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Create a marketing plan for growth

blog bookkeeping business business finance Sep 01, 2019
A laptop sitting on a desk with a graphic describing a marketing plan

Whether you're a start-up or you've opened a business before; because every business is unique, and because you want it to succeed; you'd be wise to create a marketing plan for growth. Let us talk you through marketing plans and why they matter.

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a written document, a road map, if you will, that outlines the advertising and marketing efforts that will introduce or deliver your product to its potential customer. If you've completed a business plan then you will have the basics outlined already. But at some stage, you need to flesh out your marketing plan with specific action items. 

Having a good marketing plan means that everyone in your business is working towards the same end goal. That goal should be aligned with your business vision and philosophy. It should be measurable and it should make evaluating new opportunities easy.

Before you begin on a marketing plan, you need to know the specifics of your business and it's structure. What does the future of your business look like, who is your target market, and how you are going to fund your business? It's never too early or too late to develop a marketing plan for your business. Unlike a business plan, once you have developed your first marketing plan it's essential  to review it regularly and often as your business grows and changes.

Does my business need a marketing plan? 

The short answer is “yes” but if you are in doubt, answer these questions to help you decide:

  • Have you set goals for your business?
  • How do you plan to sell your product?
  • Why and how is your product or service different from your competitors?
  • What sort of market share do you think you can achieve?
  • Do you understand the “ROI” (return on investment) expected for advertising and marketing campaigns?

And the most important question of all …

  • How do you plan to let the world know about your company, your product, your business philosophy and what you do?

If any of these questions has drawn a blank or your answer barely scratches the surface, then a marketing plan is exactly what your business needs.

Here are the areas to cover when creating a marketing plan:

The business and your current situation

First of all, where are you at in your business journey? Are you established but sales are stagnant or declining? Are you just starting out? Do you have a new product that you want to introduce to market?

Once you are clear about your current situation, and before you start on your marketing plan, it's useful to prepare a SWOT analysis. Identifying your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in advance, can spark insights into where you should put your marketing efforts. For example, you may have a fantastic product but seem to lack brand loyalty, or you may have cash flow problems that limit your options for advertising or marketing the business (and require low-cost, innovative solutions)..

If you have a clear understanding of where you're at in your business at any given time, it can assist in determining what activities are required to help move the business forward.

Product and services – what are you selling?

Simply, this area of the plan outlines what products or services the business sells. It includes a brief description of each item and the unit price. Is there anything unique about the product or service that may provide a distinctive edge when it goes to market? Include it here.

Most importantly, outline exactly what problem your product or service will help solve for your customers.

Target market – who are you selling to?

One of the best things you can do for your business is to prepare a detailed profile of your ideal customer. It may sound over the top but knowing exactly who you're targeting can mean the difference between success and failure.

  • How old is your customer? Do they have a partner, children?
  • Where do they live? Are they renting or do they own their home?
  • Where do they work or are they at school/ uni?
  • What is their financial situation? How much disposable income will they need to be able to afford what you are selling?
  • What interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes do they have?

The number of questions here can be endless, but there is a point to all of them; the more in depth the knowledge of your customer, the easier it will be to sell to them. Getting the customer experience, or CX, right is vital in developing both brand recognition and loyalty.

Don't be afraid to test your assumptions by conducting market research with individuals who match your target market. It's a quick way to see if they'll actually be interested in what you're selling and figure out how to fine-tune your assumptions and your strategies. 

The future – determine your goals?

You cannot possibly set an agenda for your business unless you understand what its future is.  So, if you haven't determined the vision and mission for your business, now is the time to do that.

Pull out the goals and objectives you have for your business. Make them clearer and more specific if you have too.  These goals can also help determine the appropriate strategies and tactics to use when preparing your marketing plan. 

Marketing and advertising – determine your strategies

This step is going to take the most time and will form the bulk of your marketing plan. Here you'll outline your various strategies to promote your business. These may include print or online advertising, media releases, social media promotion or advertisements, giveaways, promotion using an “influencer”, development of publications or catalogues, PR events to launch a product – to name a few.

Once you've decided how you'd like to promote or advertise your business, list the concrete and measurable elements that go with each item. Who's going to be responsible for developing and seeing through each promotion? What is the deadline? How long will it run for? What is the business improvement you expect to result from this event? What is the estimated cost?

Having tangible and measurable elements in place creates both action items and ownership of the action items. These will ensure not only an effective delivery of the campaign, but that the results at the end can be reviewed. Based on that analysis, you'll know what areas of the marketing plan to adjust in the future. 

The finances – what is your budget?

As with every other part of your business, set a budget for your marketing and advertising operations. It's useful to prepare a financial year calendar outlining planned marketing and advertising promotions, the estimated cost and when they'll occur.

Once a campaign is finished, compare the actual costs with your budget and adjust your budget accordingly for the next campaign. 

The benefits of a marketing plan

While the work required to complete a marketing plan may seem overwhelming at first, it's a tool that can be regularly finessed and developed as the business grows and changes.  

It's also a good way of recording your campaigns. When you go back over this real-world data, you'll be able to identify what resonates with your customers, how much this part of your business will cost, and the best way to go forward when considering future marketing efforts.  

Need help with marketing your business? Use this free marketing plan.


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