How do you put a marketing plan behind the strategy? It may be a surprise that actually creating a marketing plan is what proves most challenging for a business. My recent poll showed this was the aspect of marketing that almost 70% of respondents felt was most difficult. And to be honest, I can understand why. A business strategy will drive the marketing strategy and once the plan and activities are agreed, there are obvious ways to measure the results. However, it’s the bit in the middle. It’s like the filling in a sandwich. There are so many choices, it can be hard to know what ultimately will be right for your business.
STRATEGY V PLANNING
The marketing strategy is shaped by the business strategy and goals. It’s like the game plan for the business. A strategy is usually formulated by looking at the bigger picture for the next 3-5 years. The marketing plan then aims to make the strategy a reality. It is the finer detail. A plan is usually put in place on a yearly basis. It should include details of what campaigns, what types of activities, which channels, how will success be measured and of course, when. Timing and budget are vital elements of the marketing plan.
CRAFTING A PLAN
So how do you decide what activities to include in your marketing plan? There is a vast array of different activities – paid ads, SEO, Facebook, content marketing, direct marketing, newsletters, to name a few. The first rule is don’t try everything at once. Scraping the surface of lots of different activities without a real focus will reap no reward. There are 4 steps to shaping your plan.
Tip 1: Set your objective
What is the objective of the activity? Which part of your marketing strategy do you want this activity to support. Which business goal do you want it to impact? For example, if you are a new business then increasing brand awareness could be your first objective. For an established business, it could be to support the launch of a new product or service. By setting clear marketing objectives, you will have a clear direction of where you want your business to go and the actions and activities needed to get there. It will rule out certain activities and ultimately give you a shortlist.
Tip 2: Know your audience
Who is your audience for this activity? Your business may have a number of target audiences but which one is key to the agreed objective? You can do this by creating buyer personas. These are semi-fictional representations of your customers. This will help you narrow in on your ideal audience. This information is generally gathered from market research which covers key factors, such as; consumer demographic, customer preferences and behavioral patterns, motivations and goal Finding out where your audience is and when they are there again will help you see where you should focus your own activity and effort.
Tip 3: Set out your budget
What is your budget for the activity? Most businesses will be looking for the most cost-effective way to market their business. The sensitivity of cost will be different for every business. The budget will need to vary depending on the objective and intended results. It’s one of the reasons why digital marketing has become so popular for SMEs. It has been shown that leads can be generated naturally through content creation as well as other low cost inbound marketing activities, for example email marketing and social media marketing. The impact of this approach can be slower than paid outbound campaigns but they can prove to be more than effective for smaller businesses. It is important to weight up time vs financial cost when setting the budget.
Tip 4: Select your activities
Now you’re clear on your objective, audience and budget, it’s time to actually select your activities. Remember quality over quantity. You should at this stage, have a shortlist of possible options. Choose just a few key activities that make sense for your business. These can include: blogs, SEO, social media, email marketing, online advertising or more traditional marketing with radio or TV advertising, sponsorship or direct mailing. Decide how you will measure the results of the activity and the impact they have on achieving your objective. This will give you the information you need to change and amend your activity as required.
While it can seem daunting at first to draft your marketing plan, with a little planning it can come together quite easily. Breaking down the task into smaller chunks will make it more straight forward. Putting a plan in place to support your business strategy and goals can be helped by working through the 4 steps: objectives, audience, budget and activities.
At Shortbytes, we offer a range of different services to help you shape your marketing plans. These include once off consultancy appointments, month long training so you can manage your marketing in-house and longer term outsourced marketing assistance. Just get in touch to find out more.