You’ve launched your business, created your website, and opened your digital doors… so, where are all your customers?
No matter how beautiful and functional your site is, you can’t gain traction and build a successful business if no one knows about it. Sure, you can craft a few social media posts and create some flyers, but those ad hoc efforts won’t result in much if they aren’t part of a larger, strategic business marketing plan.
If you’re not a trained marketer, the idea of creating a marketing plan for your business can seem intimidating. Where do you begin and what’s included?
Rest assured, you can write a great marketing plan, and we’re going to help.
In this post, we’ll start by defining what a marketing plan is, then we’ll discuss the different elements that make up a marketing plan, and finally, we’ll provide tips so you can craft the best plan possible.
Creating a Business Marketing Plan
What is a business marketing plan? It’s a strategic document that outlines how you’ll communicate your products and services to your audience. It details what you’re setting out to accomplish, why you’re doing it, how you’ll get there, and in what time frame.
Marketing plans aren’t static documents, they are actionable guides that can and should be edited and reworked when necessary.
Your plan helps take the guesswork out of connecting with prospective customers — it serves as a roadmap for your marketing efforts and ensures you aren’t throwing money away on random tactics. Unless you have plenty of disposable income (and who does?), you want to know that the money you invest in marketing is well-spent.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”-Benjamin Franklin
Keep in mind that no two marketing plans are exactly alike. Depending on your business and specific needs, you may end up with a more simple or complex plan. But regardless of its length and complexity, your plan should always be backed by research and data.
Let’s look at what you need to have prepared in order to write a business marketing plan.
Preparing to write your business marketing plan
Before you sit down to write your marketing plan, you should have an idea of what data supports and informs it. Take a look at the following list and make sure to have this information handy as it will help guide the shape your plan takes.
Your business’s mission statement
A mission statement sets the tone for your business. It’s a short, and to-the-point statement that describes the purpose of your business and it informs your business decisions.
Ideal customer persona
Your ideal customer persona, also called a buyer persona, is like an archetype of your perfect customer. Creating a customer persona gives you a better understanding of their needs and how to address them.
This persona should include actionable information, like:
- Their demographics (age, income, location, etc.).
- Goals and challenges.
- Their interests.
- Any relevant behavioral traits.
Your customer persona should give insight into how you can better communicate with your prospective customers — from where you can find them to share your message (i.e. on social media) to what language you should use (for example, avoiding jargon and buzzwords.)
Target market information
Identifying your target market is a lot like identifying your ideal customer persona; however, there are a few key differences.
While they both involve demographics and psychographics, your target market deals with a broader group of potential and prospective customers. Your target market could be people in a certain age or income bracket, whereas your ideal customer represents a more segmented piece of that market.
General market information
When we talk about knowing your general marketing information, we’re talking about your customers, competitors, suppliers, along with industry news and trends.
Look at your competitors, the businesses offering products and services similar to yours, and try to identify the following things:
- What are they doing well?
- What are they doing poorly?
- Do you know what their customers look like?
- What differentiates you from them?
- What marketing materials do they use?
- Where do they share their message?
Knowing these things helps you understand what works and prevents you from making their mistakes.
Have you taken the time to know your suppliers? What’s available to you and when? This helps you plan your inventory and can help as your business picks up and demand grows.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry is always a good idea. It helps to know when there are new trends you can capitalize on, and it can provide insight into your own products and processes.
Your business goals
Your business marketing plan exists to support your business goals. It’s never a bad idea to restate your goals and come back to them often. This keeps them front-of-mind and helps you craft a marketing plan that ultimately supports your goals.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Business marketing plan elements
Now that you’ve prepared, it’s time to work on drafting your marketing plan.
Not all marketing plans look exactly the same — you can create email marketing plans, social media marketing plans, and various others. Below, we’ll provide a basic framework you can use to create a general business marketing plan, but feel free to customize or tweak it for more specialized marketing plans.
- Description of your business and goals.
- Describe your target market and ideal buyer persona.
- Defining SMART goals.
- Marketing tactics.
- Measuring success.
- Roles and responsibilities.
1. Description of your business and goals
The first step in writing any business marketing plan is to lay the groundwork.
Your mission statement helps direct your business, and it helps direct your marketing plan, too. Don’t use your general mission statement in your plan; instead, adapt it so that you have a similar statement to set the tone for your marketing plan.
For example, HomeChef’s mission statement is “to make cooking fresh food at home as easy as possible.” That could be turned into a marketing mission statement by editing it so that it reads, “to engage an audience of amateur and time-starved home cooks, educate them on the joys of cooking, and turn them into subscribers of our service.”
In one fell swoop, you’ve both set out your mission statement and created a goal that the rest of your plan will help support.
2. Describe your target market and ideal buyer persona
There are people out there who need and want your services, but they don’t know about you yet: Who are they?
Let’s continue with the example we used above — in that statement, we’ve identified that we’re looking to market to an audience of “amateur and time-starved home cooks.”
This section should address that market: Where do you find these people? What are their worries and how can your product or service answer their needs? What do they “look like” (demographics, income, etc.)?
This is also a good time to think about your competition. How do you stand out in your target market? Do you have a unique selling proposition (USP) that differentiates you from other similar businesses? If you don’t know what sets you apart then it’s going to be difficult to target your market and make sales.
All of this information helps you think of, discover, and revise your marketing strategies and tactics, which we’ll get into shortly.
3. Define your S.M.A.R.T. goals
Smart goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. They make you think practically and realistically, breaking down lofty ideas into achievable goals.
Your marketing mission statement is a great starting place when drafting your specific goals. In our example, we said that our mission is “to engage an audience of amateur and time-starved home cooks, educate them on the joys and techniques of cooking, and turn them into subscribers of our service.”
Now, it’s your job to think of how that can be turned into more specific, actionable goals. We’ll share an example to give you an idea of how it’s done.
We know our target audience cooks at home, but they’re often at a loss for time and might not know all the proper cooking techniques. In researching their behaviors, we discovered that they use certain social media channels for meal ideas. With this information, we can create the following smart goal:
- Set aside one hour each week to create short videos that illustrate our simple, delicious recipes, and share those on social media to create interest in our service.
That goal shows you understand your need to create brand awareness and are sensitive to your ideal customer’s time and abilities, and that you know where to find them online. It also gives you a concrete, achievable goal that you can easily put into practice.
4. Marketing tactics
Fundamentally, your marketing strategy is designed to promote your products and services so that you can convert customers.
Your marketing tactics are the specific things you do to support your overall strategy and plan, and can be made up of many different activities, like the following:
- Public relations
- Online marketing
- Social Media
- Sales and promotions
- Other marketing materials
You can use this section of your plan to detail the tactics and channels you’ll use to communicate your marketing messages in support of your smart goals.
5. Measuring success
As a small business owner, you don’t have the time or energy to invest in wasted marketing efforts. Implementing KPIs, or key performance indicators is a great way to measure the efficacy of your marketing and helps you understand what’s working and what isn’t.
If one of your goals is to increase brand awareness through the use of social media, then you might want to consider social share of voice as a KPI. Social share of voice (SSoV) helps you understand how much people are talking about you versus others in your industry. If your SSoV increases on platforms where you share your marketing messages, you can assume that your strategy and tactics are working.
If you’re running a seasonal promotion on certain products, you can look to your click-through rates and conversion rates to see if they drove any increase in traffic and sales on your site. Google Analytics is a great, free tool that can help you understand your website performance.
6. Roles and responsibilities
Do you require others to help support and implement your marketing plan? Use this final section to define what everyone’s responsibilities are so there’s no question or debate.
Implement your business marketing plan
And there you go! Using this guide, you should be able to craft a business marketing plan that helps direct your efforts so you can achieve your goals.
Do you have any tips and tricks to share with other entrepreneurs as they craft their marketing plans? If so, share them in the comments below and let us know what’s worked for you.