In order to ensure that your marketing has focus and direction, you will need to plan in advance. Creating a marketing plan will help you to set clear goals, but will also give you a clear path as to how you want to achieve them. Sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it? And yet many businesses skip this step, or create a plan but never go back to it. This results in a huge amount of wasted time and lack of momentum, not to mention frustration.

If you’re not sure where to start with your marketing plan, then read on for a simple guide on what you need to include and just how you should be using the plan to ensure your small business marketing stays on track.

What is a marketing plan?

When you wrote your business plan, you will more than likely have set some goals. Perhaps key things that you want your business to achieve over the coming 6-12 months or beyond. It is also likely that at least some of those goals relate directly to the sales and revenue. That’s where your marketing plan comes in! Marketing is (or should be!) your key strategy when it comes to finding and keeping customers and therefore, making revenue.

Yes, other factors such as branding and customer service will also play a part in this – but if your customers never find you in the first place then it doesn’t matter how good your branding and service is, they won’t see it.

So what is your marketing plan? It’s where you break down the ways in which you will find new customers, get them to like you, to trust you and ultimately, to buy from you and become loyal to your business.

What should you include in your marketing plan?

Your target market

As we discussed in our ‘Finding New Customers’ article, understanding who your ideal customers are is absolutely key to keeping your marketing focused and effective. You may just have one specific type of customer or you may have a number of different customer personas but it’s important to have as clear a picture of these as possible because it will impact the rest of your marketing strategies.

Your Revenue Streams/Products & Services

How are you planning to make your money? Perhaps you’re a hairdresser so one stream is through your hairdressing service and another is through hair products that you promote and sell to your customers. Or perhaps you have a shop and one revenue stream is made through the sales you make in the shop, while another is through sales made online.

Each stream will require its own marketing strategy to be outlined in your marketing plan. Don’t forget to include ALL revenue streams – such as affiliate marketing, advertising on your website etc.

It is also useful to include here how you will receive the payment for each of these revenue streams. For example, will customers pay in person? Will you have an online payment facility? These are the kinds of questions you need to be asking.

Your unique selling point (USP)

What is it that will make people choose you over your competitors? Perhaps you’re better value than everyone else, or your customer service goes above and beyond. Perhaps your product itself is unique? Whatever it is that makes your business stand out should form part of your marketing and be laid out in your marketing plan.

Branding

The way that you brand your business actually forms part of your marketing. Marketing is all about attracting customers and branding is shaping what customers feel and think about your business so the two are very much aligned. If your branding portrays your business as high quality and luxury then your marketing messaging shouldn’t be telling people about what good value your service is or how it’s great for people on a budget. Your branding and marketing must be in alignment so make sure your branding is clearly outlined in your marketing plan.

Pricing

As with branding, your pricing also needs to be aligned with the message you’re giving your customers. If you’re telling customers that your products are high quality and luxury and your brand screams the same, then your price needs to match.

In addition, having your pricing strategy laid out will help to form the messaging itself as price will be a key element of any sales copy you write.

Marketing channels

In our ‘Finding New Customers’ article, we laid out a number of different types of marketing. This is where you should pin down what you will focus on for your business. Most businesses will use a variety of channels but few, if any would need to use all. Think about which will work best to attract your target market and focus on these.

Marketing goals

Your goals should be specific and measurable. Rather than ‘Get more customers’ you could go for something like ‘Get 10 new customers each week’. Rather than ‘increase revenue’ try ‘increase revenue by 5% over the year’. You see the idea?

As well as the general marketing goals above, which are based around increasing customers and revenue, go a step further and think about how you will achieve this through each of your chosen marketing channels. Set goals for these too. Perhaps your goal for your blog is to increase your thought leadership. What would be a good measurement of this? Perhaps the amount of engagement you get in the form of comments? Or the number of new subscribers you get as a result of your blog posts? Try to be as specific as possible with what you hope to achieve with each channel and how you will measure success. This will help you stay focused and not waste any time on marketing that isn’t actually aligned to your marketing goals.

Marketing strategies

Now that you have each of your marketing goals set out, you can plan how you will achieve them. Again, this will probably be broken down by channel and/or revenue stream.

Say for example that your business is making and selling crafts online. One of your goals might be to increase sales by 10 per week. To do this, you have chosen social media and Email as your main marketing channels. So your strategy might be to use social ads to drive people to subscribe to your email list and then use an automated email series to tell customers more about you, your business and your crafts. Each email might focus on a different product and end with a clear call to action on how the customer can make a purchase if they would like to.

The clearer you can be on your strategy in the planning phase, the easier you will find the execution of that strategy.

Measure & review

This step is so important! With all the planning in the world, nothing beats actually doing it to see what works and what doesn’t. By doing this, you can understand what resonates well and do more of it and you can tweak and improve what hasn’t worked so well.

Understanding what to measure is the difference between success and failure at this stage. Always think about your goals and how you will know if they have been successful. Something like ‘getting 10 new customers per week’ is pretty straightforward to measure. But don’t forget to measure each step of the process. So going back to our example above of the craft selling business.

They would need to measure the number of conversions they were getting from their social ads, the number of people opening their emails and the number of sales they were actually making at the end of the process. That way, if they’re only making 8 additional sales, they will have a much clearer picture why.

They might be getting a 50% conversion on their ads, perhaps another 50% of people who open the emails are buying, but in fact only 2% of people who are getting the emails are actually opening them. This shows very clearly that the email subject line is what needs more focus – perhaps a small tweak here could dramatically improve results. Without each of these measurements in place, the business owner could have wasted valuable time in changing her ads and her emails which were actually working fine!

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