It’s pretty difficult to run a successful business without some form of marketing. Marketing is how you get your product in front of your ideal audience, and although the strategies may differ, the core concept will always remain the same. No matter what type of business you run, chances are there will be some sort of marketing involved.
Much like writing a business plan, writing a marketing plan will help you set some clear structure in your business and outline a path to follow for future success. There are many ways to write a marketing plan, but we’ve boiled it down to five key areas for you to cover and included a free template to get you started.
Section 1: Situational Analysis
It’s important to be aware of what’s going on with your business and the environment it exists in. Here, you might find it useful to perform a SWOT analysis and take a look at your strengths and weaknesses - the internal factors that impact your business - and the external opportunities and threats that may play a part in how you operate.
This section might cover things like your competitors launching new products, legislation changes for your sector, changing production costs or market trends.
Section 2: Goals
From here, you should be able to identify some key goals for your business and determine how your marketing strategy can help you meet your objectives. For example, you may want to enter a new market, and you’ll have to adapt your marketing strategy in order to do so successfully. The most important thing with setting goals is that they should have clear, measurable performance indicators in order to track progress.
A useful method for setting goals is to follow the SMART framework. Your goals should be:
- Specific - your goal has a clear purpose or objective
- Measurable - you’ll have a clear KPI to hit and you’ll know exactly when you’ve achieved your goal
- Achievable - it’s a realistic and attainable goal to meet
- Relevant - your goal will actually make a difference to your success
- Timely - you have a clear timescale and deadline in mind
Section 3: Target Audience
Who are you speaking to? It’s time to figure out. Knowing your audience is crucial, as the people you are trying to target will dictate the methods of marketing that will work best for you. In this section, summarise your target audience with a short description. For consumer businesses, tailor your audience profile using demographics and any relevant characteristics. If you’re operating business-to-business, then break your audience into overlying categories.
Section 4: Strategy
Now that you’ve got your audience sorted, it’s time to decide how to reach them. This section will most likely make up the bulk of your plan, as this is where the marketing magic happens.
Here, you should be outlining all of the actionable steps you’re planning on using for marketing. This might be traditional advertising, digital marketing, trade shows, promotions or press relations. It might be useful to map your activity out using a calendar to ensure an even spread throughout the applicable period.
Your marketing tactics should be relevant to your audience, your business and your goals. For example, if you operate on a purely B2C basis, marketing at B2B trade shows may not be the most appropriate strategy for your business.
Section 5: Budget
You can’t ignore your budget when writing your marketing plan, as this will impact everything you do. The available budget will determine the most appropriate marketing strategies to take, and should be considered alongside your planning too. Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, with digital methods reducing marketing overheads greatly, but you should still be prepared to allocate some of your budget to your marketing activity.