When it comes to writing a marketing plan for your small business, even the most seasoned professionals often find themselves scratching their heads and not knowing where to start. Having worked on numerous collaborative projects, I’ve gained valuable experience and practice in putting together various types of marketing plans. Here I’ll break it down into five straightforward and manageable steps:
Step One: Research, Research… and More Research!
Determining the most appropriate target market and price for your product or service are crucial decisions that will make or break your business. Avoid making hasty assumptions when it comes to these (and other) choices and base them on solid research instead. In other words, use numbers and facts from your market research to back up statements in your marketing plan. This will this save you time, money, and unnecessary frustration in the long-run. Although online data are plentiful and free, don’t limit yourself to only this type of research. Other great research methods include: observational, focus-group, survey, behavioural, ethnography, and experimental. Remember, good marketing research is scientific, creative, non-biased, examines data in the correct context, uses multiple methods, realizes the interdependence of models and data, and maintains a “healthy” scepticism.
Step Two: Organize your Research and Ideas into Sections
There is a wide range of marketing plan templates available online, and I encourage you to look at a few examples before determining how to organize your own marketing plan. Start off with the bare minimum (executive summary, description of your product or service, target market, competitors, distribution channels, marketing activities, marketing budget, potential marketing challenges, pricing strategy, and projections/long-term goals) and build from there. Remember that even though the executive summary is the first section of the marketing plan it should be written last. Try to keep it at no longer than one page and make it interesting in order to catch your reader’s attention and inspire them to read the rest of your marketing plan.
Step Three: Set Measurable Steps
Your marketing strategy should ideally be tangible and measurable (for example, to capture 10% of the market in one year); hence, you should aim to include monthly review, tracking and measurement, sales forecasts, expense budgets, and non-financial metrics for tracking your progress. It is also vital to match tasks to people on your team and hold them accountable for accomplishing what is necessary.
Step Four: Get Others Involved
Whatever the size of your organization, ask for feedback from all parts of your company (finance, manufacturing, personnel, supply and etc.). This step is particularly important because it takes all the departments of a business to make a marketing plan work. Co-workers from outside the marketing department can provide realistic input on what’s achievable and how your goals can be reached or modified. They can also provide new ideas for marketing opportunities which you may have overlooked. If you are currently a one-person company, it will be up to you to look at your marketing plan from the eyes of each function of your business. However, it might be a good idea to get a few trusted friends to look over your plan and provide some input.
Step Five: Review and Revise Often
A marketing plan is typically written for one year. Conditions in the business environment change often; thus, it’s fundamental for your marketing plan to evolve over time. Certain assumptions will need to be modified and various new marketing opportunities may arise. Actions of competitors may also be influential in your decisions and revisions. You will also find that certain parts of your marketing plan will work better than others, so it’s important to make changes to parts of your strategy that you find are not giving you the desired results. Step three and five are undoubtedly linked: step five is essentially where you compare your actual results to your desired results using the metrics you outlined in step three. When writing your marketing plan it is a good idea to include a date at which you plan to review the document. The frequency you should be updating your plan is at least once a year.
Writing a marketing plan is not as overwhelming as it seems. Remember to take it one step at a time, get the input of others, and review your plan often. I wish you the best of luck with your business endeavour!