A marketing plan sets out how you are going to put your marketing strategy into practice. The marketing plan ensures that everyone in the business knows what you are trying to do and what they need to do to make it happen.
Include objectives, budgets and deadlines
An effective marketing plan should set clear objectives that will help you towards your longer-term strategic goals. Where your marketing strategy includes targeting a particular customer segment, for example, your marketing plan should have specific, measurable objectives for helping you achieve this, such as increasing sales by a target percentage. Setting deadlines and agreeing marketing budgets to work with helps you focus on your priorities and achieve them.
You should make sales forecasts and targets a key part of your marketing plan, and feed them into your overall business plan. But other performance measures could be just as important. For example, you might set targets for numbers of enquiries, numbers of new customers, average transaction value, and so on. Or you might simply want to maintain positive cash flow.
You can choose targets like these to reflect your strategic goals. They can also help you identify where your marketing is - and isn't - working; for example, if you're getting lots of enquiries that don't convert to sales.
Planning your marketing
Your day-to-day business marketing activities are likely to focus on communicating with existing and potential customers. Your marketing plan should set out when and how you will do this.
There are many ways to market your business; the secret to a great marketing plan is to identify those methods that will best meet your business needs. These will become your own marketing mix. These marketing activities could include:
- Email marketing, including a regular email newsletter;
- Building a following on social media sites;
- Advertising online (including pay-per-click) or on sites like Facebook;
- Optimising your website to boost traffic and maximise sales conversions;
- Taking advantage of PR opportunities to promote your business;
- Attending trade shows and exhibitions in your sector;
- Running sales promotions and special offers;
- Advertising in the local press and on the radio;
- Leafleting your local area.
It's also a good idea to create a marketing schedule, to identify key times of year when marketing activity is likely to be most successful. This could include seasonal purchasing peaks, such as Christmas.
If you rely heavily on a fairly small number of important customers, consider developing individual account management plans for them.
While putting together your marketing plan, you may find that you need to strengthen your marketing capabilities. Consider whether you need to hire new marketing staff, give existing staff marketing or sales training or introduce new customer relationship management (CRM) technology, for example. You may also need to invest in tools that can measure customer satisfaction or monitor activities like online advertising and social media engagement.