Creating a Marketing Plan can seem daunting. There are all kinds of templates, How To guides and textbook versions and it is tricky to know where to start. But, don't forget that you make plans all the time... Plans for the day, holiday plans, To Do lists. There's nothing different about a Marketing Plan. Remember that, however you structure your plan, the result should be a document that works for you. Your Marketing Plan should be something that you refer to regularly, not something that you sign off then leave in a drawer to gather dust...
Here are our top tips, then, to help you start creating an easy-to-understand and useful Marketing Plan:
Where are we now?
Your Marketing Plan should describe a journey that you want to take. So, first of all think about your starting position. Write down all the relevant things about your business as it stands.
For example, if we were looking at Shipshape Marketing we'd begin by stating that we are a small team of independent marketing consultants aiming to work with creative individuals and organisations.
From there we would conduct a Situation Analysis. That's a fancy way of saying we'd look at where we are now. There are a number of models and tools which can be really useful in helping you to organise your thoughts and think broadly about yourself, your work and the world you work in.
Some of the most useful include a SWOT analysis, a PESTLE analysis, Competitor analysis...
Do everything you can to think about your marketplace, consumer trends, who you're competing with and, of course, your internal capabilities.
Where are we going?
Write marketing aims & objectives to help you reach your business goals. We probably don't need to say this, but make sure they are SMART - Specific Measurable Actionable Reasonable and Time-Bound.
In practice that means that if you are a crafter who sells hand-knitted cushions you probably shouldn't make your number one aim:
"to become the top cushion seller in the world!"
That is not specific, has no time set to achieve it by and isn't really reasonable either!
A better aim would be:
"to sell 20% more cushions this year than I did last year"
You have a clear measure to check whether you are achieving your goal, it is realistic (but still ambitious), and nails down the time period too. Plus you can use this goal to then decide how to make it happen - it is actionable.
How will we get there?
This is the main section and will cover your strategy & tactics. You need to figure out your target audiences/customers and decide how to position yourself and the organisation to appeal to them, then figure out what method is best to tell them about you.
A quick example: when Shipshape-r Anders plans a gig for his music venture Hello Thor - the target market is new music fans in Nottingham. They like independent culture and DIY stuff so HT need to appeal to that. Methods to let those people know about Hello Thor are social media, putting up posters (the DIY approach!), emails and media like LeftLion.
You should also include the 7Ps here - Product, price, place, people, processes, physical evidence and promotion. Promotion covers everything from social media through to ads, email marketing, PR, sponsorship, direct marketing and personal selling.
The Ps are a useful tool to help you think through what your brand/offer is, how you sit in the marketplace and to make sure everything you do reflects your brand.
So, for example, if you decide your target market is young people aged 14-18 then make sure the decor of the building appeals to them, that the sign-up process to get involved is easy and written in their language, that you reach them through school, not ads in the local newspaper etc.
How will we know if we've done it?
In a word 'Monitoring'. Make sure you have a system in place to check on your progress. When and how will you know if you're on target to achieve your goals. Think through how you will monitor your progress on your journey. Will you have a monthly update for example? This is very important - what's the point in making a plan for where you want to get to if you don't keep an eye on how well you are doing? It's the same as ticking off items on a To Do list...and can be just as satisfying too!