Marketing Plans: Do I Really Need One?

What happens when you go to the grocery store without a list? You typically end up buying a bunch of stuff you don’t really need, spending more money than you planned, and come home to realize you forgot quite a few things. Then you have to go back again to get everything right. This is the same scenario you will face when you don’t sit down and write a marketing plan. It may seem like a waste of time, when all you want to do is jump in and get started, but actually sitting down and writing a marketing plan will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. Here is what a marketing plan can do for your business:

Help you Focus on a Target Market

Without a marketing plan, it’s easy to get caught up marketing to everyone instead of a specific target audience. When you sit down and write a marketing plan, you think about who has a need for your product or service. You look at demographics such as age, gender, location, and education. When you narrow down your target market, you’ll be able to focus all your marketing dollars on an audience who actually has a need for your product or service, and stop wasting money marketing to an audience who has no interest.

Help you Spend Your Money More Efficiently

How do you know how much money you will allot to your marketing efforts, or determine if you are over or under-spending? Generally, around 10% of sales should be spent on marketing. Once you figure out this number and actually get it written in your plan, you will easily see how much you will be able to spend of each marketing strategy, and keep yourself from going over-budget.

Help You Focus on Specific Goals

Are you trying to get more sales? More leads? Increase brand awareness? Without a marketing plan, you don’t have a specific goal to work towards. All of your marketing efforts are going to help you work towards your goal, but if you don’t have a concrete goal written down ahead of time, you may find yourself getting off track in your marketing efforts.

Help You Monitor Your Competition

You know your business is going to have competition, but do you know how you compare to them? With a marketing plan, you take the time to find out exactly how you stack-up against the competition in terms of price, products offered, marketing strategies, etc. When you are able to see a side-by-side comparison, it will help you know what you need to do to gain the competitive edge.

Focus Your Marketing Strategies

Are you going to run a newspaper ad, or send out marketing emails, or focus on social media? There are tons of choices when it comes to marketing strategies, and you can’t do them all. If you have taken the time to define your goals and target audience in a marketing plan, you can decide what strategies will work best to achieve those goals.

Creating a marketing plan requires some effort on your part. You have to do quite a bit of research and planning ahead of time, and it is an ongoing process that will change as your business grows. But a well-written marketing plan is like a map, leading you the direction you want to go and preventing you from getting lost along the way. Take the time to write a detailed marketing plan now and your business will definitely reap the benefits down the road.

Do You Have A Marketing Plan?

Not having a marketing plan is like building a home without a blueprint, you may get the job done, but it will be completely by accident. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to rely on an accident. I want a sound plan so I know what steps to take and when.

So how do you create a marketing plan that will work? You take from those that are successful and see how they have done it. No matter what your niche there is someone that has been there and done the ground work for you.

A good marketing plan must start with connections and the best way to make connections is with social websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you don’t have an account with these three I suggest you get one fast. Set up your profile on each as completely as you can. This should be step one for anyone with an online business and where you should start.

Any marketing plan for an online business also needs backlinks to make your presents stronger. The easiest way to get backlinks is from forums. Be sure to select one that is clearly in your niche. Look to your favorite search engine for forums that fit, then monitor them for a while to get a feel for them. Once you feel comfortable with it start a thread or post comments to thread that are already there.

With any marketing plan there must be strategy for getting traffic, either free or paid. Free traffic comes from search engines and SEO practices are responsible for your success here. Paid can be anything from PPC or banner ads. Either method will get you targeted traffic if done right and advertising is something that has to be included.

Keeping to your plan is something you have to commit to from its inception. If it is sound it will work, but you have to give it time. Once you have started you need to stay consistent. It has to do with branding, which is mostly about name or product recognition and included in every marketing plan I’ve seen that was effective.

Since it is so important to your success it must be carefully constructed, including not only getting traffic, but converting traffic. This is where copywriting comes in to play. If you don’t know much about copywriting I suggest you learn or put hiring a good copywriter in your budget.

Every online marketing plan should include:

  • An easy-to-navigate website
  • Identify your target audience
  • Strategize to get traffic to that site
  • Any ideas to brand your name or product
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses
  • A budget to pay for advertising and copywriting
  • Look at areas that need to be outsourced
  • Develop the basics of marketing
  • Determine how to combat your competition
  • Prioritize your basic steps

Each and every year you need to review and reassess it. Scrutinize each facet of it to see what worked well and what did not. The strategies that work well should be analyzed to see why it worked and how to make it better. Also look at any way this strategy can be utilized in other areas of your marketing efforts.

The marketing plan is the lifeblood of a business. Its success is determined by the research done at the onset of the planning process. Correct evaluations are a must for its success.

A marketing plan that works well is a beauty to behold for the business owner. Sales and high profits are the reward. Before you do anything you need to assess the feasibility of the product and the best way to do this is by creating it as best you can.

If the marketing plan elements seem to fall into place after your research is done you will know you have a winner. If however your elements don’t seem to look all that promising you will know that you need to rethink your product to change it and make it more conducive before going on with the project.

Once you have a marketing plan you will see just how important it is and why you need to carefully construct it. The real needs of the business are dependent on the marketing plan.

How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan

Marketing is the soul of your business, it means anything you do for the promotion of your business comes under marketing. However, without a plan or strategy your marketing campaign will not deliver the desired results. Therefore, creating marketing plan for any business is vital.

Now the question arise; how to create an effective marketing plan for a company? We all know the format of a marketing plan. Whether you make a formal or informal proposal, a plan should be such which touches all the essential points to deliver the targeted goal.

To make an effective plan, there is a famous rule called 4P’s. Here, P’s stand for Price, Product, Promotion and Placement. In this another P is added called People. Today while doing digital marketing or the traditional marketing one should understand people or the customers you are dealing with. It’s important to figure out what is significant for the business, and later make a plan accordingly.

Generally, in a marketing plan the following points are considered –

  • Market Analysis: First analysis your broader market, where are the opportunities that you can look for? What are the scopes in the current market? After analyzing the broader scope of the market; target on the niche values.
  • Identify the Target Customers: Unlike the broader analysis of the market; here you aim on the targeted customers. You look for the scopes where you can promote or market your product to get the higher returns and acceptance. Here from targeted customers to clients, you also find out the needs and demands of the audience. Once you know, who all are your customers and what exactly they are looking for then you can jump to next step.
  • Marketing Plan: In this you perform, precise activities which helps in achieving the goals and objectives you are targeting at. Here, you plan how you will promote the product/service? What are the specific areas of promotion? What would be the budget of this plan execution? Etc. Plus, you also estimate the ROI of this marketing strategy.
  • Competitive Edge: It’s important to define your competitors too. One should know, what strategies are being used by the competitors to reach to the potential customers. If you know what your competitors are doing, you will be able to modify the plan and maybe your marketing analyst will come with something more innovative that can capture the mass attention.
  • Sales and Strategy Forecast: If you have a target to achieve you can plan out your work according. It’s just like keep the figures real and amenable. Unrealistic figures would not help you ever to get the target on time. Secondly with these forecast, you can compare your marketing strategies and come up with the best solutions for future activities.

These above tips are vital or the stepping stones for any business, but in reality, companies need to incorporate multiple web channels for their business marketing plans. Below are popular web channels that business uses for their planning and strategies:

  • Social Media Marketing: One of the most promising way of marketing in today’s date. From LinkedIn to Facebook and from Twitter to Google+, companies use these platforms to target the right set of customers. From a survey by social media – 93% of marketers use social media for business.
  • Mobile Marketing: Another most prompting way of marketing which is used in today’s digital world. The acceptance of smartphones and tablets has helped to change the way companies used to target their customers earlier; these days they implement strategies that reach customers on their devices itself. From a survey via Our Mobile Planet, 89% of smartphone users notice mobile ads.
  • Email Marketing: The marketing plan via email is quite an old one. It is an effective and popular way of promotion for many small business owners. Get the email data of your possible customers and send them your customize business emails to let them know what you are offering.
  • Blog Marketing: Blogging is a big focus when it comes to content marketing. Blog provides a personal touch and advantage to your social media marketing too. Here you have a freedom or control over the product or service you are marketing for. Companies are hiring full-time bloggers for this job. Although, 62% of marketers blog or plan to blog in 2013, only 9% of US marketing companies employ a full-time blogger.

These are the points you should remember while making plan and strategies and how to reach the customers for a booming business.