When it comes to marketing, like most things in life, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”   Even so, I still come across businesses owners who look at me blankly when I ask them about their marketing plans and strategies.  Given that marketing is so vital to the success of most businesses, I find this perplexing! 

My personal feeling is that this lack of planning of marketing is because most business owners don’t have much knowledge of sales and marketing practices.  This means they just don’t know where to start with developing a marketing plan, and unfortunately, they tend to dive straight in and give it a go, without really thinking about what they’re trying to achieve.  It’s no wonder then that so much money is wasted on ineffective marketing.

So how do we resolve this problem?  Well, by planning, of course!

Plan your route

We all know the best way to get to somewhere you don’t know is to study a map, and plan a route in advance.  Just starting out on your journey with no preparation and hoping that you actually arrive at your destination eventually is likely to take you a lot of time and energy, with many wrong turns on the way.

Well, marketing is no different.  A bit of time spent planning up front can save a great deal of time, effort and money in the long run.  The problem is though that most business owners do not know what a marketing plan should look like, and so they don’t know where to start.  The good news is that a marketing plan can be very simple, and take no more than an hour or so to complete.  Once you have done your first plan, your future ones will be even quicker to produce!

7 Steps to a Great Marketing Plan

To develop your marketing plan, I recommend using a simple 7 step process, based on the teachings of the father of “guerilla marketing”, the late, great Jay Conrad Levinson.  He was responsible for the “Marlboro Man” marketing campaign in the 1970’s, and what he did not know about successful marketing is probably not worth knowing.

To follow this process, you just need to answer the following 7 questions:

1. What is the purpose of the marketing? 

You start the process with the desired end in mind.  Ask yourself, what do you want the prospects to DO as a result of this marketing message?  Every piece of marketing/advertising that you produce should have a clear intended end result.  You want your prospects to take ACTION, but what, specifically?  If you do not tell them, they are unlikely to react in the way you want them to.  So be totally clear what it is you want prospects to DO as a result of your marketing.  Is it to call you, to take your call, to go to your website, to click on a link, or to come to your shop or showroom? Marketing without a clear “call to action” is like throwing money down the drain.

2. Who is the target audience?

You can’t be all things to all people.  If you try, your message will be weak and ineffective.  So be clear about who your ideal customer is, and target them specifically with your marketing message.  What is their age bracket? How much do they earn? What are their interests? Where do they live? The narrower your focus, the more chance you’ll have of getting your message across to the right people.  Think “sniper” not “machine gun” marketing.

3. What is my competitive advantage?

You have to know what it is about your product or service that makes you different to the competition, i.e. your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).  If you don’t know and can’t tell people about it, then why would they leave their current supplier and come to you?  So if you haven’t defined your USP, now’s the time to do it!  A good place to start is by thinking about what problems people may experience when buying in your marketplace, and how you can solve those problems for them. Then make sure you tell people about it!

4. What are the benefits of buying from me?

Most people list the features of their product or service or company in their marketing material, but this is a mistake as it puts the focus on you, not your potential customer!   Customers are interested in themselves and how you can help them meet their needs or solve their problems, so put the focus on them in your marketing messages.  When you start your conversation with “you will …” and highlight how they are going to benefit from your product or service, they will be far more receptive to your message.

5. Which marketing tools will I use?

In other words, how you are going to get your message across?  There are many ways to do this: advertising, direct mail, networking, telemarketing, social media, PR etc.  Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, and the key is to remember the target market you have identified.  Think about where they are likely to be in their largest numbers, and what method will be most appropriate to communicate with them.  This means you need to know your target market really well.

6. How am I going to measure the results?

If you can’t measure the results from your marketing efforts, then how are you going to know if your strategies have been successful?  Be sure you can track response rates from the various strategies within your marketing plan.  This may mean that each campaign needs to have a unique code, and your sales system needs to have a means of identifying and recording when prospects respond to each strategy.

7. How much is my marketing budget?

Marketing should be seen as an investment not an expense, so for every pound put in, more than a pound of profit should be made.  If you could guarantee this, then your marketing budget could be unlimited!  However, life is not like that, and so you must set a budget. To do this, you need to be clear what you can afford and what Return on Investment (ROI) you want from your marketing.  Once you know this, you can compare the results of your marketing campaigns, stop those that have low ROI’s and invest more in campaigns with high ones.

Congratulations – you now have the information you need to structure your first marketing plan!  But here’s one final tip: a business with one marketing campaign is like having a chair with three legs – it might hold up for a while, but in the long run it will fall over!  For that reason, you should have a marketing plan with multiple strategies that you review regularly and tweak as necessary.  The end result should be a well-oiled machine that consistently brings in leads!

So now you know how, take ACTION to write a great marketing plan, and get those new customers on board! And if you’d like more help with developing a great marketing plan, why not come along to our next Marketing Mastery Workshop? See our Events page for details!