Developing a Marketing plan – Where to start

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In small businesses, marketing plans can be overlooked in favour of other ongoing operational pressures. However, this tool can enable any business, no matter how small they are, to better understand their positioning, brand image, and implement the steps for a considered and well thought growth.

As a small business, the key risks when working on such documents are to make the research too wide, so wide that the time and effort put into the research do not match the actual operational requirements of the business, and to build a plan that is not actually manageable or not in line with the time or financial resources available.

  • So first, what is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a document that takes into account the current market and brand positioning of a company, outlines the business goals and objectives in terms of marketing for the next coming year and describe the marketing and advertising activities that will be implemented to achieved the business’s goals and objectives.

To be effective, a marketing plan must provide measurable goals and KPIs (key performing indicator), that will enable the marketing team to follow up and monitor the implementation of the strategy over time. It will also enable them to adjust and review the plan at the end of the year  (what worked, what did not work) to develop new goals for the following year.

  • What are the steps in developing a marketing plan?

As mentioned before, developing a marketing plan involve a phase of in-depth market and data analysis to build a “situation analysis”, This will be your starting point in terms of KPIs, and also enables to build goals for the business.

  1. Research the market’s specificities (size, market segments, competitors, trends)
  2. Understand your customers: where do see value in your products/services
  3. Analyse the different ways you products/services reach your customers (distribution channels); are some more performing than others, does the competition use different channels?
  4. Analyse if the different market segments you identified earlier are all considered within the current distribution. Are some market segment/distribution channels more profitable than others; or are there some channels more performing than others for each market segment?
  5. Analyse the overall profitability of your activities, and determine the Goals & Objectives of your business for the upcoming year. If your business develops a corporate strategy independently from your marketing document, evaluate how the marketing goals & objective can positively fit with the corporate strategy.
  6. Based on your analysis, determine who is your Ideal customer, what product or services are to be prioritised and which market target and activities need to be reconsidered or updated.
  7. With a better understanding of your services, your customers and customer target and your overall Goals, formulate specific objectives. These can vary from Penetrate a new market segment, to increase customer retention, size order or frequency.
  8. Consider the steps you will need to take to achieve these goals: formulate clear steps and actions to be implemented
  9. Based on your industry’s specifity (buying cycles, seasonality, etc…) start planning your overall marketing operations over the next year. This is still big picture, so plan big.
  10. Include the Budget dimension to your plan: this will solidify your marketing plan by careful planning tying in your “ideal scenario” with the budget realities. By planning in advance, this will also enable you to maximize your resources and force you to consider ways to leverage them to achieve your objectives.
  11. With you Goals, Objectives, Steps and Marketing operations in mind, determine the best KPIs that will enable you to keep track of the performance of your plan,and help you revisit your plans if necessary. Example of Marketing KPIS:
    1. conversion rate (new enquiries/new customers)
    2. average order values
    3. Order frequency
    4. Engagement rate (increase of your website audience, newsletter opening rate, etc…)

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