay per click advertising (PPC) – Google Ads, Facebook Ads
- Social Media: Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Tik Tok
- Radio advertising
- Outbound lead generation
- Print: newspapers, magazines
- Community events
- Trade shows, industry events
- Email marketing
- Referral programs
- Video content
- Conversational marketing: chatbots
- Influencer marketing
- Social messaging apps: Whatsapp, Telegram, WeChat
- Visual search: Google Lens, Pinterest Lens
- Voice search and smart speakers
- Virtual reality
- User-generated content (UGC)
Every business is different; therefore, we all choose different channels to reach our target audience. For example, we’re a business-2-business consulting firm so for social media we’re almost solely on LinkedIn, but another company targeting Gen Z or millennials may use Instagram or Tik Tok to reach their audience.
If you happen to be a small business owner it’s imperative that you get your key channels right. This means you have limited resources and every last dollar counts.
Remember, choosing your key channels should be fun. In writing this list we came across so many interesting channels that will absolutely gain demand. It gets us thinking – we need a chatbox ourselves!
You’ve made it! Your marketing plan is almost fully developed, but how do you manage it and ensure that you’re reaching your goals, and what are your goals?
In this step, we’ll explain how to create SMART goals for your marketing plan. A SMART goal is an acronym for a:
You should be able to clearly define your goals. It’s not rocket science. Understand your sector, and specifically what you want to achieve.
You need a way to measure your progress whether you’re meeting or exceeding your defined goal. This is so crucial, because without it you’re really just guessing how you did, and with it you can pinpoint what’s helping your company, or deterring it.
Meeting or exceeding your goals is a huge morale booster, and there’s nothing worse than falling flat on your face. Make sure your goals are challenging, yet attainable.
Relevance really depends on what your strategy is. For example, we may focus on growing our market share in business plan writing in 2021, but in 2022 we may shift our efforts to expanding our reach in sustainability consulting. Your goal has to be relevant to your business strategy and marketing plan.
You create a level of urgency within your organization, by having an end date to your SMART goals. Be sure to provide enough time for your team to gain momentum, and hopefully exceed your SMART Goals.
13.Key Performance Indicators
Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) measure success in attaining predetermined goals.
Goals may comprise providing the highest quality goods or services in a specific industry while maintaining a corporate profit. Whereas, a key performance indicator might include sales, percentage of defective goods manufactured, or customer satisfaction. For a publicly-traded company stock prices are the best KPI to measure how well management maximizes shareholder value.
It’s important to note that key performance indicators should be used in every department of a business, and considering your marketing plan is addressing the marketing department you should only develop relevant KPIs.
Here are a few key performance indicators for marketing to help you develop your own. Remember that you can use these, but in the end, you need KPIs that will be supportive of your specific marketing plan.
- Website Traffic to Website Lead Ratio
- Change in Website Traffic
- Change in Social Media Reach
- Blog Post Visits
- Change in Social Media Engagement
- Customer Lifetime Value
- Change in Inbound Link Building
- Landing Page Conversions
- Inquiry by phone or website
- Cost Per Lead
- Change in Sales Revenue
- Return on Ad Spend
- Event Attendance
- Follower Growth
- Customer Retention
- Unique Web Visitors
It’s better for you to create less key performance indicators and actually track them then to create lots and not utilize them. Ask yourself which three KPIs are most important and then if necessary add more from there.
14.Marketing Plan Checklist
Without a detailed marketing plan checklist or software, how will you designate who is responsible for what, and compile your actual marketing plan?
There are so many ways you can go about this. We often help develop marketing plans as a part of a business plan. Putting your marketing plan into a well branded and organized pdf can be fantastic, as you can update it weekly, quarterly, or annually. Plus, this helps explain the responsibilities of each team member.
Your business is unique, and so should be your marketing plan, so make sure to develop a fully customized marketing plan checklist.
As important as a marketing plan is it’s just one piece of a business. Marketing is hugely important and can absolutely grow the overall sales of a business, but there are many other aspects of operating a company that must be accounted for.
Unfortunately, in developing a marketing budget you can’t just add everything up and call it a day. You must pass this over to management, or yourself to see if you have enough funds to support the cost of your marketing plan. In some cases, a company may have extra resources and provide your marketing department with additional funds.
How long should a marketing plan be, and how does that affect your marketing budget?
Your marketing plan should be 12 months long and be broken down into monthly and quarterly statistics. So should your marketing budget, and your financial team will love you for it. Explain exactly how much you’ll need in the year, each quarter, and month, plus what it will be utilized for.
To Conclude How to Write a Marketing Plan
There is so much that goes into a well-executed marketing plan. Can you remember what the first and most crucial thing is?
A clearly defined business strategy!
This is what makes your business offering unique. Without this, you shouldn’t even start a marketing plan, but with it, you have the key to answering every question.
Some final words: have fun, and be creative. Your audience is human, whether a business or a specific demographic. People love personalization and kindness. Be proud of what you do and bring in experts to work their magic. We’re here if you have any further questions on writing a marketing plan, or business plan.