Marketing Plans Made Easy – Marketing Tip 10

Marketing Tips

Marketing Plans Made Easy

If you’re struggling to write you first Marketing Plan here’s the simple way to get started.

Three reasons to read this tip –

  1. You know it’s important to make a plan but you want to do it the easy way
  2. Before you waste weeks writing a 30-page marketing plan, read this first
  3. Find out why long-term marketing plans are a waste of time

We’ve all heard of them, we know we need them but strangely very few people seem to have them. Marketing plans, the staple diet of every serious marketer.

The really odd thing is that so few businesses, organisations or entrepreneurs actually have a marketing plan and instead think they can wing it!

So why should that be?

You’d be amazed (or maybe not) at how many people I meet week after week who have the responsibility for marketing, often for a large company or business, and yet they have no marketing plan in place.

And I honestly think there’s one very simple reason for it; what makes a really good marketing plan, or at least one that’s worth having?

It’s surprising; given the number of free marketing plan templates you can get online, I have a lot of people tell me that they just don’t know where to start.

Of course that raises its own question, which marketing plan template should you use or even believe?

Some people will tell you that you really need to be thoroughly comprehensive and include everything in your plan. You might expect to have one section just dedicated to competitor research, or another that only looks at your brand strategy.

The whole document could easily grow to become a major work on marketing and how your business is driving it. But that’s not really the point and here’s the reason why…

Some marketing plan is better that none. And you’re far better off even just focusing on one element of your marketing before you get so involved in all the aspects that you don’t know which way is up, where you start, or where you put your budgets and resources.

No, I’m not talking about a cop-out here, quite the opposite. Rather that leaving the task of writing your marketing plan as one more ‘thing I’ll get around to’ you would be better served to break the whole task down and even create mini-plans first.

The point is this; a basic plan is always going to be better than no plan at all. And if you’re business is flying without a plan how on earth do you know what direction you’re going in?

Let’s take a very quick look at why a marketing plan is important – these are my top four reasons:

1. Marketing is about activity and consistency – you will always struggle to make any serious progress if you constantly stop, start, stop and start again. A plan will keep you on track as the days and weeks go by.

2. Getting real marketing results is about recording your actions and measuring your results – so you need to have a plan and be methodical. You’re not supposed to juggle everything in your head (if you’re trying to then you’re making it hard work for yourself). So use a plan to set your regular marketing tasks.

3. Strategy is great but tactics are what make your marketing work – a good marketing plan will contain the required balance between strategy (what you plan to do and why) and tactics (how you’re actually going to do it and achieve results). But don’t get bogged down with strategy, which is exactly where most people struggle through lack of knowledge or experience. Focus your marketing tactically first, make things happen.

4. A marketing plan is so much more than just advertising and promotion. Even when you are focusing on tactical marketing and outputs you will also need to think and be more aware of your core business focus. When you have more awareness about why customer should want to buy from you then you have a better grip on what you’re actually doing in business.

Forget the long-term plan…

You may believe that you’ve got to write a marketing plan that takes you and your business forward into the next decade and set out, in detail, you’re entire marketing landscape for the many years ahead.

easy marketing planDon’t bother, save yourself the time. It’s not worth it.

I’ve stated this before (and attracted some criticism for it) but I can honestly say that a marketing plan that exceeds three years is probably pointless. The world is changing far too fast to be able to predict what is going to happen next.

Sure, if you’ve got plenty of time on your hands then by all means, be my guest and while away a few hours in some ‘blue-sky thinking’ and dream up the ways your marketing might respond to the marketplace in the future.

The point is this; the consumer landscape is changing very fast, technology is changing even faster. Just look at the way some businesses, who have enjoyed decades of success, have seen their customers choose newer and fresher ideas, simply because that alternative is now possible.

There can barely be any industry or marketplace that hasn’t been affected by the pace of change we are now witness to. And this has had, and continues to have, a massive impact on marketing.

Take facebook marketing as one example. Changes to organic reach (your ability to market to your audience directly without paid for ads) has dropped significantly over the past twelve months. However, facebook’s advertising platform, using paid-for promotion, is developing massively with huge potential benefits for advertisers.

So expecting to create a marketing plan that will work effectively for years just isn’t realistic.

This is why I always recommend creating short-term marketing plans. A year, six months or even a 90-day plan will often serve you much better and keep you focused on your current needs.

What needs to go in a Marketing Plan –

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, or instruction guide for writing your plan. What this list does include are the essentials.

Most Wanted Result. Your MWR (sometimes known as most wanted response) is a marker by which you focus on the desired outcome. So if you’re going to write a 90-day plan, for example, the first question you need to answer is what is it that you actually want to achieve?

Now this may seem pretty obvious and your answers will normally be something like ‘more sales’ but I encourage you to think a little deeply on this.

You might want to use your marketing plan to not only drive new sales but also to decide how you can gain extra value from your efforts. So that answer might read something like this –

“To increase more sales for our key product and create the opportunity to remarket to interested customers with other linked products”. So you’re also looking at building your list.

Side note – having a plan to build a marketing list is vital and the failure to do this is one of the most common marketing mistakes (an error by omission) that I see far too often.

Customer-Led Proposition. Stop trying to sell what you’ve got just because you want people to buy it/them from you. Instead you need to step out of your business and into the shoes of your customers. You need to find out what it is about your product or service that really engages with them. And the reasons may be nothing like you expect.

So take time to create a proposition (your offer) based around the key features and benefits that actually mean something to your customers, no just you.

When looking at this you will almost certainly find that you will need to create a number of ‘customer profile types’. These are fictional characters that reflect what type of customers you are serving. And the point is that each will have a different set of needs and expectations.

You might have a customer profile that is; Female, aged 55-60, high commitment to buy but lack of product knowledge and risk-adverse. So in such an example you should examine your offer and decide if it truly speaks to this customer profile.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with creating different offers to different groups of people and marketing them independently of each other. In fact, this is exactly what you should be doing!

Marketing Channels. Following on from the point above you need to decide what routes you will choose for your marketing. You may want a wide spread of options, which could include:

  • Print advertising in local newspapers and magazines
  • Pay-Per-Click advertising with Google to drive visitors to your website
  • Direct Mail campaigns to targeted customer types, or even to your existing/past customers
  • Social Media advertising, using effectively targeted sponsored stories and posts to gain interest
  • Collaborative Marketing with other partners and affinity businesses that you can work together with
  • Email Marketing Campaigns to provide information, build trust and present unique offers

And so the list goes on.

Don’t think that you can start with everything and drill down. It will take you far too long (or a massive budget) before you can really work out where to spend your time and effort.

Better still, take a couple of obvious choices and use them to compare results. For example; you might test a run of radio adverts, designed to get people to your website or online shop. And then test this against a similar campaign on one of the Social Media platforms, let’s say twitter.

Actions and Tasks. Decide what actually needs to be done, by whom and by when?

Good marketing practice is just like any other area of business, you need to set out who has what responsibilities and carve up the big tasks into lots of smaller ones, then share the load.

For example in my marketing plans I look at elements like;

  1. Who will determine the offer details – pricing, ordering process, terms and conditions, etc.
  2. Who will create the written content – writing advertising copy is a skill verging on an art form.
  3. Who will design the creative elements – most good marketing requires a degree of design input and there’s a very big difference between a quality designer with relevant experience and your mate’s 16-year-old son who loves to play on CorelDraw
  4. Who will be responsible for managing the campaign or activity – if you’ve got campaigns running who is watching them, controlling them and fine-tuning them?
  5. Who will measure the results and calculate the ROI? Yes, metrics are everything. So who will be taking decisions and based on what? When it comes to review a marketing activity you need facts, not gut feeling and assumption.

Timescales. And finally in this list (for now), the main element your plan needs is some sort of time-frame. And don’t just talk about duration, set some calendar dates. Get firm and specific about what is going to happen when. Procrastination is the biggest enemy in business and there should be no excuse for not keeping to your deadlines.

So here we are. These are some simple tips on writing your next, or first, marketing plan. You don’t need to be an expert you just need to be logical and specific.

You can even be S-M-A-R-T if you want to!

Later in this Marketing Tips series I will prepare a simple marketing plan template based on the process I use with clients. If you want to get a copy when it’s published please subscribe, or even drop me an email to make sure you get a copy when it’s released.

What Next? –

If you’ve bothered enough to read to the bottom of this marketing tip that tells me something; you obviously know you want to start your marketing plan, or perhaps rewrite the one you’ve currently got. So that’s excellent news.

Now you need to take the next simple step. Get started. I know a blank sheet of paper can seem daunting. Even I get that feeling sometimes when I start a new plan. The way to deal with this is start with the essentials and hopefully this article has given you some guidance on this.

If you feel you’d like more help understanding this, or want to gain more clarification, you can read about it in Module 5 of Make Marketing Work (the online marketing course), which is all about Understanding Business Mechanics.

And if you’re on a serious mission to upskill your marketing knowledge then I encourage you to get on the Programme and start with the Free Sample Chapter of Make Marketing Work.

If you want to know more, would like to get more understanding, or simply want a little help to get you started with this, please contact me personally, or post your comment below. I promise to reply.

To your success, 

Nial Adams

PS. If you found this Marketing Tip useful and interesting make sure you sign up for the full email course, it’s free!

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