Use These 5 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan!
Step 1: Begin with a snapshot of your company’s current situation, called a “situation analysis.”
This first section defines your company and its products or services, then shows how the benefits you provide set you apart from your competition.
Target audiences have become extremely specialized and segmented. No matter your industry, from restaurants to professional services to retail clothing stores, positioning your product or service competitively requires an understanding of your niche market. Not only do you need to be able to describe what you market, but you must also have a clear understanding of what your competitors are offering and be able to show how your product or service provides a better value.
Make your situation analysis a succinct overview of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths and weaknesses refer to characteristics that exist within your business, while opportunities and threats refer to outside factors. To determine your company’s strengths, consider the ways that its products are superior to others, or if your service is more comprehensive, for example. What do you offer that gives your business a competitive advantage? Weaknesses, on the other hand, can be anything from operating in a highly saturated market to lack of experienced staff members.
Step 2: Describe your target audience.
Developing a simple, one-paragraph profile of your prospective customer is your next step. You can describe prospects in terms of demographics—age, sex, family composition, earnings and geographic location—as well as lifestyle. Ask yourself the following: Are my customers conservative or innovative? Leaders or followers? Timid or aggressive? Traditional or modern? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what I offer? In what quantity?
If you’re a business-to-business marketer, you may define your target audience based on their type of business, job title, size of business, geographic location or any other characteristics that make them possible prospects. No matter who your target audience is, be sure to narrowly define them in this section, because it will be your guide as you plan your media and public relations campaigns.
Step 3: List your marketing goals.
What do you want your marketing plan to achieve? For example, are you hoping for a 20 percent increase in sales of your product per quarter? Write down a short list of goals—and make them measurable so that you’ll know when you’ve achieved them.
Step 4: Develop the marketing communications strategies and tactics you’ll use.
This section is the heart and soul of your marketing plan. In the previous sections, you outlined what your marketing must accomplish and identified your best prospects; now it’s time to detail the tactics you’ll use to reach these prospects and accomplish your goals.
A good marketing program targets prospects at all stages of your sales cycle. Some marketing tactics, such as many forms of advertising, public relations and direct marketing, are great for reaching cold prospects. Warm prospects—those who’ve previously been exposed to your marketing message and perhaps even met you personally—will respond best to permission-based email, loyalty programs and customer appreciation events, among others. Your hottest prospects are individuals who’ve been exposed to your sales and marketing messages and are ready to close a sale. Generally, interpersonal sales contact (whether in person, by phone, or email) combined with marketing adds the final heat necessary to close sales.
Step 5: Set your marketing budget.
You’ll need to devote a percentage of projected gross sales to your annual marketing budget. Of course, when starting a business, this may mean using newly acquired funding, borrowing or self-financing. Just bear this in mind—marketing is absolutely essential to the success of your business. And with so many different kinds of tactics available for reaching out to every conceivable audience niche, there’s a mix to fit even the tightest budget.
As you begin to gather costs for the marketing tactics you outlined in the previous step, you may find you’ve exceeded your budget. Simply go back and adjust your tactics until you have a mix that’s affordable. The key is to never stop marketing—don’t concern yourself with the more costly tactics until you can afford them.
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