Marketing plans aren’t just necessary for big businesses – start-ups can really benefit from them too. Drawing one up will help you to decide where and how to spend your precious resources. It won’t guarantee you success but it can guide you as to how, when and why you’ll need to carry out certain actions. Here are our top tips for getting started along the marketing road:
It might seem an obvious place to start but it’s often overlooked. Before you put your marketing plan together, look at your business plan. Review the goals you’ve set yourself and what you’re offering. Why should someone buy your products or services? How do you differ from the competition? By brainstorming these questions, you can determine your selling points and what you want to get out of your marketing efforts.
2. Your target audience
You’ll need to know who you’re aiming your products or services at before constructing a marketing plan. They might have a broad appeal, but it doesn’t mean that you should spend all your time and money trying to reach them all. Focus in on a target market, and it’ll help you distribute best what limited resources you do have.
3. Know your strengths (and weaknesses)
Before launching your products for sale, you’ll need to know where you stand. A handy little tool at times like these is a SWOT analysis. This is just an assessment of the internal and external factors a business is facing - SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Knowing where your business falls into each of these categories helps you structure your marketing objectives. Essentially, it helps you establish your place in the market.
4. Set your objectives
So if you’ve done a SWOT analysis, you’ll have a better idea of where you stand in the market. Use this information to help guide the development of your marketing objectives. For instance, if you work out that you’ve got low customer retention, you can take this into consideration when you’re completing your marketing plan. You’ll be additionally aware that you need to focus some of your efforts on upping your customer retention. If you set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive) objectives, then you’re well on the way to creating effective objectives.
5. Determine strategies and tactics
If your objectives set out what you hope to achieve, then your strategies and tactics explain how you intend to get there. Develop a strategy to tackle each objective, then decide on what your tactics will be. At this point, you can look into whether you want to advertise, or focus your efforts on social media or email campaigns. It’s a good idea to double check that any strategies or tactics you develop align with your objectives. Build in, as well, how you’re going to measure all of your activities.
6. Work out your budget and timeline
Marketing activities can often be free to carry out, but will take up varying amounts of your time. By creating a budget and timeline section in your marketing plan, you can list a cost and estimated time against each activity. As a start up, you might be more focused here on time and staffing costs. Regardless of which tactics you’ve chosen, a timeline can be well worth the effort. Having all of the information in one place means you can keep going back to it, so you can reconcile actual costs and time spent against the planned ones.
7. Review and adjust…
Marketing your business is a constant thing. It doesn’t just stop with you completing a marketing plan. Now it’s up to you to revisit it, adjust it, if necessary, as time goes on. After you’ve completed each marketing campaign, evaluate it for its effectiveness. Did you meet your objectives? Do you need to adjust your strategies and tactics? A marketing plan is designed to be something a bit more organic, so that it absorbs new information as your business grows.
And finally: There really isn’t a right or a wrong way to put your marketing plan together. The more information you have to hand before you begin, the better, as well as documenting your goals before you start marketing your products or services. If you take the time to do this, you’ll reap the rewards down the line. Good luck!
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