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Marketing #101, Tip #3: How to Plan

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

One day you realize that while running every other aspect of your company, you have neglected marketing. You think you should probably do something but now what? Or you have been doing a great job in your regular position and the owner comes to you to say the company needs to do a better job of marketing and you're now in charge. Same question, now what?

If marketing is not your everyday job, this could be a struggle. We'll take a few minutes in this post and give you some guidance. We'll keep it simple and help take control of this task so that you can get back to your day job. It all starts with having a plan....a "Marketing Plan"

Side note…before we get too far I want to make a distinction Advertising is not Marketing and an Advertising Campaign is not a Marketing Plan. Advertising is a part of marketing and should be included in a plan but advertising by itself, with no direction from a marketing plan, is a gamble.

So, what does a Marketing Plan look like? Google will be no help in this case. Search “Marketing Plan” and you will find results similar to this:

  • The 10 Essential Steps to Marketing Plans

  • The 5 C’s of Marketing Plans

  • 7 Key Elements of a Marketing Plan

  • The 4 Indispensable Stages of Your Marketing Plan

Is it 10 steps, 5 C’s, 7 Elements, 4 Stages? What is the magic number? These are all over the board and probably have a lot of BS in them for filler.

The truth is that every Marketing Plan will be unique to each business but it doesn’t need 10, 5, or 7 steps. Marketing plans are essentially made up of 3 parts, Research, Strategy, Tactics. Research will determine your Strategy and your Strategy is fed by your Tactics. Let’s break this down a little bit.

Research: Start by looking at the past 12 months, what can you learn from the last year? Note how it started and how it ended. Look for variables that impacted your business, be honest with yourself in what worked and what didn’t, and make your best estimate as to what the market, not just your company, will look like in the next 12-month cycle. Then identify the true market opportunity, asking this question “what will the market give me?”. Can you take 5% of the business that is available in your industry? Can you take 10%? Is it even higher? This market share goal will help determine your budget in a later phase. Also, make sure you really know what best customers are like. Your plan should be built around drawing in new customers that are similar to your best customers. The more business you get from this group to more profitable your plan will be. And knowing this info will lead you down the right path later. Your goal in the Research phase is to have a map of the market itself that leads you to more customers. This takes us to the next stage, Strategy.

Strategy: Once you’ve reviewed the past 12 months, determined market opportunity, know who your ideal customer really is, now you can start laying out your plan to reach them. This will be your strategy. For example, a strategy could be “We are to grow our sales to $1m by increasing our market share by 5%, reaching customers that mirror the buying habits of our most profitable customers, using four distinct promotions throughout the year.” This phase will definitely include your “why”, “how”, and “when”. In the example above, they are:

  • “Why” = 5% growth

  • “How” = reaching more ideal customers with four promotions

  • “When” = 4x throughout the year

A strategy does not have to be complicated. Simple strategies, that are clear in direction and easy to communicate work best. Whatever your business model is, determining the objectives above will help you round out your strategy and lead to the final phase, Tactics.

Tactics: This is the blocking and tackling phase. You have a good idea what your opportunity in the market is, who you want to reach and your messaging to them, now you just need the best means to do so. Tactics for most companies will include advertising (using digital and traditional media), newsletters, public relations, trade shows (in the before times…before COVID-19), lead-generation and more. Again, there is no single combination of these that will work for everyone. Each company’s blend of tactics will be unique to them. Whatever that combo may be, these must be accurately tracked using data and facts (Side note #2...asking your customers where they found you is not an accurate tracking system). Budget for all of the above should be set to reach your market share goal, not based on what you spent last year and not what your Sales to Ad ratio might be. This is key. Once your plan is set, remember that it is not set in stone. Tracking your results throughout your cycle will allow you to optimize it and adjust. You will inevitably find that some things are working better than others. Budget and plans should be shifted accordingly.

Side note #3... a quick detour about budgeting. The marketing budget is often set before any plan has been developed. A business owner or CEO/CFO looks at their overall budget and predetermines what to spend on marketing as it fits into a general ledger or on a spreadsheet. That process is logical and easy to understand. However, it can also be misleading and full of pitfalls. A marketing budget should be based on your market share goals and the cost of the tactics used reach those goals.

To wrap this up, all marketing plans should be built on a 12-month cycle. It doesn’t matter if your calendar is Jan-Dec, July-June, Sept-Aug or some other crazy fiscal calendar. Being 12 months gives your plan time to grow and be optimize. Results don’t happen overnight, so be patient with your plan and give it time to work. And lastly, be prepared to repeat this process again next year.

I’ll end today’s blog with an old saying, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Don't plan to fail. Use this as a guide to get started on your plan. Subscribe to our Blogs if you would like more tips on marketing. If you need help, reach out to us on our CONTACT page. The first consultation is always free.


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