Why you need a Marketing Plan – and where to start

By Richard Robinson

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A Marketing Plan is a more specific area of business planning that will directly help you to achieve your goals.

Think of it as a kind of business roadmap (or SatNav for the tech generation!) – mapping out your marketing activity will guide your business on its journey to achieve your goals. Without this in place, your business could be left wandering in the wilderness, and your goals risk remaining unfulfilled.

Here we share our advice on putting your marketing plan together.

First Steps

You can find an array of templates and detailed advice on how to write a marketing plan online, but we’ve distilled our experience into a 3 key steps that will get a good basic marketing plan in place that you can then develop and adapt.

  • Where are you now?

Background

Write an introduction to the industry, your business, what makes you unique (your USP = Unique Selling Point), and the potential your business has to succeed. If you involve any external parties such as consultants or agencies in your marketing activity, this section needs to give a thorough overview of your business and its place in the market.

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis examines the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in your business.

Look at your marketplace, and answer the following questions:

  • What Strengths does your business have? (You probably represent one of these)
  • What about weaknesses? Be honest with yourself – a weakness is often an opportunity in disguise.
  • Are there opportunities on the horizon? What can you participate in or take advantage of for the benefit of your business?
  • What threatens your business? Are there factors you can’t control?

List each answer in the appropriate quadrant of a grid like this:

  • Where are you going?

Where do you want your business to be?

What can your business realistically achieve in the next year?

Outline the growth, development and other goals you want to achieve, and put realistic deadlines on these. For example, if you want to increase your turnover or staff headcount, how long will this take you?

Plan a year at a time

It’s easiest to run your marketing year in line with your financial year.

Once you have written your marketing plan, you can add sections to plan further ahead – 2, 3 or 5 years, even 10 if you like! The point is to break your wider goals into achievable milestones.

  • How will you get there?

Now that you’ve identified your goals, you need to plan out how you will achieve them. In most cases this will involve an investment – either your money or your time, often both.

Plan out the activities that you need to undertake to win more customers, whether these take the shape of constant activity such as advertising, blogging, PR, and Social Media management, or are in the form of defined campaigns designed to yield a specific result in a fixed timeframe.

The activities you focus on will depend on your industry, the goals you want to achieve, and last but not least, your budget.

Divide your plan into growth and consolidation periods so that you are not simply spending money constantly without achieving a return on your investment from any given activity. A consolidation phase allows you measure the success of your activity, and regroup before you continue with your plan.

Other things to include

Market Research

You need to be sure that you know your market inside out – if you are seeking investment or funding from external parties or applying for a grant, the selection panel will certainly expect you to demonstrate in-depth knowledge.

Research what products or services are available, the demand for these from a customer perspective, and the prospects for growth in your industry.

Current/Previous Activity

Many companies find it helpful to detail methods and campaigns they have already tried, and the results of these – Obviously if yours is a new start-up, this won’t apply.

Competitor Activity

It’s important to have an awareness of what your competitors are doing, so keep a regular eye on their activity and campaigns, press coverage, etc.

Not only will this allow you to time your own activity carefully, but you can also learn from their mistakes for free!

Preparing a Marketing Plan helps you to focus your mind on how you intend to achieve the objectives laid out in your business plan. With a bit of work it will become a valuable growth tool for your business.

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Source:: Why you need a Marketing Plan – and where to start