If you want to get to a specific place, you need a map. For the business world, that map is the marketing plan.
Having a well developed marketing plan is imperative for every business in all sectors and sizes. However, there are still many companies that start launching advertising without having a clear marketing strategy or with a concrete plan.
This might not be your case, in this article we will go through everything you need in order to create an effective digital marketing plan for your business.
How to create the best marketing plan for your business
A marketing plan is a document (in text or presentation form) in which you set an analysis of the company's actual standing, the objectives to be achieved, and the steps to follow to achieve them.
There are plenty of reasons why you should create an elaborate plan: it helps to achieve the goals set, it reinforces the commitment of the team, and it helps
to define a long term vision. It also betters the efficiency of the team and it can even help prevent mistakes (and solve them rapidly when made).
When creating the marketing plan, organization is key. There are series of elements that every plan should include, and a logical order in which they must be worked for the final result to be coherent and operative.
In the following paragraphs I will explain in detail the five basic sections of a marketing plan and what should be included in each one of them. If you want to make the process even easier, you can download the marketing plan checklist here: Requirements for your digital marketing campaigns. The checklist contains 20 basic points that we recommend to have covered before setting in motion any digital marketing action.
1# Analysis of current situation
The first step is to analyze the business current situation, this step is mandatory because without it we cannot define where we want to go.
With this analysis, we will be able to see the influence of external and internal factors. within the external ones we have the general situation (social, economical….), the particularities of the sector and market. The internal ones refer to the business itslef, for example, the team and the resources it counts with.
To systemize the analysis and guarantee that we are not missing anything, we can always recur to the classic SWOT scheme: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Strengths are the positive internal aspects of the company, those that make it stand out from the competition and the ones that make the team proud. In the strengths we find the key competitive advantage. Example: Having a highly qualified team, or be considered the best for X product.
- Weaknesses are those internal aspects of the company in which shortages or lacks are manifested. Those areas in which the company is positioned below its competitors or which can be improved. To find them, we can pose questions such as, in which aspects are my competitors better or what things are we least satisfied with?. Some examples of weaknesses could be the lack of financing or the limiting offer in products.
- Opportunities represent the external factors that play on our favor and that can be exploited by the company. We can find opportunities by researching the current trends and changes within our target market. For example, there can be a legislative change that favors us or a product that we sell starting to become a trend.
- Threats are external negative elements that can potentially affect us. It refers to those factors that can put the business in danger or reduce our market share. Identifying them on time can help us to neutralize them. To find them, just like for the opportunities, we need to pay attention to current changes and market trends, for example, the appearance of new competitors could represent a threat.
Besides the SWOT, I highly recommend to do a deep buyer persona analysis, this is the ideal customer of your business. The buyer persona gives a name and face to your target market by painting a semi fictional representation of it. It should include at least the following sections:
- Who is our buyer persona? Here is where we pick up all the general information about our buyer persona´s profile, like demographic information and personal identifiers.
- How can our buyer persona help our business? Define the goals and primary and secondary challenges of your buyer persona and explain how your business and brand can help him/her obtain them.
- Why? Comments of the challenges and needs of your customers and the most common complaints and objections. Here, you can get some inspiration from the real comments you receive during your research work.
- How? The definition of the marketing and sales messages that will be communicated in order to reach this potential customer.
This is another aspect of the external factor overall analysis, but it deserves its own section within the marketing plan due to how determining it can be for the future of your business.
After picking the main competitors of your business (if you have not done so yet) you need to try to answer the following questions:
- What is their budget and their business volume? Big companies publish their anual or trimester results, so in this cases the information can be pretty accessible. For smaller companies, you can try to ask for reports on databases such as einforma or asexor. If not, you can always extrapolate based on data such as the number of workers on staff (LinkedIn is very useful in these cases) or the breadth of their catalog.
- What is the price for their products or services? On B2C companies, this information is easy to find, while for B2B companies, you will have to do a little more research. Once you have the information, develop a price range and think of where you want to position your business.
- How is their sales process? From the first contact until conversion, the customer journey of your competitors can give you a lot of clues for your business. The most common way to find it out is to play the “mysterious client” role and asking for the information yourself.
- How do they get their clients? Refers to their marketing strategies. Regarding their digital marketing strategies, it is easy to find that out by checking their website, social networks and any other digital channels. I also recommend using tools such as SEMRush and Google Alerts.
Now that the starting points are clear, we have to define where we want to go and if it is possible to get there. It's time to set our marketing objectives.
This is one of the most important steps of any marketing plan, and perhaps the most neglected. Many times the management team sets unrealistic objectives based more on their "wishful thinking" than on the real and actual current standing of the company. So that this doesn´t happen, I recommend to always base the objectives taking into account the SMART acronym:
- S of "specific": the objectives must be specific. The "increase brand awareness" kind of goals are too broad because they could mean almost anything and be justified in many different ways. Instead, something like "increase brand mentions on social networks by 20%" would be more adequate.
- M of "measurable": to know if a goal has been achieved, we have to be able to measure it. Therefore, in addition to defining the objectives with precision, we also need to clarify how we are going to measure them. Using the previous example, we could establish that we will measure the amount of brand mentions on a monthly basis through the Social Mention tool.
- A of "achievable": Trying to reach the moon in two days only serves as a discouragement for the team. When we set objectives, we have to take into account the effort and time required, and other costs derived, always starting from our current situation. Only then, we can establish whether the goal is realistic or not.
- R of "relevant": it seems obvious to say that the objectives have to be relevant, but in practice it is not so important. For example, many digital marketers aim to increase their website visits. But if those visits are not of quality and do not lead to any conversions, in reality, they don´t mean anything. Record it to fire: the marketing objectives have to respond to the business objectives.
- T of "time-bound": every objective needs a temporary context to make sense, so do not forget to define the deadline to get it.
4 # Action plan: marketing strategies
With all this work done, we have arrived to the heart of the marketing plan: what are the actions that will lead us to achieve our goals?
In this section, we will define the marketing strategies, always going from the broad to the specific. In the end, the steps to follow and the order in which they will be carried out need to be extremely clear.
To organize and classify the strategies, it is very common to resort to the famous "4 P of marketing":
- Product strategy. Even if have a very well defined and positioned product line, changes are always produced over time. For example, we can launch new products, change the positioning of an existing one or update the packaging.
- Price strategy. Here it will be very useful to analyze the information that we have about the competition. We need to define the launch prices of new products, consider whether we should make changes to those already in the market and, perhaps most importantly, decide the whole strategy of discounts, promotions and offers. Do not forget to take into account seasonal campaigns, for example, summer or Christmas.
- Sales and distribution strategy: if we have detected any weakness in the customer experience or simply want to optimize it, we can consider actions in this section. For example: search for new suppliers, include new distribution channels such as online sales, improve delivery times, reduce shipping costs.
- Promotion and communication strategy: here all the actions come into play to make our brand known with both online and offline media. Given the rapid evolution of the online marketing environment and the digital habits of consumers, this is one of the sections that we will have to review the most over time.
5# Real time review of the plan
Last but not least, you have to keep in mind that your marketing plan is not a one time thing, but you must be constantly modifying it so that it keeps responding to the changing needs of the company.
For this to be the case, my recommendation is to organize regular meetings to evaluate the progress of the plan. The following five points can serve as a guide for this evaluation:
- Objectives: are the objectives set being met? Looking back, were they realistic, too ambitious or did they fall short?
- Compliance: are we following the actions planned? If we have strayed, why is it? If this is the case, it does not always make sense to correct these deviations; sometimes it's better to modify the plan and adapt it to them if they are working.
- Strategies: What are the most appropriate actions according to their performance?
- Budget: does the plan adapt to the business´ actual budget? How is the plan affecting the income and expenses? Is it necessary to make modifications?
- Review: refers to any modifications and extensions of the plan. For example, we can decide to complete the first version by adding a schedule of actions, assignments and tasks.
All of the above should help you to make a good marketing plan for your company and to improve your ROI and results.