5 Steps to Creating Your Marketing Plan

create your marketing plan

Hello March! While many of us are left wondering what happened to the first part of 2020, we are still in the first quarter. If you and your company had big dreams of stepping up your marketing this year, we know that figuring out where to start can be a little overwhelming.

Take a deep breath. You still have plenty of time to rock your 2020 goals. This month, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know to put together a marketing plan and how to make it work. But let’s start with the basics – how do you create a marketing plan anyway?

1. Start with Where Your Business Is

This one might be easy to overlook, but it’s just as important as the fun stuff you start doing below. Take a look at your business now and ask yourself a few main questions:

  1. Where is the business now?
  2. What’s our main product/service and how are we unique? (Or, what’s our Unique Value Proposition)
  3. Where are we spending money that we might not need to?
  4. Where aren’t we advertising that we should look at?
  5. What are our competitors doing?

All of these questions require a little bit of analysis at past metrics, and not all things can be answered so easily (like, Where are we spending money that we might not need to?) But if you take some time to sit down and look through 2019, plus talk to your sales reps and customer service agents, you might be surprised what you already know. Communication in this part is key. Get outside of the marketing silo and see how everyone else is feeling in the business.

2. Define Your Target Market

You might have done this before. We get it. But a lot could have changed since you last did this. Sit down and talk through who your ideal customer is. Think through your buyer personas (we’ll talk about this more next week), what industry you’re selling to, if you’re more B2C or B2B, and what their problems are.

Once you think through your target market (and write it all out!), start thinking about the common trends. You’re likely going to have more than one target, but what things overlap? Where do they usually hang out that you can hit them with advertising? You know their problems, so how do you solve those issues? And how might they be researching on how to fix those problems?

So what happens when you have overlapping or multiple target markets? Take a step back and think through where each of those markets are going to be. If you’re trying to sell teenagers but also their moms, they’re not going to be “hanging out” in the same social space. Changing up your UVP and sales message even just a little depending on the outlet can help you hit multiple markets.

The real key here is doing the research to see where your target market is, what they’re looking for, and how that aligns with your company’s services or products. Then share that message where they are. (Overly simplistic marketing explanations FTW.)

3. Define Your Marketing Goals

So, you now know where you’ve been marketing, where your business is and what makes you unique, and you know your target market. What are you going to do with all that information? Now it’s time to focus on what goals can you set for your marketing efforts.

This might seem a little crazy, but not all marketing goals are going to be defined by an overall increase in sales. For some aspects of your marketing campaign, you might literally just want to raise awareness. Whatever your goals are, be specific with them – do you want to see a 5% bump in sales, 1,000 more followers on Facebook, or a 10% increase in engagement on social media? Set those out. Your team is more able to hit an actual target rather than a moving one.

The other thing to remember though is to be realistic with your goals. Good marketing is great, but it doesn’t work magic. Make sure that you’re being smart with small, incremental change that you can grow from. After all, once you’ve increased engagement by 10%, you can now aim to increase it another 20%. A 5% increase in sales can lead to a 15% increase. Pick something attainable, and then grow the goals as you grow.

4. Decide on Your Marketing Channels

This goes back a bit to your target market, because the first thing you want to do is weed out the places they aren’t. But this also aligns well with defining your goals and looking at what your competition is doing from step 1.

For instance, if you want to largely target purchasers that are 25 and under, you’re not going to put a lot of money into Facebook advertising. You are, though, going to want to build up your Instagram, run direct-purchase ads, and do a lot of Instagram stories. If you’ve got a visual brand, you might put more effort into YouTube and less into Google Search ads. Or if you’re doing a lot of B2B sales, you want to ensure your LinkedIn presence is on point. Whatever your goal, you have to be in a place where your target market is already spending their time.

You also have to look to and decide on what’s reasonable for your budget. TV ads might be out of reach, but you can shoot some quick video and run that across social media channels for a fraction of the cost. Your brand might not be ready for expensive geofencing digital ads, but you could get a lot out of Google Display and Facebook ads. Map out everywhere you think your target market might be and decide what makes the most sense for you as a brand.

Always take into consideration what your competition is doing. If you can find a spot where you have a lot less competition, your message reaches further. Maybe a lot of your competitors run Facebook Ads, but they’ve yet to dip into anything on YouTube. Or get creative and make TikTok your brand’s thing. Just remember that if your competition isn’t there yet, there might be a reason they’re not there. Make sure that any “new” places you’re trying out that your target market is at least spending some time there. TikTok might not be great if you’re a B2B company with a buyer persona of a 40 year old woman. For now at least.

5. Measure Your Successes. And Your Failures.

I can’t stress this one enough. Measure, measure, measure. Marketing is testing, pure and simple. You can think one strategy will work great, but it might not. You may think your target market lives and breathes Facebook, but find out that you get better engagement on Instagram. Whatever you do, treat your marketing plan as a living, breathing document so you can change and be agile.

Check in weekly on ad campaigns, check in monthly on bigger campaign pieces, and don’t be afraid to adjust and change as needed. After all, standards in digital marketing literally change by the hour, so your marketing planning should reflect that. Those metrics, tied to conversions and sales, will help you see what’s working and what’s not.

Once you’ve got a good handle on what’s working, it’s a lot easier to decide where to put more of your time, effort, and even budget, too.

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