Why Do You Need a Marketing Plan?

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“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him [or her] and sells itself.” ~Peter Drucker

A marketing plan is your guide to successfully promoting and growing your business. A good marketing plan will help you answer key questions about your business: How will you position your company in the market? How will you differentiate from your competitors? How will you reach your customers? What are your sales goals? Where will you advertise? All of these are important questions that as a business owner and entrepreneur, you need to be able to answer.

Beyond that, however, a good marketing plan can help you to ensure that you’re using your resources most effectively. This is especially important if you develop an online marketing plan, which I always recommend. Rather than just jumping into social media or starting a blog, an online marketing plan helps you to align your online activities with your business goals. And in the end, isn’t that what you want?

What Should I Include in My Marketing Plan?

A traditional marketing plan includes several key components, such as:

  • Situation Analysis: The situation analysis will provide an overview of your product or service and its place in the market. What is the target market that you’ll be reaching out to? What are the trends in your industry? What other competitors offer a similar product or service? How will you be different?
  • Target Market: What age group will you be targeting – e.g. millennials? Will your product or service appeal more to men or women, single or married? The list goes on about the things that you could learn about your customers, but the important point is this: the more that you know about them, the better you’ll be able to connect with them in a way that will be meaningful to them. You should also consider developing an ideal client profile.
  • Marketing Strategy: The marketing strategy addresses the 4 P’s of marketing: product, price, promotion, and place. Basically, what is your product and how is it different, how will you price it, how will you promote it, and where will you sell it.
  • Objectives & Tactics: Once you’ve identified your strategy, you need to figure out how to implement it. You can set objectives to meet and identify the tactics that you will use to meet those objectives.
  • Sales and Budget: Your marketing plan can also include a sales forecast and an advertising budget. The sales projections will outline your sales targets on a monthly basis. Your budget will specify how much you will spend and when. The combination of sales and budget will allow you to be aware of how much you are spending on marketing and how much revenue you’re generating as a result.

An Online Marketing Plan

As we all know, things are moving quickly online. Blogs, search engines, and social networks have all disrupted traditional marketing. The result has been a shift from “outbound” or “push” marketing to “inbound” or “pull” marketing. This means that in the past, a marketing strategy that relied on reaching out to your clients by sending direct mail, advertising in print publications, or attending trade shows was sufficient. Now, however, you need to take into account the realities of the online world and integrate content marketing into your online marketing efforts.

This is why I focus on online marketing plans, which is what I recommend for most clients. Like a traditional marketing plan, an online marketing plan will include several key components such as:

  • Target Market and Ideal Client Identification: Given how scarce attention is online, it’s critical that you capture the attention of your ideal client quickly.
  • Messaging: What is the message that you want to convey to your clients? You only have seconds to get their attention, so you need to make sure that you’re clear about your message so that you can integrate it into all of your online activities.
  • Define Your Niche: The days when you could be all things to all people are long gone. With all of the competition online, you need to clearly identify your niche and use that to guide your online marketing strategy.
  • Search Engine Optimisation: Google has grown up, and you can’t game the system anymore. However, you can implement best practices for small business SEO, and this should be part of every online marketing plan.
  • Content Strategy: Rather than just posting updates about whatever has your attention at the moment or putting content on your website that may or may not help your business goals, a content strategy will ensure that all of your online activity is focused on one thing: meeting your business goals.
  • Editorial Calendar: The best way to plan out your blog posts and social media updates is by using an editorial calendar. This will help you to avoid the problem of not knowing what to write about, because you’ll have already prepared in advance.

Benefits of Planning Your Marketing

With a good marketing plan, you’ll have an action plan that you can implement knowing that it is aligned with your business goals. You’ll have done the work of identifying your target market, refining your message, and deciding what are the appropriate social networks for your business. You’ll have set clear goals and identified the objectives, strategies, and tactics to reach those goals. You’ll also have chosen the appropriate metrics to help you track your progress. In short, rather than just engaging in marketing activity that lacks focus, you’ll be working strategically.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of preparing a marketing plan, though, isn’t just the finished plan. Through the planning process, you will also have engaged in a valuable process of thinking through important questions related to your business. This will serve you well as you encounter the daily challenges of running a business. You could launch and run your business without a marketing plan, but why would you want to?