How to Create a Marketing Plan
Writing a marketing plan may seem overwhelming but it's an important step in getting the results your business needs. With a marketing plan, you will be able to answer key questions about who your audience is, how to reach them, how to inspire them to take action, and how to measure success.
A marketing plan covers the promotional strategy needed to achieve the sales goals you outlined when creating your business plan. This includes your strategy for digital marketing, which has given businesses more ways than ever to reach their customers and raise awareness of their brand. The digital component of your marketing plan is crucial given that there are around 284 million web users1 in the U.S. — and the number of ways to reach them is growing all the time.
Strategic marketing can help you find customers you wouldn't otherwise have reached, build a relationship with them, establish an authoritative and trusted online presence, and drive sales. Plus, a marketing plan makes it easy to assess which marketing opportunities are in the best interests of your business — and which aren't.
Before you dive into marketing your business, here's how you can create a strategic marketing plan.
1. Know where you are
A good starting point is to assess where your business is now. Gather data about your website visitors, customers, and social media followers so you can begin to understand who's already connecting with you. It's also useful to conduct a SWOT analysis2 (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) so you understand what's working well with your existing marketing, and what's not.
2. Identify your audiences
If you're aiming to reach everyone, you might not reach anyone. The most effective marketing is targeted.3 By focusing your efforts on the people most likely to be — or become — customers, you help your brand to stand out and your marketing to get more engagement. A good place to start with targeting is to create customer personas. These are fictional representations of your target customers, which include demographic information (age, gender, education, and so on). Customer personas also identify the typical pain points and challenges those customers are looking to solve with your product or service. Most businesses have several customer personas. A good starting point for creating your persona is Hubspot's Make My Persona4 tool.
3. Set SMART marketing goals
Once you understand your baseline, it's time to set goals for what you want your marketing strategy to achieve. Typical goals include:
- Improved brand awareness.
- Increased lead generation.
- Improved product awareness.
- Better customer retention.
- Increased sales.
- Expanded sources of revenue.
When you create your marketing plan, be sure to make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound).
It's important to be clear on the difference between your goals (what you want to achieve) and tactics (the actions you'll take to realize those goals).
4. Set tactics
It's important to be clear on the difference between your goals (what you want to achieve) and tactics (the actions you'll take to realize those goals). At the start of this process, you set your goals. Now it's time to drill down into the actual tactics you will use. For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you might:
- Send out a weekly email newsletter (email marketing).
- Write authoritative blog posts (content marketing).
- Engage with your customers on social media (social media marketing).
- Run ads to highlight your brand (paid social media advertising).
For each tactic, identify who's responsible for carrying it out, how long the campaign will run, what your budget is, and how you'll measure success. Don't worry; you can get results even with a small marketing budget.
5. Determine KPIs
Once you know your goals and your tactics, it's important to determine how you're going to measure success. That success should be expressed with actual numbers, known as key performance indicators (KPIs). This will help you track how your marketing is going.
For example, with goal of increased lead generation, include the number of leads you want to get via marketing, as well as a realistic timeline for generating them. You'll need KPIs for each of your goals so you can see if you're achieving them.
Once you've started marketing, it's essential to review your marketing plan regularly to make sure it's working. In a fast-moving world, you need to be able to pivot quickly if a particular tactic isn't achieving the desired results. What you should review and at what intervals varies by the business. For example, Databox5 shows that almost 40% of marketers review their SEO KPIs weekly, while around 30% review those daily and another 30% reviewed monthly.
Follow these five steps, and do a regular review, and you'll be set for an effective marketing strategy that connects you with customers and brings you business.
Important disclosure information
This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
- Joseph Johnson, "Number of internet users in the United States from 2015 to 2025," Statistica, published January 27, 2021, accessed March 24, 2021. Back
- Adam Enfroy, "How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis for Your Small Business," SCORE, published May 22, 2020, accessed March 17, 2021. Back
- Jennifer Yesbeck, "The Importance of Targeting in Marketing (And How to Include It in Your Strategy), " Alexa.com, accessed March 17, 2021. Back
- Hubspot, "HubSpot Make My Persona Tool," accessed March 17, 2021. Back
- Elise Dopson, "11 Tips for Creating An Actionable SEO Marketing Dashboard," published February 24, 2020, accessed March 24, 2021. Back
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