5 Steps to Create an Outstanding Marketing Plan
Building a marketing plan is essential if you want your brand to survive in the digital landscape.
The shocking reality is that many brands are unaware of what a marketing plan is or looks like. What results is much-wasted effort and budget throwing tactics at the wall to see what sticks.
Your marketing strategy doesn’t need to look like this. Every business goal is far more attainable than you think as long as you have the right marketing strategy outline that works for your team.
Let’s dive into what a true marketing plan is and what you can do to start creating a marketing plan template today.
What is a Digital Marketing Plan?
A digital marketing plan is a blueprint of your business objectives and how you intend to use digital marketing channels to achieve them.
A well-formatted plan should include a realistic timeline for near and future business goals. It might also include mini-objectives you can use along the way to chart your progress and navigate potential pitfalls.
With a marketing plan template in place, all members of your team should have a clear vision of how best to use their marketing channel and specialty to help the brand reach its destination. It should also reveal ways for various mediums to synergize for a greater impact on your ideal customer.
Building a Marketing Plan
With this definition in mind, you may have a better overall idea, but still need some instructions as to where to begin.
Thankfully, creating a marketing plan is not so daunting as long as you follow a basic, proven template that’s helped countless businesses achieve marketing success online. First, we’ll start with the basics and then expand on key ideas as we learn more about the process.
Step 1 – Conduct a SWOT Analysis of Your Current Business Status
First, let’s define a SWOT analysis.
SWOT stands for “Strengths,” “Weaknesses,” “Opportunity,” and “Threat.” It’s a popular planning strategy that helps individuals choose how to best attack a personal or business project. You may also hear this referred to as situational analysis.
The reason for the popularity is that this template allows you to immediately identify four key factors that most heavily impact any plan and its potential outcome. Let’s look at how this applies to a business marketing plan.
What is your company’s greatest strength? This can highlight your best products and services, your best marketing channels, access to greater ad budgets, and so on. Any company asset or utility that can give you a leg up in achieving your goals can be classified as a strength.
Conversely, which areas leave your company most vulnerable? You need to be completely honest and assert which offerings are not competitive and which areas of your current team require improvement.
Turning these weaknesses into strengths can be a long-term goal, but are ultimately things you want to keep at the forefront of your mind so that you can plan for potential problems.
Both your company strengths and weaknesses are a direct result of factors you can actively control within the team.
On the other hand, your opportunities and threats are the direct result of factors outside of your immediate control. This includes the potential customer base and the direct competition that poses a threat to your overall success.
Opportunities can come in many forms. Is there a particular demographic that expresses interest in problem solutions that your brand can solve? That demographic is now an opportunity.
It can also include economical changes, events, or even physical proximity to a customer base with high potential. Consider everything happening at the community level, nationally, or even internationally that might set your brand up for unique opportunities that otherwise would not be as prevalent.
Finally, your threats would be the same forces of opportunity but are actively working against your success. Perhaps the employment crisis as a result of COVID-19 leaves your target consumer with less money to spend on your product. This is an easily-identifiable threat to your brand.
Brainstorm every community and environmental factor that’s relevant and classify them as either an opportunity or a threat. This will come in handy when building your actual plan.
Finally, and perhaps the most important part of threat analysis is to closely examine direct competitors. You’ll want to remain acutely aware of their offerings as well as the strategies being implemented in their digital marketing plan. You’ll want to be less reactionary and more proactive in creating your digital marketing strategy that can capitalize on the competitors’ weaknesses.
With all of this initial data accumulated, we can then proceed to the next steps in creating a digital marketing plan.
Step 2 – Define the Ideal Customer Persona – Then Segment Your Audience
The upside to performing a company situation analysis first is that it can help you get a leg up with this next step.
Every brand has its ideal customer persona. This is the fictitious profile of an individual that naturally stands to benefit the most from your offerings. Your products or services help the individual solve a problem, and your pricing conveniently meets their income level and buying habits.
Essentially, you want to consider your lineup of offerings and think about the group(s) that would genuinely benefit from them. If you run a landscaping business, it wouldn’t make much sense to make a marketing plan that sells to apartment renters. Instead, you might want to target the associations that own those buildings. You could also target homeowners if you observe a need for your services in local neighborhoods and income levels that support that need.
Beyond realizing your ICP, you’ll then also want to start segmenting your audience. Realistically, your team will be able to come up with several different groups that stand to potentially benefit from your brand. You’ll need real marketing data to determine the strongest buyer group, but that will come later.
Segmenting your audience is essential for marketing success as online marketing channels become overly saturated. When users are flooded with ads daily, they’re more likely to click away from anything that’s not highly personalized.
When you segment your target audiences by age, gender, income levels, living status, or personal interests, you’re better poised to market-specific sections of your offerings to the groups. This will result in running multiple campaigns and ad groups simultaneously, but the clicks you receive will be from more qualified customers.
Step 3 – Create Immediate and Long-Term Objectives
We now have our results from our SWOT analysis and understand the type of customer we want to emphasize in our marketing plan. Now is the time to start visualizing and creating an objective roadmap.
While long-term goals such as achieving X profit by the end of the fiscal year is great, creating several smaller objectives will help you better chart your progress. If you aren’t hitting your smaller objectives, you’ll be more agile in identifying problems and coming up with new solutions. Setbacks are inevitable for every business and planning for them is what sets a successful business apart from a failing one.
It’s ultimately up to you to define the goals you want to achieve as they are contingent upon your business plan. However, all of your goals should be realistically achievable, measurable, and have firm dates for completion. You may want to boost brand recognition on social media channels, increase your email listing subscribers, or achieve a certain ROI progressively over the entire year.
Defining your goals is crucial in creating a marketing plan as all great digital marketing occurs as the result of experimenting, measuring, and optimizing. If you don’t have the means to achieve a goal or a way to measure performance, you have no feedback loop to help you guide future business efforts.
Step 4 – Position Your Products and Services to Sell
This one’s a bit trickier to get into place as your business will naturally have limitations regarding what it can offer the customer. However, it doesn’t matter how much of a demand there is for a product if your selection costs more than the average customer can spend.
Getting your pricing right, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. Consumers will be critical of product/service selection, as well as the quality or build of those offerings. You need to find the best middle-ground of satisfying customer demands without overextending your budget or capabilities.
This will all tie back into identifying your ideal customer as well as the direct competition. Your brand will be best positioned to sell more if it offers one or more of the following:
- Better pricing
- Better quality
- Better customer service
- A better selection of goods
- A selection of goods that differs from competitors
Not only will product positioning help you connect more with existing audiences, but it can also help you branch out and market to new groups that were initially less qualified. A strong foundation for your brand will help you to achieve both short and long-term goals when it comes to new customer acquisition.
Step 5 – Create an Action Plan for Each Marketing Channel
So far in our digital marketing plan, we have:
- Identified the company’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities
- Discovered our ideal customer(s)
- Established the business goals we want to achieve through digital marketing
- Established an attractive product and service lineup
The final step is to utilize this well-earned data and use it to guide our digital marketing campaigns. The marketing channels you choose to use will be contingent upon your resources and budget.
For new brands looking to make immediate customer acquisitions through spending, you will want to consider utilizing PPC campaigns on popular platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads. The CPC offered through these channels is relatively low and will also allow you to collect a wealth of data from your audience segments.
For long-term growth and brand awareness, you’ll want to start bolstering your website’s SEO and content. Blogs are an exceptional way to boost your search rankings and make for great content to share on your social media accounts.
While brands would benefit from leveraging every digital marketing channel, it’s important to create a realistic plan for the ones you intend to use. Study up on each channel and consider how you can use them to help you achieve your short and long-term goals. Set up micro-conversions and custom goals to help you track your progress along the way.
Bonus Step – Continuously Monitor and Optimize Your Campaigns!
With your digital marketing plan in place, know that your job is far from over. Digital marketing is an ever-evolving game and you shouldn’t be surprised when best practices change not long after you’ve created a new plan.
Thankfully, most digital marketing platforms feature convenient smart automation tools that allow for better optimization and tracking. However, your team will still need to monitor this data and use it accordingly to help you achieve sales and growth. Anticipate changes and trends ahead of time and pivot your creatives as you go or else you’ll fall behind.
This new data creates a feedback loop that will bring you back to earlier steps in the digital marketing planning process. If you’re struggling to achieve goals, use your new data and circle back to your ideal customer or goal objectives. Modify your strategy and work your way forward once more.
With meticulous attention to detail and continued effort, you’ll have a living marketing plan that will help you achieve your business goals.