7 Steps to creating an effective marketing plan
A Marketing Plan is a bit like a job description for your company. Everyone should have one, but they’re often not fit for purpose, out of date and reviewed infrequently... Research has shown that businesses with plans succeed, outperform competitors, and retain staff, more than those with no plan. Without a plan there’s no direction for the company or its employees, decisions can be uninformed, opportunities can be missed and threats can damage or destroy the business.
Whether you are looking at creating a traditional marketing plan or a digital marketing plan, in this post and in the latest Smart Insights Business Marketing Planning Guide, I will take you through the seven steps to creating a marketing plan – integrating online and offline.
What are the seven steps to create your marketing plan?
It can be daunting to develop a marketing plan for the first time, so this Guide takes you through a step by step process. And, if you’ve already got some of the work in place or available, you can move swiftly on to the next step!
Step 1. Situation Analysis - Understand your customers
As part of PR Smith’s SOSTAC® model, a good plan starts with a situation analysis to see where the business is now. Gain an overview via your customers, but don’t forget to ask the right questions. One of my pet hates is the ‘hypothetical question’ e.g. A hotel asking “if you would stay here again?” It’s possible you would stay there again, but if it’s been a one-off visit it’s very unlikely it will actually happen. Removing hypothetical questions ensures you capture facts not fiction.
If you’ve got a start-up business or are looking at a marketing plan for a totally new area, many other research resources are available including online reports, insights via trends and conferences. This informs your business decision and ensure the plan is fundamentally sound.
Step 2. Situation Analysis - Marketing audit: where are we now?
After you’ve captured customer insights, the next step is a comprehensive review or audit of the business. Most countries publish statistical data on businesses in their region. This can tell you the number of businesses in specific sectors, average numbers of employees, average earnings, average income per household and more. This valuable information highlights market values, market potential and opportunities. This enables you to understand where your business sits in its market sector and the market share available.
A key element of the audit is the SWOT and whilst you and many marketers are familiar with the SWOT analysis, you may be less familiar with the McKinsey 7S framework of business. I use this to conduct the SWOT because it takes a holistic look at the business and gets you to think about Strategy, Structure, Systems, Staff, Style, Skills and Shared values. You can use this template to start your SWOT, I’ve included some examples so you can get started:
Part of a marketing audit is competitor benchmarking. Really understanding what the competitors offer. The more you understand how they work, the more likely you are to be able to predict their next move. You won’t be one of these companies that says “we never saw it coming”. One of my clients ensured they always got the early news on their key competitor by buying some of their shares! It meant they had access to latest reports, newsletters and could attend annual meetings to hear what other shareholders thought. This was all for an investment of £150.
Step 3. Objectives - Create sustainable objectives: Where do we want to go?
It’s easy to create general objectives; it’s harder to develop SMART objectives.
Taking this one stage further, businesses that use numbers alone often miss key values inside the business. It’s easy to become numbers-driven; it’s harder to create ‘softer’ objectives. In Emarketing Excellence (2012) Dave Chaffey and PR Smith developed the 5s model, initially as a mechanism for reviewing websites. I’ve used this for many years to develop business objectives. It tends to challenge the thinking within a business and gets the owners and managers considering the business as a whole, rather than sales alone.
Look at your business. Do you have SMART objectives for:
Step 4. Strategy: Segment your customer base
Key strategic initiatives for your business will include one or more of these options:
When you know the strategic initiatives the business is taking, it’s easier to segment your customer base, whether you’re B2B, B2C or a blend of both. You can use the mnemonic SUPERB to identify your customer segments:
Step 5. Strategy: Target new customers and position your business
Growing a business always involves finding new customers, this may be different segments or markets and may encourage your business to look at product development.
What opportunities are there in your business to:
And which of these strategies are your main competitors using?
Step 6. Tactics and Action - Create your marketing action plan
The key to making it happen is to create a detailed marketing action plan. If you don’t have time to conduct each step yourself, you can explore other options and contract out specific tasks to an external consultant or agency.
I have found that an Action Plan that includes more detail, nominates someone to do the work and sets dates by when it should be completed, is more likely to get done than a loose set of instructions. A good action plan becomes ’work instructions’ for different people. This enables busy marketing managers to enlist support from the admin team who often relish the opportunity to carry out new tasks, as long as they have a detailed brief.
Step 7. Control - Monitor, manage and improve
The final step is about monitoring action, managing the process and measuring results. The 7 steps to make your plan happen are:
One final tip; set a start and an end date for creating the marketing plan, if not, the audit stage could continue indefinitely!
What other tips could you share about ensuring a marketing plan is in place or effective?
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