Building an Effective Marketing Plan
Planning is a vital component of a successful marketing program. A strategic marketing plan that’s executed well can drive growth for your company. It can help your company achieve a higher level of brand awareness, increase sales and revenues and take valuable market share from your competition.
Time and budget are two of the biggest obstacles to overcome in creating a successful marketing plan. Can you afford the time and resources to build out a strategic marketing plan? Here’s a better question – can you afford not to?
We get it and understand the struggle. That’s why we’ve created this post – to help make your life a little easier and save you some time. Here’s everything you need to know about building out an effective marketing plan to drive growth for your company.
The first ingredient in an effective marketing plan is a discovery session. A discovery session is a great way to kick off the development of a strategic and effective communications program. We find discovery sessions very beneficial when kicking off work for a new client. We get together and ask questions to gain a better understanding of their customers, challenges and goals.
We learn about available resources and methodologies, go through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, and start to develop and uncover goals and objectives collectively for the upcoming plan and program.
Discovery sessions can identify long and short term goals and objectives and putting those down in writing can help provide a roadmap for your program. Discovery provides direction to align your team to ensure all members are working towards the same goals. Your company will move much more efficiently and effectively with everybody working in the same direction.
The discovery process can be very beneficial in marketing agency/client relationships, but it can be helpful conducted internally if your company doesn’t currently work with or plan to work with an agency.
Working with an agency does have several advantages though, as we’ve outlined a few in our OUTthink article The Benefits of Using an Ad Agency. Working with an agency can be very helpful in the planning process and can save you time and help you maximize your budget, so you can spend more time focused on other important aspects of your business.
Strategic planning is the blueprint for building a strong business. Successful marketing begins with a solid strategy based on knowledge and the second step of an effective marketing plan, research. As marketers, we need information about what our customers want, and why, in order to build a strategy to effectively communicate with them. Understanding who your customers are, what motivates them, and how to reach them will allow you to be relevant, gain their trust and ultimately their business.
One of the research tools we like to use is Behavioral Market Research. It can be a great tool to learn about what drives your customers to make the purchases they do. Behavioral research will help you establish personas and customer groups so you can build your marketing plan around the motivating factors for each group, making your plan much more effective and providing a greater return on your investment. It really helps tell you why people do what they do. Read more about behavioral market research in our OUTthink article Online Market Research: Why Customers Buy What They Buy.
Focus groups, customer surveys, industry research reports, competitive analysis and digital research can also be great tools to give you insight to apply to build out a marketing plan that will deliver results and maximize your budget.
Strategic Marketing Planning
With your goals and objectives defined through a discovery and armed with information from your market research, you’ll be ready to get to work, and build out a strategic and effective marketing plan. Here are just a few questions that you will need to answer to develop your plan:
- How are you going to accomplish your goals?
- What kinds of strategies and programs are going to work best to meet your objectives?
- What will be the most effective ways to move the needle within your established budget?
- What key messaging is most important to communicate to your target audience(s)?
- What methods will you employ to communicate your key messaging?
- How much are you going to invest to grow your business?
After your strategies are defined, you’ll be ready to dive into your tactical planning. Here, you’ll want to put everything that you are going to do to accomplish your goals and meet your objectives down on paper. Better yet, you should put your plan on a calendar. Be as specific as you can be identifying what is going to be done and when, and who will be responsible for implementation.
Creating a master calendar for the upcoming year or established period of time will help you and your team see the big picture, and how everything will work together to achieve your goals. It can also create a sense of ownership for members of your team and can be used to help you hold your team accountable for their responsibilities, so you can be sure projects are completed on time to get results.
With a plan in hand, you’ll be ready to develop your creative, content and collateral. Strategic creative and content can make or break a campaign. By this time, you’ll have a lot of resources in the development of your marketing plan so be sure to give this area the attention it deserves. Zero in on your target personas and make sure your creative content speaks to the motivating factors you’ve uncovered through your research. This can help give your marketing program the edge to drive results – heightened awareness, growth in sales and increased market share.
Marketing isn’t always black and white. In fact, it never is. With rapid advancements in digital technologies and customers preferences frequently changing, what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow and what works tomorrow may not work in a month. Your plan should be dynamic and most of the time there are optimizations that can be made throughout your program based on what you learn as you execute your plan.
Marketing Plan Optimization
A final component of building an effective marketing plan is the optimization of that plan throughout your program. Set your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) and monitor them periodically as your plan progresses. Are you on track to achieve your goals and meet your objectives? Are there tweaks that can be made to improve your campaign’s performance?
A dashboard can be a valuable tool to help you answer these questions. Information about the performance of your marketing campaigns can be pulled into a central dashboard location from various sources including Google Analytics, social media platforms, Microsoft excel, etc. We’ve included more information about the insights dashboards can provide and how they can help save you time in our OUTthink article Converting Information Overload into Action.
Do all you can to see your strategic marketing plan through. There’s a popular saying: “plan your work and work your plan.” It’s very appropriate here. If your marketing plan is well-developed, based on a solid strategy derived from information, knowledge and research, and it’s executed well and optimized throughout, you’re probably going to be pretty happy with the results.