Creating A Marketing Plan

Whether you run an e-commerce store, have recently launched an online startup or you run a local service business that targets people who use the web to search for your services, you need an online marketing plan that sets out your activities.

First, you need to carry out an audit and analysis of your business and the marketing environment. That means you need to research your target markets and identify segments that are interested in your products or services and assess if you have the resources.

Your audit will also include analyzing your competitive forces to see how well resourced they are and if you can take them head on or use a flanking or guerrilla marketing strategy. Finally, you will look at the macro forces like technology, politics and social factors that are outside your control and that could impact your business.

So, here are 6 tips to help you create your marketing plan:

1. Create Marketing Objectives

From your audit, you will discover what is most important to your business and that will form the basis of your objectives. Your objectives are unique to your business and are statements of what you want to achieve.

They are short-term goals usually covering a period of 6-12 months and they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-related (SMART). An example of a SMART Objective is:

“Increase organic traffic by 20% with Millennials by 31 December 2015”

Now that you’ve created your objectives, you will move on to the next stages of your online marketing plan and focus only on activities that help you achieve your objectives.

2. Know Your Customers

Your audit will help you identify potential segments that you can target with your products or services. Very few businesses have the financial and people resources to target all segments in the market, so you should pick the segments that you have identified as having the most potential.

A potential market is one that has the money to afford your products and is large enough for you to make sales to cover your operational costs and also make profits. So, to maximise your revenue or sales, you could opt for a multi-segment strategy that you target multiple groups with your products or services.

There are many online tools you can use to identify your target demographics and where they are based and some of these you can find in Google AdWords, such as the keyword and display planner tools. Also, you can use survey tools like Survey Monkey to understand the needs of your target markets.

3. Monitor Your Competitors

Having identified your competitors from the audit, now you need to pick three or four that you will monitor and benchmark against your business metrics. This is where your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) become more relevant because you are comparing your progress against business rivals.

The web provides many tools to monitor competitors and one of the popular ones is Alexa. Another one is Compete and these tools and others provide you with details about your competitors’ visitor demographic and geographic data and how they are performing on metrics such as traffic volumes, time on site and popular keywords. Mobile data capture is another tool you can use to track what your clients are searching for.

For social media, a tool like Social Bakers is handy to assess and monitor your competitors’ performance in the social sphere, which is now more important than ever.

4. Decide On Your Promotional Strategy

The strategy section of your marketing plan is an in-depth section on how you reach your target markets with your offers. It covers your positioning in the market and marketing mix tactics like a product, price, place, promotion, people, process and physical evidence.

With promotion, for example, you will identify all the online channels and tools that are relevant in your industry and some popular ones include PPC advertising, SEO, affiliate marketing, blogging, email marketing, social media and so on.

The tactics you choose as part of your strategy will depend on what financial and people resources you have and this will feed into your budget.

5. Create An Effective Budget

Your marketing budget should be large enough to allow you to implement your strategy. If it’s not, then you should prioritize your tactics and activities and focus first on those that will help you achieve your objectives, while meeting customers’ needs.

Budget setting is a specialized skill and you should get assistance from a financial expert if you struggle to develop this part of your marketing plan.

6. Control Your Activities

Finally, your marketing plan should include details of how you monitor your progress towards achieving your mission and goals and what you will do if things go wrong. This is an interesting part of the plan because it lists all the activities and who will be assigned to what activity and what the cost will be.

Remember to get senior-level buy-in and ensure that everyone in your team understands what their roles and duties are. So, you should have a timeline or a reporting dashboard that lists all these activities and continue to change it as things progress.

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