“A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb
Every business, small or large at one point would need a marketing plan. It can stay in your head (I know what I need to do and how) but we would strongly advise that you write it down. It could be a scrap of paper or a note on your computer but as soon as you start writing, you will be getting a rounder idea of what you want and need. I also like to use SOSTAC for marketing planning as it includes more research on the present situation and how it relates to your business.
Below you can find a base structure you can follow to get you started. It is an exhausting list and sometimes not necessary but I decided to include everything. You can make it shorter, leave points out or joint them together and most importantly use only what is relevant to your business. Also, your marketing plan is a living and breathing creature so don’t be afraid to make changes as you go along. Every quarter looks back and see if you can improve, see what new opportunity has arrived and what did not work as well as you wanted. Don’t just stick to the plan because you made it. Be critical and if you cringe looking back, it means you’re improving.
- Executive Summary.This is part comes last. You will very shortly summarise the whole document. You can also add what is the purpose of this particular document and why it has been created. If it is for pitching the capital, make sure it is clear for potential investors. You can also add what are the next steps after preparing and how you’re going to distribute it.
- Background. Here you will include your market research, market analysis, current situation, your competitors and purpose of your business. Also, you can include your brand values and your value proposition (your purpose and what problem your company/product will solve).
- Objectives. This is where you talk about your vision and your business goals. You should also select your KPIs and dashboards. Remember, objectives should be SMART – specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-bound.
- Unique Selling Point.Here is when you describe what differentiates you from your competitors. It needs to be strong to be successful. You need to find your differentiation point to make you stand out from the crowd, it can be smaller, cheaper, faster, bigger, easier or more fun. It is your job here to entice your customers to choose you.
- Target Customers.This section, as its name describes, will talk about your potential customers, that you’re targeting. Before you write it, make sure you do your research. There are many routes but going out and asking different people what they think is a start. If you’re a startup, ask people you don’t know (it is not enough your mum loves it). Make sure your target customers are those who will buy it (do your target market have enough money for it? will they use the way you intended? etc). When you are sure who are they, describe them as detailed as possible – who they like (e.g. age, gender), what they like and their needs and wants that relate to your product or service.
- Pricing and positioning. Your pricing has to align with your positioning. Positioning would here mean what kind of market you target – luxury, budget, mid-range etc. and your price needs to reflect it.
- Distribution. This will describe how your customers would buy from you. Will it be your website or other retailers or websites? Think of all the ways you can reach your customers. Remember that your pricing strategy would need to incorporate the agents (e.g. other retailers) so your selling price would need to be lower than the retail price.
- Sales promotions. You can talk about what sales promotions you’re going to use to attract your customers to buy from you. First-order discount, BOGOF (buy one get one free), free delivery or free trial is just a few examples.
- Marketing materials.This is all the marketing collateral you need before you start. Anything from your business cards, menu printed, price lists, your website, print brochures or catalogues.
- Advertising. There are numerous strategies and tactics so think carefully what can you afford and what would bring the most customers. Do think smart rather than follow the pack. You can use TV, radio, print, but these are very expensive. You can also try trade shows, events, sponsorships (still rather expensive). But the must is online advertising. Think paid searches on Google, online display advertising, social media, affiliates, bloggers, YouTube, influencers. Other offline strategies include press releases, local communities, churches, local papers and everything else that comes to your mind. These options can be cost-effective so choosing the right option for your business. Be creative.
- Online marketing strategy.Online marketing is not just your website. There is more science to it and you need to consider it. When writing up the copy for your website, make sure you think about your keyword strategy. Google has a very useful tool to explore keywords. You can find it within the AdWords and you can find out how many people search for certain keywords. Next on the list is your Search Engine Optimisation, this is a science on its own on how Google creates their algorithm and how it affects your website search results. More about it in another post. And last but not least is your Social Media Strategy. This is where you describe how you can use social media to entice your customers, create brand awareness, engagement and loyalty.
- Conversion strategy. It refers to techniques to convert your potential customers into real paying customers or in simple words visitors into sales.
- Joint Ventures and Partnerships.JVs and partnerships can be very lucrative for any business. Entering any partnership would need to be structured and with a clear contract that would benefit both parties. Here you can outline what kind of partnership would benefit your company and/if you are going to proceed. This part is optional if you don’t want to do it.
- Referral strategy. Customer referral is a very powerful tool. Think about it as free advertising. How much your customer is worth to you and how many new customers they can bring? Make sure you have an option for them to share or ‘refer a friend’ scheme, offer personalised promo codes or pay them a small referral fee for bringing new customers.
- Up-sell and X-sell.Here is a golden egg of selling. How can you make your customers purchase more? A ‘finish your look’, discount for the second item, bundles or packages, if you’re interested in X, you would love Y, all fall into here.
- Retention strategy.Retention is creating loyalty and engagement with the brand. It is cheaper to keep your customer than acquire a new one. Think of social media engagement, email newsletter, competitions for existing customers, special events, VIP programme and/or special promotions and previews.
- Financial projections. Here is your budget, how you’re going to spend it (on what you already mentioned) and all KPIs. How many customers you will acquire in a set time-frame, how much you are prepared to pay to acquire them (CPA – cost per acquisition), how much are they going to be worth (LTV – Life-Time Value), how much sales you will generate (revenue), your costs and profits. Your predictions will never be 100% accurate so use them as a guide to achieve the highest return on investment. Also, identify what ‘success‘ means for you, it will be easy to see it when it happens.