How to Create Your Marketing Plan
Marketing is all about first impressions. For instance, Person 1 and Person 2 walk into a bar. Person 1 introduces themselves and talks your ear off all night. Person 2 kindly pulls out a seat for you, takes their time to get to know you, and asks thoughtful questions. Which person would you prefer to interact with – Person 1 or Person 2? Which Person do you think left a better first impression in this example?
Marketing is not easy, and you have to be deliberate and thoughtful about those first impressions. But, what does marketing have to do with first impressions?
Marketing Insider Group said it best, “Marketing is what you say, how you say it, when you want to explain how awesome your product is and why people should buy it. Marketing is an ad. Marketing is a brochure. Marketing is a press release. And more recently, marketing is a Facebook page or a Twitter account.”
But marketing is so much more than making content. It is the process of reaching a targeted audience and appealing to them in that first impression and beyond. A Marketer’s goal is to catch your eye and then get you to ask for more or convert.
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself,” said Peter F. Drucker.
Marketing is the psychological understanding of customer needs. With the understanding of what your customers want, you can specifically market your product or service to fill this need to help them reach their goals.
This is why having a marketing plan is so important. Going in blindfolded is never a good idea! Always get a plan set and ready for your business. Below, I have put together a guideline for small businesses on how to create a marketing plan. Branding and messaging are what your customers see and hear about you, but it’s also how they talk about you. Let’s start creating your marketing plan!
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What is a Marketing Plan?
A Marketing plan is like a roadmap for introducing yourself to potential customers. An effective marketing plan will help a company understand the market that it targets, the competition in that space, understand the impact and the results of marketing decisions, and provide direction for future initiatives. Your marketing plan should include your goals – what you have done, what you are going to do, and how you are going to get there. Each marketing plan should consist of components that keeps the sales pipeline full. Those components are market research, target market, positioning, competitive analysis, market strategy, budget, and metrics.
Let’s dive into each component.
1. Market Research
Allows you to identify your industry – what are consumer buying habits, current trends, market size, and market growth or decline.
2. Target Market
Who is going to buy from you? Your target market is the most likely group of people to buy your product or service. Base your differentiators on their pain points, characteristics, and wants. Your audience will end up helping you build your value proposition, branding, messaging, etc.
A marketing concept that outlines what a business should do to market its product or service to its customers.
4. Competitive Analysis
Learn what your competitors are doing and what works for them. Then you can determine the differences between what you offer and their current offerings.
5. Market Strategy
Plan strategies on how to attract and appeal to your target audience. This will be the ways you engage your audience and prompt them to buy. What channels will you be using and what content do you need?
You need to have a full understanding of your budget. Once you determine how much you can spend over the year, decide on different marketing activities and allocate parts of your budget to those activities.
Tracking your marketing success is the best way to determine what works for you and what doesn’t. Start by determining the KPIs that you would like to track so you’ll be able to show the success on your activities.
Before beginning the marketing process, understanding what a marketing plan is and why you should use it is important. Marketing is all about finding the pain point for your audience. When it comes to branding and messaging you need to have a solid, proactive plan.
Your guideline to branding and messaging
Your brand is more than what you sell; it is the stories you tell. In each and every one of these elements, you will find a specific technique on how to brand your company. Identifying your company’s differentiators, value proposition, and your brand identity and voice allows for a clear vision of who your company is, why you are different, and why customers should buy from you.
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What separates you from your competitors? Is it your features, support, pricing, or something else? Your differentiator is the unique features and/or benefits of a product, or aspects of a brand, that set it apart from competing products or brands.
Start with competitive/comparative research to figure out what your differentiator is compared to your competitors. Start off by categorizing your competitors, examine their websites and reviews, identify their market positioning, what their pricing is, and review their social platforms. With these few steps, you can keep tabs on how your competitors’ business is changing and watch for new challenges in your industry. Find your differentiator and use it to your advantage.
Here are some of the top general differentiators.
1. Product or service
Your business should provide one general umbrella product or service. Underneath of that, you can provide multiple different types of products or services.
2. Unique technology
By showcasing your business and its’ unique technology will be the reason why customers want to work with you.
3. Serving clients of a certain size
Having a particular client of size is a common differentiator. By focusing certain sized clients cuts down your competitors by a lot.
4. Staff holds specific credentials
Being able to provide credentials of what your staff holds is important. Customers appreciate knowing that your staff has a background in your industry, perhaps a certain title or degree will make you more qualified verse your competitors.
Consumers base their choices in working with a company on their pricing. Do you have a lower price point than competitors? Or do you have a higher price, but better quality?
Be different and stand apart from your competitors. Be the Waldo and let your audience know your differentiators!
A value proposition is a statement that answers the ‘why’ someone should do business with you. It provides information to convince someone to choose you and not your competitor. Every great value proposition identifies the best parts of your company – what makes your product or services great, what pain points do your customers have, how do you help your customers reach their goals. Being able to offer these qualities to your customers, provides you with great value propositions.
An example of a company that showcases their value proposition to their leads and customers is Zoom. On Zoom’s homepage, they give their viewers proof of value-based off of previous or current customers opinions. This works because it is real, customer feedback about their business with Zoom.
Brand Identity and Voice
It’s as simple as this; people buy from people they like, know, and trust based on a relationship that cultivates over time.
- 71% of consumers are more likely to recommend brands with whom they have an emotional connection (source: Medium).
- 51% of people expect that brands will anticipate their wants and needs (source: Medium).
Brand identity doesn’t come without putting in work. You need to build a personality, a voice, and a tone. How do you want to be perceived by your customers? Your personality is the human characteristics, emotions, and attributes embodied by your brand. Creating your brand’s personality is tricky. It’s how your brand shows up and acts in front of customers, so it can be determined differently by different customers. There are different ways you can be viewed. So, how do you want your company to be viewed?
A company’s tone of voice is shaped from its personality. It is how you communicate in your brand’s actions and interactions. One thing a lot of businesses get wrong is their tone and voice is not consistent across all channels of communication – website, sales, service, etc. Making sure your tone of voice is continually consistent is extremely important. Would you change the way you looked or acted every single time you talked to a person? No, so don’t do it with your company. If your website is warm and friendly, make your channels the same.
Remember, what your audience hears or sees once, they will remember forever. From experience, I remember I was calling a Party City about asking if they had a certain balloon in stock. Maybe it’s just me, but I expect workers, whether they hate their job or not, to be respectful and happy when dealing with customers. Well, that’s not what I experienced. On the phone, I received a rude, unwelcoming employee. I will remember that forever. And guess what? I haven’t been there since that phone call!
Your tone and personality guides to all your visual and verbal communications.
Now it’s time to craft your marketing plan
Hearing the words marketing plan makes it seem so scary, like there is so much pressure behind it. For small businesses, the process of beginning and creating your marketing plan doesn’t have to be intimidating. It’s all about determining your differentiators, value proposition, and brand identity. Once you have those set, put your new branding techniques to the test and see how they work. Let your brand be heard!